This 12,000-year-old Turkish town to be submerged in a couple of months

Turkey’s Hasankeyf and its surrounding limestone cliffs are home to thousands of human-made caves, 300 medieval monuments and a unique canyon ecosystem. But, the 12,000-year-old town is doomed to disappear in the coming months. An artificial lake, part of the Ilisu hydroelectric dam project, will swallow it up.

The dam has been built further downstream the Tigris. Ilisu is a central element of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), a land development plan to boost the economy of the long-neglected region, through hydroelectric energy and irrigation.

The dam will be Turkey’s second largest. It has been built further downstream of the Tigris River, which runs through Hasankeyf.

Many of the residents feel that the project will destroy the history embedded in their small, historic town and local activists have opposed the intervention over fears about long-term destruction to the environment.

The government says it is taking all measures to protect the historical monuments. In last August, the 1,600-tonne Artuklu Hamam bath house was loaded onto a wheeled platform and moved down a specially constructed road to its new home. Workers also recently moved the remnants of a 14th-century Ayyubid mosque, transporting it three kilometres (1.8 miles) to a site that will become a cultural park.

Once a tourist hotspot, the ongoing relocations have transformed Hasankeyf into a construction site. The government has promised to build a “new Hasankeyf” on the other side of the river, with spacious flats and an ultra-modern hospital.

The dam is expected to boost tourism, and there will be plans to have boats, cable car, diving experiences welcoming you tat the historical Hasankeyf when you visit next time.