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Malatya - City of Semiramis
2002 / November

Malatya is celebrated for its apricots, which is hardly surprising since this province of Turkey accounts for fifteen percent of the entire world dried apricot production. Known here by the local name mismis, the apricot has two Latin names, Prunus armeniaca or Armeniaca vulgaris. By the name you might assume that it is a native of Armenia, but in fact the homeland of this fruit is China, where it has been known since 3000 BC. The apricot was carried westwards into Anatolia via Iran and Caucasia at the time of Alexander the Great’s Asian campaigns (330-323 BC), and after the Roman conquest of Anatolia in the first century BC was introduced into Italy and Greece by Armenian merchants. From there the apricot made its way to France and Britain. Perhaps it is to those Anatolian Armenian merchants that the apricot owes its scientific name.
Fifty percent of all Turkey’s apricots are grown in Malatya, and ninety-five percent of the coutry’ss dried apricots are produced here.

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Malatya - City of Semiramis
2002 / November
Apricots are rich in potassium yet contain low levels of sodium, so they are beneficial for numerous diseases affecting the heart, kidneys and liver, including hepatitis and cirrhosis.
In Hittite inscriptions Malatya is called Maldia, while the Assyrians knew the city as Meliddu, Melide, Melid or Melidia, and the Urartians as Melitea. Strabo refers to the city as Melitene and says that it was founded by the Assyrian queen Semiramis. The Hittite word melid meaning honey is thought to be the origin of all these names. The city has been inhabited since Chalcolithic times (4th and 3rd millennia BC), and was ruled in turn by the Hittites, Medes, Persians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans.
The land of Anatolia has always served as a bridge between east and west, and Malatya lies on an important crossroads. For thousands of years the Euphrates has marked this boundary in Anatolia, and the province lies right on this line.
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Malatya - City of Semiramis
2002 / November
  From Malatya one road headed northeastwards into Caucasia following the course of the Karasu and Aras rivers, another led due eastwards into Iran via the Murat and Lake Van, and a third southwards via Adiyaman and Urfa into Syria. These ancient roads were in use from the time of the Akkadian king Sargon I in the 3rd millennium BC.
The mound of Arslantepe marks the earliest settlement at Malatya. Situated four kilometres from the city at Orduzu, excavations first began here in 1932, revealing seven cultural levels between Chalcolithic and Roman times. The most important ancient settlement here was that of the late Hittites. The excavation site has been roofed over to protect the murals, some dating back 3000 years, discovered here from damage by sunlight.
Battalgazi is the area local people know as Old Malatya, which was founded when the Roman legionaries arrived and decided to build a new city to the north of Arslantepe.
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Malatya - City of Semiramis
2002 / November

Part of the city walls built during the reign of Trajan (98-111 AD) are still standing. Here you can also see Malatya Ulu Mosque, built in 1224 by the Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubad, and Silahtar Mustafa Pasa Kervansaray built in 1632 by Mustafa Pasa of Bosnia, chief armourer to Murad IV. When the Ottoman army was billeted here in 1838, the inhabitants moved to their summer houses at the Aspuzu vineyards and this area developed into the new city, spreading as far as the foot of Mount Beydag.
One of the more recent sights of Malatya is the lake of Karakaya Dam, where you can picnic on the shores, watch the fishermen, or take a boat trip on the Malatya I to enjoy the beautiful scenery and fresh air.

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Malatya - City of Semiramis
2002 / November

The small town of Yesilyurt is famous for its cherries known as dalbasti, that are celebrated with a festival every June, and near here you can also see the Kapkaj spring, which provides Malatya with delicious drinking water and is a spectacular sight, its waters gushing from the spring mouth high above and cascading down over the rocks.Sultansuyu Stud 25 kilometres from the city between Yesilyurt and Darende is one of three state owned studs established in the Ottoman era. The pure blooded Arab racing horses bred here earn enormous sums for their owners. At Darende you can see the 17th century Somuncu Baba Mosque and the Ottoman bedesten, where merchants stored and sold their valuable goods, and the Gürpinar Waterfall. On the cliff at the mouth of the valley at Subasi is an Ottoman medrese or college. On the way back from Darende you can see the Late Hittite reliefs carved in caves in the Levent Valley.
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Malatya - City of Semiramis
2002 / November


The most celebrated sight of all in the region is Mount Nemrut on Malatya’s southern boundary with Adiyaman. On the mountaited summit is a royal Commagene sanctuary and burial ground whose gigantic carved statues are so familiar from posters and photographs. This breathtaking place is like a natural observatory or an open-air temple, and watching the sun rise and set over the mountain ranges stretching into the distance are unforgettable experiences. The best time of year to come here is between May and November.
I rounded off my visit to Malatya with a visit to the Sirre Market to taste the delicious apricots, and finally walked along the channel on which the Kertek Weir is situated back into Malatya, city of fruit and honey.

* Utku Tonguç Topal is a photographer and freelance writer.

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