The Gateway to Mesopotamia 5 Days


1st Day...
Guests are greeted at Adana Airport, from where we proceed to Antakya (ancient Antioch), one of the Roman Empire's foremost commercial and trading centers and the city where Saint Peter established one of the world's first Christian communities. After we settle into our hotel and enjoy lunch, our first stop is the Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Caravanserai. We then proceed to the Antakya Archeological Museum, with its near-immaculate Roman mosaics and the cave church of Saint Peter, the monumental facade of which was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century AD. Dinner and overnight in Antakya

zeugma akheloos

2nd Day...
After breakfast, we make an early start for Gaziantep, where we tour the Gaziantep Archeological Museum's collection of Hittite reliefs, gold jewelry and priceless mosaics recently discovered in nearby Zeugma. After visiting the castle, most remnants of which dates to the Seljuk period, we lunch on Gaziantep's distinctive regional dishes, then explore the timeless passages of the historical bazaar, with its rich variety of mother-of-pearl inlaid objects, carpets, kilims, spices, antiques, silver and hand-embroidered headscarves. Early in the evening we head northeast to Adiyaman, where we suggest everyone retire early, because at 2:00 am you will be awakened and taken to the 2,150-meter (7,500-foot) summit of Nemrut Dagi for the sunrise, one of the most beautiful anywhere in the world. Overnight in Adiyaman

3rd Day…
By 5:30 in the morning, we will be gathered on Mt. Nemrut waiting for the first rays of the rising sun to illuminate the magnificent tomb built here by Antiochus I Epiphanes (64-38 BC). The massive stone heads, seated statue of Apollo, Fortuna, Zeus, Antiochus and Hercules, altar, reliefs and 50-metre-high cairn of small stones covering King Antiochus's tomb gradually come into view. You'll have plenty of time to examine these breathtaking works and ask questions about their extraordinary origins. As we descend to Adiyaman, we visit Arsemeia, the capital of the ancient Commagne kingdom, Cendere Bridge, a Roman structure still in use today, and Karakus tumulus, surrounded by pillars and believed to be the funeral mound of King Antiochus's wife. After breakfast and a rest back at the hotel, we visit Ataturk Dam, the centerpiece of Turkey's GAP irrigation project, one of the largest in the world, then enjoy a tea break in an authentic nomadic tent on the shores of the massive man-made lake.
Immediately after arriving at our hotel in Şanliurfa, we have lunch, then set off to explore one of the oldest urban areas in the world, a city that retains its mesmerizing, exotic character. As we visit the medieval houses, narrow market streets, the Cave of Abraham, believed to be the prophet's birthplace, and Golbasi, the site where legend has it that Assyrian tyrant Nemrut hurled Abraham into a bonfire, you'll appreciate the Middle Eastern flavor of what is perhaps eastern Turkey's most compelling city. After getting a bird's eye view of Sanliurfa from the Nemrut's hill-top citadel, we return to the hotel for dinner. Evening entertainment is a Sirra Gecesi, a traditional gathering at which melodic folksongs are sung, çig kofte (spicy steak tartar meatballs) eaten and mirra (the strong local coffee) drunk. Overnight in Sanliurfa.

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4th Day…
After breakfast, we drive south to Harran, the last surviving example of Syriac mud-built houses, this town mentioned in the Genesis has a history stretching back over 6,000 years. The ruins of a Crusader fortress are visible on what was once an Assyrian temple dedicated to Sin, god of the moon, and the remains of an Arab-built Islamic university, the world's first, are still evident. After a tea break in one of the ubiquitous bee-hive shaped houses, we drive east to Mardin, a picturesque town clinging to a sheer rocky bluff and overlooking the Syrian plains. After lunch in a historic Mardin home, There, we visit Kırklar church, Deyrulzefran, or "Saffran Monastery", a Syrian Orthodox orphanage founded in 439 AD and for centuries the seat of the Syrian Orthodox patriarch, and Kasimiye medresse. Overnight and dinner in Mardin.

5th Day…
After breakfast, first we tour nearby Midyat, famed for its ornately carved stone homes and silversmiths. There, we visit Mar Gabriel monastery, a working community of Syrian Orthodox nuns and monks who will be happy to share with you information about the area's 2,000-year old Christian past. On the way to Diyarbakir, we visit to Hasankeyf, which is one of the most interesting spot of the tour, a now-ruined city built on the banks of the Tigris, exploring its 12th century palace, mosque and tombs. Then continue to Diyarbakir, via Batman, upon arrival visit to Ulu Cami, one of Anatolia's first grand Seljuk mosques, and the black basalt walls enclosing the largest city in Southeast Turkey, a settlement that was ancient thousands of years before it fell to Alexander the Great. Then have a dinner before taking you to the airport, where we say good-bye until we hopefully see you on another tour. Overnight in Istanbul.

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