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RUMKALE

"Greek Castle"

Old name: Hromgla/Sitamrat

Right in the middle of nowhere, the dramatic ruins of Rumkale stands high above the Euphrates (Fırat) at Halfeti, accessible only by boat.

The site is thought to have been settled by the Assyrian king Salamassar III in 885 BC at a time when it stood some 500m above the river.

In 1113 a bishopric was established inside the castle but in the early 13th century the site was captured by the Mamluks of Egypt.  Then in 1516 it was captured by Sultan Selim I, whereupon it fell under the control of the Ottoman governor of Aleppo (Haleb).

Around the site


At Halfeti tour boats wait to take visitors up the river to Rumkale. PrivateRumkale1 tours are also possible but offputtingly expensive. 

The boats carve their leisurely way through a gorge which is reminiscent of the better-known Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia only with a great deal more water in it.

Then, on the western bank of the river, you begin to make out the shattered walls of what must once have been a magnificent seven-gated medieval castle built over the site of a church where some believe that St John made a copy of the Bible and hid it until it could be smuggled out to Beirut. Some people even believe that St John died and was buried here although his remains have never been found.

Rumkale2These days the ruins of the castle stand on a peninsula just 150m above the level of the water.

The adventurous can land on the far side and scramble up a treacherous path to explore the remains of some old houses, the 17th-century church of St Nerses, a cistern and a deep well into which the mythological character Narcissus may have tumbled while admiring his own reflection; the less adventurous can settle for a quick lunch at a nearby cafe with a view overlooking the ruins.

Most boat trips continue a little further north to Savaşanköyü, where a minaret jutting up from the water stands as a poignant memorial to a drowned village now abandoned by all but two of its families.

Transport info

Provided you're travelling in a group and arrive at a busy time (any time between mid-June and mid-September, weekends at other times) you should have no trouble finding a place on a tour boat. Otherwise you may find the price too high as there are no small boats available. 

The trouble is that tour boats may not allow any or enough time to actually explore Rumkale forcing you to negotiate expensive private arrangements. 

Nearby destinations

Birecik

Halfeti

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