Population: 43,000

silvan2Around Silvan cows rule the roostOld names: Meyyefarkin, Farqina

Midway along the road from Diyarbakır to Bitlis, Silvan is somewhere you might pass through on your way to Batman and Hasankeyf and where you might think of pausing to inspect the enormous Malabadi Köprüsü (Bridge), another 16km east. 

Although little known to outsiders Silvan was an important town in the Middle Ages and has two fine mosques and the remains of a castle and city walls to look at.

It has to be stresed though that it is not a town used to visitors. After a youth bowled a full bottle of water at my legs in the cemetery beside the castle even I felt forced to move on.

Around town

The most obvious monument to look at is the wonderful Selahaddin-i Eyyubi (Ulu) Cami that dates back to 1185, a time when the Ayyubids were in power. Built of a lovely yellow sandstone, the mosque is something of a one-off - I could only think of parallels with the Ulu Cami in Kızıltepe although even then they were not close. Silvan1

It's a long, narrow hall of a building with the main mihrab flanked by four others, two of them with fine Selçuk-style decoration.

The plain square minaret is obviously a modern addition as, I suspect, is the highly decorative doorway that put me in mind of Mardin. But it was hard to think what purpose the vaguely Romanesque and broken corbels on the front of the buiding served. 

You will have no trouble exploring the mosque which is busy with worshippers. Nor are you likely to have trouble visiting the 16th-century Karabehlül Cami, back on the road towards the town's small otogar, not far from the Ulu Cami. The most conspicuous feature of this mosque is its extremely high minaret, surely one of the tallest in the country.

silvan3The problems are likely to come if you follow the signs pointing to the Zembilfroş Kalesi (castle) which will take you into the back streets where young boys lurk with not enough to do after the first shift of school ends for the day.

It's a great shame that you may not be left in peace to explore since the carvings on the huge tower by the main road and over the other gates and towers you will fleetingly glimpse testify to the fine craftsmanship being practised here in the 12th century before the Mongols rode through and destroyed everything. 

The walls continue on the other side of town although in 2015 I was strongly advised against walking there because of guerilla activity. Near the otogar I did, however, find a fine stretch of wall with twin towers into and onto which a lovely stone konak (mansion) had been built. 

Transport info

Minibuses to Silvan leave from Diyarbakır's İlçe Garajı but make an interim stop at a very grim terminal specifically for Silvan transport. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Ulu Cami. 

Onward buses to Batman passing through Malabadi leave from the eastern side of town but they're infrequent so you may be better off taking a taxi, especially as most dolmuşes passing through Malabadi arrive full and won't stop. 

From Batman minibuses to Silvan leave from the centrally located İlçe Otogarı so visiting from there may be easier than from Diyarbakır. 

Day trip destinations






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