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BALABAN

Adobe Central                                                                                          Population: 2,500 (approx)

balaban1Old name: Germinter

Market day: Friday

The obvious reason to break a journey between Darende and Malatya in Balaban is staring you in the face by the roadside - the spectacular modern Abdurrahman-ı Erzincanı Cami, a mosque built in memory of the 15th-century holy man who was father-in-law to Somuncu Baba, the even more holy man whose shrine in Darende is now such an important site of pilgrimage. 

The other reason to come here is actually visible through one of the windows of the mosque and that is the fine kerpiç (adobe) architecture of the back streets. I planned a short stop and ended up whiling away two hours down the alleys. balaban2

Around town

Externally the mosque is evidently modern, built on various levels and adorned with a pencil-thin detached minaret designed to evoke a flag (renovation taking place when I was visiting suggest it has had trouble standing the test of time) and a pyramidal "dome".

The design was the handiwork of Şerif Ali Akkurt and work on it began as long ago as 1960. However, it took another 50 years to complete.

It's not actually very easy to make this out but the mosque is roughly pentagonal, its five points intended to symbolize the five pillars of Islam. Most visitors will be more struck by the astonishing and lovely ceiling that looks like the sort of designs you find carved on the side of mimbers just transposed to the ceiling in plaster.

Uniquely, the mihrab, mimber and kürsü are all built into one single piece of wooden furniture. 

Abdurrahman-ı Erzincanı is believed to have died in Balaban in 1432 and he is buried inside the mosque that bears his name in a room so dark you can barely make out the three caskets it contains.

balaban3To see the adobe architecture you only need head out from behind the mosque and follow your nose. Some of the alleys lined on both sides with mud-brick houses reminded me at least vaguely of Yazd in Iran.

It's all very atmospheric although the villagers I spoke to said that most of the houses stand empty except in the summer months since their families have moved away to modern apartments in İstanbul, Adana, Darende and elsewhere. 

On the Darende side of the village you'll come across a couple of buildings that have been restored recently. One is the 18th-century Osmankadıoğlu Konağı which has a pretty fountain set into its ground floor. Facing it across the road is a row of shops restored to house the Balaban Cultural Association. 

Around Balaban

On your way to the village from Malatya you will pass through Aşağı Ulupınar which also boasts a huge modern mosque, this time a circular one with no less than our detached minarets. It is a far more mundane piece of architecture though.

Both Aşağı and Yukarı Ulupınar have more of the same adobe architecture as Balaban although they will be even less used to the attention of tourists.

Transport info

Hourly dolmuşes from Malatya to Darende pass through Balaban although demand tends to exceed supply.

During the week there are also dolmuşes between Darende and Balaban. They don't run on Sundays. 

Nearby areas

Darende

Günpınar

Gürür

Levent Vadisi

Malatya

Events Calendar

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