A Historical Visit Nourished By Legends: Elazığ

A Historical Visit Nourished By Legends: Elazığ

The place of Elazığ in Anatolia, which is the hearth of legends, folk songs, and folk dances, is very special. The famous “çayda çıra” folk dance is still performed in Elazığ during the traditional welcoming of the groom and the bride before the guests and the groom’s walk.

Another term that Elazığ is identified with is “gakkoş”. This pleasant sounding word also arouses curiosity. The word gakkoş originally comes from “garındaş”, which means sibling, brother, uncle, self-conscious brave man, brave lad. This is an introduction for the first meeting with Elazığ, the Land of Gakkoş, which is located on fertile lands with vineyards and orchards and traces of the deep-rooted civilizations of Eastern Anatolia…

A minaret with an elevator

An extraordinary mosque in Elazığ… The İzzet Paşa Mosque carries the title of “Turkey’s first mosque with an elevator.” The mosque, which is located at the center of Elazığ’s marketplace, was built by Hacı Ahmet İzzet Pasha, the governor of the time, after purchasing the land in 1866. It was built out of mud-bricks. The outer walls of today’s mosque, which dates back to 1972, is made of cut stone. This place, with the passages located on the ground floor known as Kuyumcular Çarşısı (jewelers marketplace), is where the city always preserves its vitality whether it is time for prayers or not. Gazi Street, in front of the mosque, is also among the busiest shopping streets of the city. Again on this street, there is the Old Government House (Eski Hükümet Konağı), which is among the late Ottoman civil architectural works. It was built in 1896 by Governor Enis Pasha after the city of Harput was moved to its present place, which was a hamlet in the 19th century. The historical building, which attracts attention with its vaulted windows and doors, has been used as an exhibition and gallery hall for a while after the restoration and also temporarily used as the Governor’s Office. The near Post Office (Postane) Square in the immediate vicinity is one of the squares where the activity of daily life is felt with the contribution of the PTT building. The current name of the square is 15 Temmuz Demokrasi Square.

Mirror of life

The Grand Bazaar has been among the places to mirror city life since 1928. It also includes Fishermen Marketplace (Balıkçılar Çarşısı) and Butchermen Marketplace (Kasaplar Çarşısı). This historical bazaar that takes the pulse of daily life and trade is a stop where visitors do not skip to visit thanks to its crowd, dynamism, colorful shops, traditional products, souvenirs, and copper shops where coppersmiths process and coat copper manually. Tulum cheese, dried fruit pulp sheets, shredded phyllo dough, dried peppers, homemade tomato and pepper paste, mulberry flour are among the popular products of the bazaar. However, it is important to learn one word before you go out for shopping in Elazığ: orcik. Orcik is made by sun drying the stringed walnuts after dipping them into grape or mulberry sherbet. The best of orcik is made in Elazığ. Orcik’s quality increases depending on the number of times the walnut is soaked in sherbet; the more the better. Orcik candy, which is unique to Elazığ, is obtained by boiling the granulated sugar in water and putting walnuts in through a special process at a certain boiling degree. One of the specialties of Elazığ is the delicious turpentine coffee. It is believed that this coffee, prepared by special methods collected from the tree grown in Elazığ and its vicinity, is good to drink as a remedy against some diseases. Autumn is the time for walnut halva. Do not forget to add Şavak tulum cheese to your list. This cheese, the production of which starts in April and ends in August, is made from white sheep’s milk that feeds on the ice-cold waters of the high-altitude, plant-rich, clean and cool plateaus of Şavak.


Bay windows of the past

Those who want to take a look at the past lives of the city of Elazığ find themselves on Kazım Efendi Street. The street with examples of restored traditional Elazığ-Harput houses is named after Musa Kâzım Efendi, a Harput-based religious scholar who lived here. The characteristic features of mud-brick houses are the bay windows. Bay windows were a significant element of that period not only in terms of architecture but also in terms of sunlight, landscape, and vision in terms of creating spaciousness. For those who want to stroll through the mazes of history, the city center is worth seeing, including the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum.

