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EĞİL

Capital of ancient Sophene                                           Population: 6,000

egil1Old name: Carcathiocerta

Market day: Friday

Roughly 50km northwest of Diyarbakır lies the small modern town of Eğil which sits above a wonderful gorge on the Dicle (Tigris) river. Originally an orchard-filled valley, the gorge was effectively created by the opening in 1997 of the Eğil Dicle Barajı (Dam).

The drowning of the valley destroyed not just people's gardens but also most of the remains of Carcathiocerta, briefly the capital of the obscure Sophene kingdom.

Fortunately the Krallık Mezarlığı (Royal Necropolis) was just about high enough up on the valley wall to survive and today you can view the most impressive stone-domed tombs both from Eğil Kalesi above them and from one of the teknes (excursion boats) that wait beside the ferry quay to carry passengers a little way along the artificial lake. 

Three of the tombs stand together in a clump, with another conical one (reminiscent of one of the rock-cut churches of Soğanlı in Cappadocia) just around the corner. An outlined figure is carved into the rock behind the tombs - it reminded me of the sort of figures cut into chalk in the UK.

Carved into the rockface are square niches that presumably contained the remains of lesser mortals.egil2

As for the Kale (Castle), it's accessible by a roughish path but should be approached cautiously since there are several large cisterns cut into the rock with no covers to stop visitors falling into them. Up here you'll find stretches of stone wall of uncertain date and rock-cut mangers for animals.

Here, too, is a long stone-cut staircase heading down inside the rock. It's blocked now but as you can see steps coming down to the water from the boat one assumes that they run right through the rock and out the other side.

Looking down from the Kale onto the village side you will see the remains of lost houses that probably belonged to Armenians. 

On a separate ridge facing the Kale a new mosque commemorates some of the holy men buried in Eğil and which are the main reason for locals to come here.

Sleeping

There's no hotel here although you could probably stay at the Öğretmen Evi.

Eğil Tatil Köyü. Tel: 0543-355 8758. Wooden bungalows overlooking the harbour. Phone before visiting as I wasn't totally convinced that they would be open after finding one of the fish restaurants closed over legal arguments.

egil3Transport info

Regular buses link Diyarbakır's İlçe Otogar with Eğil. They only run in daylight hours.

Tour boats wait for passengers beside the ferry quay. It's only a short ride but absolutely wonderful enabling you to see the necropolis close up.

As for the ferry, it exists to link the nine villages on the far side of the lake with Eğil. It's off little use to visitors. 

Nearby areas

Diyarbakır

Elazığ

Read more: http://turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/91-behind-the-beauty-of-e%C4%9Fil.html

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