Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Turkey | Cappadocia | Göreme

Having sated, at least for the time being, my interest in Seljuq architecture, I wandered off to the town of Göreme, thirty-two miles to the west of Kayseri. To get there I took the city bus to the Kayseri airport, and then caught one of the many, many shuttle buses to Göreme and nearby towns. Including myself there were twelve people on my shuttle bus. Eleven of them were from China. For a second I thought I was back in Beijing. The bus took about forty-five minutes to get to Göreme. A ticket cost 20 lira ($6.65)

Göreme is in the middle of a region famous for its phantasmagorical landscapes carved from volcanic rock, cave houses and hotels, old Greek churches, and balloon rides. Göreme reportedly has a permanent population of only 2,000, and it is safe to say almost everyone is somehow connected with tourism (I have been told that a lot of people who work here actually live in nearby villages). The town consists entirely of hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, carpet stores, gift shops, and other businesses catering to tourists. The streets are teeming with tourists from all over, but especially from China, England, and Germany. 
 Hotel were I am staying (click on photos for enlargements)
 View from the roof top terrace of my hotel
 View from the roof top terrace of my hotel
 Cave hotels near my hotel
 One of the famous “fairy chimneys” of Göreme and surrounding region. Many were hollowed out and served as homes for people; some are still inhabited. Notice the window near the top of this one. 
View from the ridge behind my hotel. Hundreds of people climb up here everyday to watch the sunrise and sunset. 
 View from the ridge behind my hotel. 
Balloon rides are, of course, one of the most famous attractions of Göreme. They start just before dawn and last throughout the early morning. Later is often gets too windy for them. 
 Balloons launching just before dawn
Balloon launching
Balloon gondola
 Balloons launching just before dawn
 Balloons launching just before dawn
 Balloon riders catching the rising sun. At one point I counted sixty-eight balloons in the sky.
Sun rising
 Balloons over Göreme
Of course I am tempted to take a balloon ride myself, but they are not cheap: anywhere from $150 to $200 an hour. For the moment I have decided to pass. But I might change my mind. I would hate to think that one day, when I end up on my death bed, my final thought in this current incarnation might be, “Why oh why didn’t I take that balloon ride in Göreme?”
Balloons over Göreme

