I found history very boring at school but I wish I'd paid a little more attention because I soon found that it was important to understand some of the historical background to the places we were to visit if we were to get the most out of our trip. So here's a little background to Erzurum, in Eastern Anatolia. This paragraph can be skipped if you just want to read about the sites visited and nothing more but I promise you it does have some relevance now and later!
We stopped off in Erzurum mainly to see the Çifte Minareli Medrese or twin minaret madrasa, a typical example of a Seljuk Koranic school, and the Ulu Cami, a somewhat plain looking mosque from the street before we entered, but noted for its seven wide aisles and pillared hall, and for being the oldest building in Erzurum after the madrasa.
Before we took a guided tour of the Ulu Cami, just around the corner from the Medrese, and opposite the town hall, our attention was caught by the "Three Kümbets", to the rear of the medrese, up a side street lined with what were clearly very old buildings, some housing small shops and cafes. These Kumbets, or mausolea, free standing buildings that housed burial chambers or interment spaces, date from the 13th or early 14th century. The Taj Mahal is of course the most famous and most photographed mausoleum, and these were not quite in that league, but interesting none the less. The most splendid of the three is the octagonal Emir Sultan Türbesi, with a conical roof, stalactitic mouldings and handsome reliefs of creatures such as snakes, eagles, and rabbits' heads.
a very old house furnished in the old Armenian style, presented as a museum of that culture. We all took off our shoes as is the custom and went indoors, ducking our heads as we climbed the very old, low ceilinged stairs to enter into the amazing array of rooms within, seemingly on many different uneven levels. In the first room, the main living area, the no nails roof construction gave a curious and appealing appearance of an internally terraced cone. This was to be repeated in later mosques and churches we visited.
The door knockers on the outer door were fascinating. There were two, one larger, for the men, and the smaller one for the women and children; so the people within could know who was knocking!
YouTube. The mosque was constructed in 1179, but was badly damaged in the massive 1939 earthquake which claimed many thousands of lives in the city. It has now been accurately and sympathetically restored. We learnt so much that was fascinating about the design and architecture of mosques from this man. The mosque pillars here, we were told, were placed for best acoustics. Windows high above us in the walls were designed to capture the changing directions of the sun’s rays throughout the day to signal the times for prayer. This mosque, we were told, was also used as a depot in Ottoman times. Early mosques were built with very thick walls, and often several columns and domes, to support large enough spaces to accommodate the male and female faithful in segregation.
As we left
on our coach we glimpsed through the gaps between the shops and houses the
Medieval Citadel Fortress high on its hill in the center of town. It is thought
that this was built during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius around
the 5th Century AD. Guide books tell us that there is a very good
view to be had from the clock tower of the city’s landmarks including the
Medrese and the Ulu Cami. Some also say that the clock in the tower was made in
and was a gift from Queen Victoria
to the Ottoman Sultan in 1877. But I understand that the tower is now closed to
visitors and with a long journey ahead and much more to see today we chose to drive on.