Open air museum: Harput

Harput, which is 7 km away from Elazığ’s easily roamed city center, is another sight-seen spot. Harput, with its castle, mosques, tombs and historical street texture, is a destination where the locals of Elazığ visit frequently and entertain their guests. Harput is an important stop that dates back 4,000 years and is located on the caravan routes connecting Anatolia to Mesopotamia. For Harput, the caravan routes were an important source of income. In the 16th and 17th centuries, taxes were collected on trade goods. It was a remarkable industrial center where leatherworking, blacksmithing, coppersmithing and fabric dyeing developed. With its shops, paint shop, mosques, madrasas, libraries, churches, inns and baths, and neighborhoods of different religions, it was as remarkable as Evliya Çelebi would make a note in the mid-17th century. Harput, the home of different civilizations, is an open-air museum not to be missed.

Got milk if no water

Harput, meaning “Stone Castle”, has been a shelter and suitable for defense purposes in every period with its position on steep rocks. The oldest surviving remnant is the fortress built by the Urartians in the 8th century BC, surrounding the historic city of Harput with walls. The excavations revealed the neighborhood school, the castle mosque and the surrounding commercial buildings, residences, workshops, tunnels and 36-meter deep water cistern with 100 stone steps. The fortress has always been a battlefield for the Emir of Artuklu Belek Gazi, one of the Byzantine generals. Harput region and castle were taken under the administration of the Ottoman Empire Yavuz Sultan Selim in 1515. The most common legend about the castle is as follows: due to the drought during the construction of the castle, in the preparation of the Horasan mortar, instead of water, the milk from nearby sheep and other cattle herd was used. The milk was transported by wooden channels to the construction site; eggs and white lime were added. Because of this legend, Harput Castle is also known as “Milk Castle” among the people.

Italy’s Pisa, Harput’s Ulu Mosque

Harput Ulu Mosque (1156-1157), which carries the architectural features of Anatolian and Persian Seljuk mosques, is also known as Mosque Kebir, Cami-i Muazzam, Cami-i Azam and Eğri Minare (Leaning Minaret) Mosque. The mosque, which was thought to be built by the order of Artuqid Ruler Fahreddin Karaarslan, is a structure worth seeing with its thick walls, arches, stoas, and dome made of rubble stone. However, the fame of this Artuqid mosque comes from its brick minaret. There are different legends about the minaret, which is more inclined than the Leaning Tower of Italy, Pisa, and the old mulberry tree that seems to prostrate in front of its altar. On a holly Kadir night of Ramadan, one of the two friends tells the other that the mulberry tree, which is located in front of the altar, is leaning over and prostrating. The other friend was astonished: “I saw the minaret of the mosque leaning over.” The two friends walked away in the shock of this incident and told everyone about it. Since then, the tree and the minaret are leaning as if prostrating. The minaret had been fixed a few times but it leaned again each time.

From churches to caves

The most scenic point of Harput is undoubtedly Balak Gazi Facilities. Illuminated at night, this bird’s eye view of the Elazığ Plain faces the city. The statue on the horse belongs to Balak Gazi, the Emir of Harput, who won victories against the Crusaders, the Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish armies. One of the oldest churches in Anatolia is in Harput. It is believed that the Church of the Virgin Mary, which was estimated to have been built in 179 A.D., was first used as a temple by the idolaters in the castle and then the Assyrians turned it into a church. It is also known as the Red Church, the Syriac Church and the Yakubi Church. One of the most important tourist stops in Harput is the Buzluk (ice) Cave. Throughout history, the people of Harput used this cave to keep their food fresh. In the past, local people brought the ice they brought out of this cave to Harput on animal backs and sold it. Speaking of ice, one of the most popular stops of Elazığ’s winter tourism is the Hazar Baba Ski Center, 30 km away.


You can try the delicious trout in the vicinity of Çırçır Falls, which was formed during the building of the Keban Dam.