Diyarbakir is a large city in the central eastern part of Turkey. It has been settled since before Hittite times and has gone through several names. The Romans called it Amida, the Arabs called it Diyar Bakr (named after the Arab tribe that took it over), and finally during Republican times it was called Diyarbakir, land of copper, which abounds in its vicinity. It is largely settled by Kurds, as it was once a Kurdish city. Several years ago I visited Diyarbakir, although some of my Turkish friends warned me that it was dangerous because of the Kurds. I did not experience any danger there at all.
Diyarbakir has the largest land wall after the Great Wall of China. It is built mostly of basalt and encircles the old city. There is a park that goes along it, though it is not a good place to hang out in after dark. The extant old city was laid out by the Romans. The streets are logical and are lined with walls that lead into courtyards for the homes there.
One day as we were walking through the old city, some children followed us, calling out ‘Money! Money!’ I was annoyed but my friend played along with them, short of actually giving them money. On one of the walled streets we came across a couple of women with their pet sheep, which had been washed and combed. The mother threw rocks at the kids to chase them away, thankfully. When I asked her where there might be a market, she asked why. I told her we wanted to buy some water. Instead, she went into her house and brought us a glass of cold water. My friend was a little shy of drinking it, afraid it would make him sick, but it would have been rude not to drink it, so he took a sip and I drank the rest. We thanked them and then went on.
Also in the old city are of course many mosques and a few churches. Ulu Cami was probably a Byzantine church at one time, as there are quite a few Byzantine touches in the architecture. We also visited Meryem Ana Church, which still includes the altar to the sun god, as it was a temple before it was a church. We found a young woman there who told us a bit about the church.
We saw some traditionally dressed Kurdish men, as well as women. The style of the women’s headscarves showed whether they were Kurdish or not. Especially in the summer they wear a pain white headscarf. When we interacted with people, they were both welcoming and curious. As we wandered, we went into a passageway to a tea garden, where a group of Kurdish men were singing songs. One of them was about a young man who was killed by the Turkish police. The men were a little curious about us but they made it clear that we were welcome to listen to them sing. The main singer would hold his hands to the side of his face, which is also how the muezzin traditionally does the call to prayer. This was one of my favourite experiences in Turkey.
There is very good food in Diyarbakir, mostly kebab. The area is famous for some cheeses, especially a white cheese that has a wild herb in it and for a braided moist white cheese. It is also well know for watermelons.
These days Diyarbakir is experiencing more troubles as there are protests across the country by Kurds who resent the fact that the Turkish government has parked a lot of tanks at the border but are not using them to protest the Kurdish village of Kobane against IS. This would probably not be a good time to visit it, but when things calm down, I recommend it.