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DOĞUBAYAZIT (DOĞUBEYAZIT)

The shadow of Mt Ararat                             Population: 66,000

dogu1Most towns in Turkey have changed out of all recognition over the last twenty years. Doğubayazıt (East Bayazıt) is not one of those towns. 

Instead it's a rather grim little border town that it might be good to bypass were it not the best base from which to visit both Ağrı Dağı, the supposed last resting place of Noah’s Ark, and the İshak Pasa Sarayı, a mainly 18th-century palace in a lofty and picturesque location.

Doğubayazıt is the last town before the Iranian border at Gürbulak, 35km to the east.

Around town

Doğubayazıt town has little to say for itself. There’s a monument to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights near the otogar but otherwise not so much as a museum.

Ardent shoppers might want to explore the two-storey network of pasajs (arcades) near the monument. They’re filled with items Iranians think the Turks want and Turks think the Iranians want. You’re unlikely to find anything you want to buy.

İshak Paşa Sarayı

dogu2High up at the top of what was then the site of Bayazıt town, İşhak Paşa Sarayı was the brainchild of Çolak Abdi Paşa for whom work began in 1685. However, most of what you see today was actually built in the 18th century.

It’s an extraordinary mishmash of styles: the entrance portal, for example, calls to mind the Selçuk complex at Divriği while some of the decorations around the windows are reminiscent of Mardin. To add to the mix there’s even one carving in the second courtyard that looks seems to be anticipating Art Nouveau!

In some ways İşhak Paşa is like a miniature version of Topkapı Palace in İstanbul but entirely built from stone. The grand external gateway leads into a first courtyard that would have been open to the public for whom a waiting room was provided.dogu3

Beyond that another portal leads to a second courtyard with a mosque and library opening off from it.

Finally a very grand portal leads into the third courtyard and the private area where the pasha’s family had their rooms. Here, too, is a large kitchen, a glorious pillared dining room and an octagonal hamam.

Recently the palace has been restored, a process which has included the imposition of a controversial transparent roof. Personally, I didn't mind this as much as I'd expected to and felt that it helped me get a better sense of what the building might have felt like in its heyday. Others, however, are furiously opposed. 

Around the palace

Up the hill past the palace on the right-hand side of the road you'll see a rebuilt mosque that contains the shrine of the Kurdish poet, Ahmed Hani (Hanibaba), best known for the story of the star-crossed lovers Mem and Zin.

dogu4As you walk back down the hill to town (a lovely walk and highly recommended) you'll pass on the right  the extensive ruins of the medieval Bayazıt Kalesi (Bayazıt Castle). Look carefully and you will be able to make out a Urartian tomb cut into the rock beneath it.

Beneath the castle stands a rebuilt 16th-century mosque. Unfortunately it's usually kept locked.

Sleeping

The Doğubayazıt hotel situation is frankly dire. The best hotels are in inconvenient locations; those more centrally located are old-fashioned and crying out for investment 

Grand Derya

Sim-Er Tel: 0472-312 4842

Golden Hill Hotel

Highly rated as this hotel is said to be be, its location, on the dusty outskirts of town next to a hospital, is hardly inspiring. It didn’t help that when I visited both lifts were out of order and had been for a week.

www.agri-goldenhill.com, tel: 0472-312 8717, Çevreyolu Üzeri (on ring road)

Hotel Isfahan 

The Hotel Isfahan used to be one of Doğubayazıt’s most characterful hotels but no longer since it moved to new premises right next door. Bedrooms are large and perfectly comfortable but without originality; my bathroom was up a step with a ledge to it for no very obvious reason.

The main grouse would have to be that there is no longer a breakfast room. Breakfast is supplied on request but fetched in from elsewhere and mine was stale. Better to go out and find something for yourself.

www.hotelisfahan.com, tel: 0472-312 4363, İsageçit Caddesi No. 26

Murat Camping 

If you don’t mind pretty simple conditions you could stay in the cheap rooms attached to the restaurant at Murat Camping. It’s halfway up the mountain to İshak Paşa Sarayı but hourly servis minibuses ferry guests to and from town. There’s food to hand, and the scenery is considerably more inspiring than anything in Doğubayazıt itself!

Tel: 0543-635 0494, İşhak Paşa Sarayı

Friedrich Parrot. The newly restored palace contains a room dedicated to the memory of Friedrich Parrot (1791-1841), a German traveller who was the first man in modern times to climb Mt Ararat in 1829. dogu5

Eating

Asmalı Konak 

The décor will seem shockingly kitsch or quirkily charming depending on your outlook but the food here is excellent, the helpings generous and the prices very reasonable. Try the kardelen, a variation on beyti kebab with crisply grilled yufka wrapped around a mixture of kuşbaşı, tavuk şiş and cheese.

www.asmalikonakrestaurant.com, tel: 0472-312 1040, Büyük Ağrı Caddesi, Yolaltı Sokak No. 3

Konak 3 

When I visited there was no name sign up, but take the steps beside Migros to find this cinema-cum-restaurant serving such novelties (for Doğubayazıt) as spaghetti bolognaise to a youthful clientele.

Tel: 0472-312 7935, Büyük Ağrı Caddesi, Migros üstü (above Migros)

Manolya Pastanesi 

Local restaurants are not hot on desserts but check into this glitzy coffee shop to round off your meal with a pastry or pudding. Young women seem to find the upstairs a congenial place to get together.

Tel: 0472-312 1717, Büyük Ağrı Caddesi No. 180

Transport info

There is no airport at Doğubayazıt; the closest are at Kars and Van.

Doğubayazıt’s old otogar is right in the town centre.

Dolmuşes to local destinations leave from various locations around town. Ağrı dolmuşes wait outside the Manolya Pastanesi while those to Van & Çaldıran leave from across the road. Dolmuşes to Diyadin and Iğdır leave from a small terminal down the road from the Van stop; for Kars you need to change in Iğdır.

Day trip destinations 

Diyadin 

Meteoru Çukuru (Meteor Crater)

Muradiye Şelalesi (waterfall)

Nuh’un Gemisi (Noah’s Ark)

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail.action;jsessionid=cpL7dc4gSx3sCj-mBgiDN63I?newsId=248521&columnistId=0

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