Last resting place of Noah                         Population:

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Old names: Bezabde, Jeziret ibn 'Umar

Way out in the southeast of Turkey, beyond Midyat, Cizre on the Dicle (Tigris) river is a small town that, at first sight, does not look especially promising for visitors.

Closer inspection reveals, however, that it is home to three significant sights - the 12th-century Ulu Cami, a shrine to Noah and the tomb of the star-crossed lovers Men and Zin - that would be enough along to justify a visit even without the additional lures of a small museum, a fine medrese and a wonderful cemetery full of colourful hollyhocks.

The troubles in the southeast mean that few outsiders make it to Cizre. Those that do stand out like sore thumbs, certain to attract attention, mostly of the very welcoming kind.

Around town

One of the most magnificent exhibits in İstanbul’s Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is a pair of desnsely carved wooden doors taken from an Ulu Cami that dates back to 1155. 

In design it recalls the great mosques of Diyarbakır, Kilis and Siirt, with their large courtyards, but what distinguishes this mosque from others in Turkey is its curious stepped minaret that will remind many visitors of a ziggurat. Ancient tombstones are embedded in the walls of the mosque which is kept locked outside prayer times.

A short walk away from the Ulu Cami is the town's large and lovely cemetery which is surrounded by an ancient wall.

Nearby are buried Mem and Zin, the Romeo and Juliet of Kurdish literature whose story was recorded by Ahmed Hani in 1695, were star-crossed lovers from different tribes who were kept apart by the evil Bekir. After Mem’s death, the heartbroken Zin faded away beside his tomb. Bekir was eventually killed while taking sanctuary between the two tombs; his blood soaked into the earth, thus keeping the lovers apart even in death.

Recently restored, their joint tomb lies beneath the mosque in the Abdaliye complex, a combined mosque and medrese dating back to 1437 when this part of the world was ruled by the powerful emirs of Botan.

Heading back from the Ulu Cami back to the town centre you will come across the shrine of the Prophet Nuh (Noah) whose body lies inside an impressively elongated tomb in a tile-bedecked buildingr. In Kurdish tradition Noah’s Ark came to rest not on distant Ağrı Dağı (Mt Ararat), near Doğubayazıt, but on Mt Cudi (Cudi Dağı, 2089m), near Şırnak, which would explain his unexpected presence in this part of the world.

Not far from the shrine is the attractive brick-built Kırmızı Medresesi (Red Seminary) where the poet Ahmed Cezeri (1570-1640) is buried inside a tomb whose concave dome makes it hard to stand upright. The newly restored medrese dates back to 1508 and is surrounded by eyvans whose shallow arches have a rather Persian feel to them.

Up the road from the Ulu Cami, the town's small museum (closed Mondays) is housed in a two-storey mansion whose design evokes the architecture of old Diyarbakır, a far cry from the mundane concrete structures all around it. 


Most people will want to visit Cizre on a day trip from Midyat or Siirt. 

Transport info

There are regular buses from Midyat to Cizre; you may need to change bus in İdil. There are also frequent buses from Siirt to Cizre.200 DSC03852200 DSC03845

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