Turkey, Culture

Crown city Dara of ancient Mesopotamia finds new life as historic tourist hub

Roman Era city offers opportunities for those who want to go on rich historical journey

Aysu Bicer   | 03.09.2021
Crown city Dara of ancient Mesopotamia finds new life as historic tourist hub A view of ancient city of Dara in Mardin, Turkey. ( FILE PHOTO - Anadolu Agency )

MARDIN, Turkey

One of the most important trade centers of ancient Mesopotamia, the ancient city of Dara in southeastern Turkey, is poised for new greatness as a hub for visitors seeking historical splendor.

Excavations and research have been carried out for 34 years in Dara, in Oguz, Mardin, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the provincial center.

The ruins of the ancient city of Dara, featuring ancient rock tombs dating back to the fifth century A.D., have been compared to the famed city of Ephesus in Aegean Turkey, earning it the nickname the Ephesus of Mesopotamia, the breadbasket of the ancient Near East.

The city, an important settlement along the famed Silk Road which also saw great wars, for years served as the last stronghold of the Byzantine Empire in southeastern Anatolia, offering unique opportunities for those who want to go on a historical journey.

The necropolis (city of the dead), where religious ceremonies were held during the Roman Era and hundreds of people were buried together, is one of the most popular spots in the ancient city.

"Our purpose here is to fully reveal the tourism potential of Dara, one of the most important city walls in the world,” said Mustafa Varank, Turkey's industry and technology minister, visiting the ancient ruins.

In this context, the government provided support of 4 million Turkish liras (nearly half a million dollars) through the Attraction Centers Support Program, as carried out by the Mardin Museum Directorate.

"Each region has different richnesses within itself. Some of our regions are distinguished by their industry, some by their agricultural capacity, and others by their tourism," he added.

So it is necessary to develop policies compatible with regional scale and geographies, he said, adding that Mesopotamia stands before us as a great success story.

Excavations began in 1986

The ancient city, founded by the Eastern Roman Empire in order to protect their border against the Sasanian or Neo-Persian Empire, is a favorite spot for tourists to take photos or newlyweds to pose for wedding or honeymoon pictures amid historical splendor.

The archaeological excavations began in the ancient city in 1986, but only some 10% of the area of an ancient village has been unearthed so far.

Over a period of 25 years, archaeological digs slowly revealed a monumental mass graveyard or necropolis.

A cistern located some 25 meters (82 feet) under a village house in Dara, which has drawn comparisons to Istanbul's famed Yerebatan Cistern and the villagers call the "Dungeon," was cleaned and unearthed over painstaking work spanning some 15 years.

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