Monday, September 7, 2015

Turkey | Kayseri | Seljuqs of Rum

Kayseri, in Cappadocia region of Turkey (click on images for enlargements)
Decamped from Istanbul and wandered off to the city of Kayseri 400 miles to the southeast, in the Central Anatolian region of Cappadocia. The flight, which took just little over an hour, was sold out. There were at least twenty-five Chinese tourists on board, most if not all bound for the famous nearby tourist towns of Urgup, Göreme, Guzelyurt, Uchisar, and others famous for their cave houses, fairy chimneys, and balloon rides. These and most other tourists were met by shuttle buses and whisked off to the tourist destinations. I caught a cab to downtown and was soon esconsced in a hotel a five minute walk from the Citadel in the middle of the city. Kayseri has a population of about 850,000 people. It is located at an altitude of 3482 feet. Fifteen miles to the south looms 12,847-foot Mount Erciyes, the eroded cone of a now dormant volcano.
12,847-foot Mount Erciyes
There has probably been some sort of settlement on the current site of Kayseri or nearby, closer to Mount Erciyes,  for at least 5000 years. The first recorded name of the town was Mazaka. After the armies of Alexander the Great swept through in the fourth century b.c. the region became Hellenized, and from about 250 b.c on the city became known as Eusebia. The city and the rest of Cappodicia recognized the suzerainty of the Roman Empire in the first century b.c. In 17 a.d. the region became a Roman province. The last king of Cappadocia, Archelaus (d. 17 a.d.), changed the name of the city to Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus, who had died in 14 a.d. The Arab general and later first Umayyad Caliph Muawiyah seized the city in 647 and Caesarea was soon Arabized into Kaisariyah. The Seljuqs of Rum, another Islamic dynasty, took control of the city in 1178 and Turkicized the name into Kayseri, the name it retains to this day. Thus the current name is a corruption of Caeser (Augustus), a Roman emperor.
The original Citadel in the middle of the city was built by the Byzantine (East Roman) Emperor Justinian (482–565; r. 527–565). Justinian also built the world-famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and married the notorious ex-prostitute and nymphomaniac Theodora. The Citadel later updated and enlarged by the Seljuqs and Ottomans.
Another view of the Citadel
Citadel and city walls
Citadel and city walls
Top of the Citadel
The Citadel was the anchor of a much larger wall that surrounded the city. Most of the city wall is now gone, although one section does extend several blocks south of the Citadel. Here is the tower at the southeast corner of the old walled city.
Fascinating as Justinian-era citadels may be, the real reason I am in town is to see the surviving monuments of the Seljuqs of Rum period. The Seljuqs of Rum, as most of you know, were an offshoot of the Great Seljuq Empire founded in 1037. At its height the Great Seljuq dynasty controlled a vast swath of Asia from Afghanistan to the Black Sea, including the eastern shoreline of the Mediterranean, and from the Caspian and Aral Seas in the north to the Persian Gulf in the south. I had already seen the tomb of Sultan Sanjar, one of the great Seljuq rulers, in Merv, Turkmenistan, and the tomb of Tughrul III, the last ruler of the Great Seljuq empire, in Tehran, Iran, so of course I was eager to see the Seljuq of Rum monuments. 
Extent of the Great Seljuq Empire in orange
By 1193, however, the Great Seljuq Empire had collapsed, leaving only the rump in Anatolia known as the Seljuqs of Rum. The name “Rum” comes from the Persian word for the Roman Empire. The Seljuqs adopted the name because their sultanate had been founded on territories which had once belonged to the Roman, or Byzantine, Empire.
Territories of the Seljuqs of Rum in various shades of purple
The Seljuqs of Rum were an independent sultanate from around 1177 to 1243, when they were conquered by the Mongols, who had already established themselves in Persia to the east. From 1243 to the first decade of the fourteenth century the Sultanate remained under the suzerainty of the Mongols. Hereafter it broke up into a bunch of small independent emirates, or beyliks. In 1515 the city and region was finally incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

Although Iznik and Konya were the main capitals of the the Seljuqs of Rum, Kayseri served at times as a temporary capital. Its strategic position at the crossroads of several great trade routes, including the Silk Road from the East, made it an important commercial center. The city’s wealth was responsible for the Seljuqs mosques, tombs, madrassas, bathhouses, and caravanserais that have survived to the present day and are among the city’s biggest attractions. 
Just cross the street from the Citadel is the Mahperi Hunat Khatun Mosque complex, commissioned by Mahperi Hunat Khatun, wife of the Seljuq Sultan Alaettin Keykubat (r. 1223-1237). Built in the years 1228-1237, it consists of a mosque, a madrassa, and a public bath.
Mahperi Hunat Khatun Mosque
Entrance to Mahperi Hunat Khatun Mosque
Detail of stonework on the entrance to the Mahperi Hunat Khatun Mosque
To the left of the mosque is the madrassa of Mahperi Hunat Khatun. The interior courtyard now serves as a charming tea house, serving doddering old graybeards, school girls, and wanderers alike. Comfortably shaded by canvas awnings, the teahouse was a welcome shelter in the afternoons, when temperature were still hitting the mid-90s during the first week of September (my only compliant would be that they serve tea in paper cups instead of glasses). The cells of the former madrassa students that line the courtyard are now shops telling paintings and other local artworks and crafts. 
Front of the Mahperi Hunat Khatun Madrassa, now a tea house
Entrance to the Mahperi Hunat Khatun Madrassa
The Çifte Madrassa, or Twin Theological Schools, was built in 2005 by Seljuk Sultan Giyaseddin Keykhüsrev I in memory of his sister Gevher Nesibe Hatun. It originally served as a medical center complete with a room for surgeries and also, apparently, served as a medical school. It was considered one of the most advanced medical facilities of the thirteenth century. Sound ducts carried music thought to be conducive to healing into the rooms of patients, and medicinal herbs and vegetables for patients’ meals were grown on the grounds. It accepted all in need—Muslim, Christian or Jewish, Greek or Turk—and did not charge those who were unable to pay.

