The sites of Divriği in a week

Divriği’s pretty out of the way, but tourists do make it out here to visit the Ulu Camii and Darüşşifası.  Never heard of them, have you?  Well, no one else has either.  The only reason anyone knows about this building is that it’s one of Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Grand Mosque and Hospital of Divriği.  Solely because of the UNESCO designation, it’s been on my list to visit for quite some time.

I checked into a hotel, and after an early dinner, after the weather cooled off a bit, I headed straight up the hill to the famous site.  Bah!  Closed for restoration and covered in scaffolding!  Here it is, in a gray metal cage with a white plastic hat:

IMG_20200806_182620 by bryandkeith on flickr

Western Portal by bryandkeith on flickr

Well, that’s pretty disappointing.  Had I only planned half a day in Divriği like most tourists do I would have definitely left disappointed.

The mosque takes up the northern half of the building and the hospital the southern half.  The complex was built in the pre-Ottoman Beylik period by the Mengücek Beylik in the early 13th century.  Although there is supposed to be a very nice mihrab in the mosque, the main reason for UNESCO’s interest is the intricately carved portals.  The restoration meant I couldn’t get inside or see the West Portal.  The exit to the mosque (shown above) was also difficult to see because of the scaffolding.  However, they’ve left the hospital entrance and the Paradise Portal largely available for tourists to enjoy.

Here is the hospital entrance in the afternoon light:

Darüşşifası Portal (hospital entrance) by bryandkeith on flickr

That’s a pretty stunning door, isn’t it?  However, it’s downright plain with you compare it with the Paradise Portal (aka North Portal, the entrance to the mosque):

IMG_20200806_181750 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200803_184300 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200803_184257 by bryandkeith on flickr

I ended up coming back up here at least three more times during my stay to gawk at and enjoy these magnificent portals.  As the initial disappointment of the restoration faded, I appreciated the intricate carving more and more.

To the east of the downtown area (the Ulu Camii is up the hill to the west) is a neighborhood of restored Ottoman houses.

IMG_20200803_115534 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200804_094234 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200804_103601 by bryandkeith on flickr

In one restored house, Mühürdarzade Konağı, some women operate a restaurant serving regional specialties.  Their recommendation without hesitation was the Divriği Pilavı, a rice dish:

Divriği Pilavı by bryandkeith on flickr

As I mentioned in my last post, there are some mosques with wooden minarets around town:

There were at least three mosques in Divriği with wooden minarets by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200805_095334 by bryandkeith on flickr

Continuing on Ulu Camii’s intricately carved portal theme, I had read that I ought to visit Cedit Paşa Camii as well.  No one was around, and the courtyard entrances were locked.  I had to hop over the fence to take this photo of the portal:

IMG_20200804_102043 by bryandkeith on flickr

There are also a number of restored türbe/kümbet/graves around town, mostly for important Mengücek people.

IMG_20200803_183454 by bryandkeith on flickr

This türbe, Sitte Melik Türbesi:

IMG_20200805_094637 by bryandkeith on flickr

is the most famous because of its inscription, detailing the modesty (!) of the Mengücek ruler, Shahin Shah, the one who had the Ulu Camii built.  His wife was responsible for the hospital.  Here’s the inscription, translated to English:

“Here lies the sword of the world and religion, the sovereign of Islam and Moslems, the crown of the nation, the storehouse of religious knowledge, the standard bearer of time, the exalted leader of government, the shining light of the Islamic world, an exalted sun, God’s comrade of sacred warriors, the supporter of soldiers battling on the frontiers, the scourge of atheists, non-believers, and those who would renounce their faith, the defender of the Caliphate, treasured by angels and the sultans, he whose arms sheltered the weak, the poor, orphans, the persecuted, and those challenged by tyrants, and he who brought the Anatolian Greeks, the Syrians, and the Armenians to their knees:

Alp Kutluğ Uluğ Hümayun Yabgu Tuğrul Tekin, Shahin Shah, the pride of the Mengücek dynasty and the Father and Commander-in-Chief of Conquests, the son of Suleyman, the grandson of Amir İshak, and the descendant of the Martyr Ghazi Mengucek.  May he abide forever in the House of God, may his throne be auspicious, may his soul be saved upon his death.  The first month of the year 590″ (December 1193)

IMG_20200805_095634 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200805_100859 by bryandkeith on flickr

This grave is a completely different style, and I wondered if the building didn’t used to be an Armenian church.

Another restored türbe, in a rather different style from the others in Divriği by bryandkeith on flickr

One morning I got on my bicycle and rode about 5km north to visit a restored 19th century Ottoman (although some internet sources say it’s 13th century Mengücek) bridge, Kız Köprüsü.

IMG_20200805_084300_7 by bryandkeith on flickr

On the hill above the Ulu Camii is another restored Mengücek monument, the Mengücek Kalesi (a castle).  It’s over-restored and fairly ugly.  You can see the walls in the top center of this photo:

IMG_20200804_122610 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200804_092825 by bryandkeith on flickr

Below the castle is what is certainly Divriği’s biggest disappointment, a completely neglected Armenian church.  Clearly there’s been a lot of restoration money and work put into Divriği’s monuments, but this church is full of graffiti and trash and is falling apart.

IMG_20200804_093249 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200804_093336 by bryandkeith on flickr

And the best thing about Divriği?  Well, Ferda and her cousin, Hacer, showed up.  We’ll continue the bicycle tour together!

IMG_20200808_114413 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20200809_074049 by bryandkeith on flickr
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7 Responses to The sites of Divriği in a week

  1. Deniz says:

    Hey Brian!

    It is nice to see you on the move again! I really like the photos. There are so many interesting places in that country and you happened to see much more than those who were born there, including me. The ugliness of the restoration has something to do with a school-of-thought in restoration and conservation. It suggests the use of visibly different material for the restored parts so that the original parts always remain distinguishable. Personally, I have conflicted feelings about that approach. I understand it but do not enjoy looking at the outcomes of it.


    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Deniz,

      Good to hear from you. The more disturbing thing about the restoration in Divriği was the complete neglect of the Armenian church, something that is now, sadly, much more rare than another Ottoman castle.

  2. Lisa Lobree says:

    Brian!!! I wasn’t getting these forever and just started getting again. Love reading. Given how complicated my life feels right now, it’s a breath of fresh air to read stories of places that are so much simpler and full of kind people. Hugs!!


    • Lisa Lobree says:

      Oh and totally ignore that I misspelling your name. Dangit. 🙂

      • Bryan Keith says:

        Hahaha, I am very used to having my name misspelled. You’re different, Lisa, in that you notice it! 🙂 Glad you’ve found the blog again. The notifications started up again automatically after an OS upgrade. It’s been fun to hear from quite a few people (both in the comments and via e-mail) who I haven’t heard from in a while.

  3. Mike Painter says:

    So many interesting places you get to visit!

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, it’s been interesting that during covid 19 we’ve been able to travel and feel less likely to get sick traveling by bicycle in mostly rural areas like we’ve been doing compared to being at home in Antalya (where we are now). I still have lots of photos to edit and some blogs to write from the last month of the trip.

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