The madrassa now hosts the small but surprisingly well appointed Museum of Seljuq Civilization, complete with state-of-the art multi-media displays. One room features a map of the city on the floor. As you follow a path marked out on the map video screens show what you would be seeing if you were actually walking through the city. First the area is shown on a satellite image (looks like Google Earth), then the view zooms in on an important Seljuq building in the neighborhood, finally focusing in on the architectural details. As you walk through a corridor connecting two courtyards sensors in the floor turn on the “Sounds of Thirteenth Century Kayseri” played through speakers discreetly hidden in the ceiling. All I heard was a call to prayer, which of course can still be heard five times a day in Kayseri. I would have preferred to hear some sultry Seljuk siren say, “Hey big boy, looking for some company?” One of the courtyards hosts a tea room, thank goodness, for the 95º F heat was severely dehydrating me. Admittedly, very few of the displays have descriptions in English. But if you are blind, you are luck; many of the displays have descriptions in Braille. Next to some of the Braille descriptions small artifacts tethered on cords have been placed to that blind people can feel them.
Front of the Çifte Madrassa
Entrance to the Çifte Madrassa
Inscription about the entrance to the Çifte Madrassa
The Sahibiye Madrassa dates to 1267, after the Seljuqs of Rum had recognized Mongol suzerainty. It was commissioned by Fakhr al-Din Ali, a.k.a Sâhib Ata or Sâhip Ata, who held a number of important post in the Seljuq government under ruler Sultan Keykhüsrev III. He was famous for the charitable foundation he had set up throughout the Seljuq realm; the Sahibiye Madrassa was another of his contributions. The interior of the madrassa now serves as a book bazaar. 
Old and New: The Sahibiye Madrassa in the foreground and the Kayseri Hilton in the back.
Entrance to the Sahibiye Madrassa 
Detail of entrance to the Sahibiye Madrassa 
Detail of entrance to the Sahibiye Madrassa

Hacı Kılıç Mosque, dated to 1249, after the Seljuqs of Rum had recognized Mongol suzerainty. 
Entrance to the Hacı Kılıç Mosque
Detail of entrance to the Hacı Kılıç Mosque
Another entrance to the Hacı Kılıç Mosque
Detail of other entrance
 Lala Muslihiddin Pasha Mosque. Lala Muslihiddin was an important figure in the Seljuq government, but is it not quite clear when he lived. He apparently commissioned this mosque and a tomb for himself. 
Mausoleum, apparently of Lala Muslihiddin, associated with the mosque.
An impressive Seljuq monument known as the Döner Tomb. It is not quite clear who was entombed in it. 
 The Döner Tomb
Detail of the Döner Tomb. Note the Tree of Life motif. 
The Han Mosque. Built by the Seljuks originally as a caravanserai, it was later converted into a mosque. 
The Emir Han Tomb, connected with the Han Mosque. It was built in 1189 as a tomb for the Emir Cemaleddin Tanrivernis Bin David. It also contains the bodies of two other members of his family.

Alaca Tomb. Built in the thirteenth century for the emirs Cemalettin and Bin Muhammad.

The post-Seljuq-era monuments in the city include the tomb of Zeynel Abidin. A prominent member of the Rufayi Sufis, Zeynel Abidin, a.k.a. Imam Sultan (d. 1414), commissioned a mosque, a dervish lodge, and a fountain near the current site of his tomb. All these structures are now gone. The building which houses his tomb was not built until 1886. The tomb is still an important pilgrimage site. Many people come here to pray before the tomb of  Zeynel Abidin. I had to return five or six times before I found the building empty and could take a photo.
Mausoleum of Zeynel Abidin
Tomb of Zeynel Abidin
And of course the world-famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan (c. 1492–1588) was born in Kayseri. Responsible for the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and hundreds of other mosques, madrassas, and other buildings and structures, he must rank as one of the most prolific and influential architects of all time. (For an entertaining novelistic account of the world around Sinan see The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak.)
Statue of Mimar Sinan
Mimar Sinan did build one mosque in his hometown. Originally called the Hadji Ahmet Pasha Mosque, it was completely in 1573. It later became known as the Kursunlu Mosque. The difference in style from the Seljuq mosques could not be more obvious. 
Kursunlu Mosque