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Although it is not known exactly when Hasankeyf was founded, it has been determined that the settlement in the region started 12,000 years ago with the excavations. The name of the ancient city is referred to as Kifos and Cepha-Ciphas, which are derived from the Syriac word “Kifo” meaning rock. In Arabic texts, it is referred to as “Hısnı Keyfa”, which means “City of Rocks”. The structures in the region were formed by carving solid rocks. It has hosted many civilizations throughout history, such as the Umayyads, Abbasids, Hamdanis, Mervanis, Artuqids, Ayyubids, and Ottomans, since it was established on the banks of the Tigris river on the shores of Mesopotamia, which is considered the place where humanity spread to the world.
Artuqid Bath, Sultan Süleyman Koç Mosque, Imam Abdullah Zaviye, Er-Rızık Mosque minaret, Zeynel Abidin Tomb, Eyyubi (Girls) Mosque and the castle gate are structures that have survived to the present day. The Byzantines, who built a castle in the city in the 4th century, dominated the region for about 200 years.
The most well-known legend about the city is based on the issue between the master and the journeyman in the construction of the minaret of the Sultan Süleyman Mosque, which was built during the Ayyubid reign. When a disagreement arose between them during the construction of the minaret, the master fired the journeyman. Thereupon, the journeyman starts to build the minaret of the El Rızk Mosque on the rocks at the same place. The first to finish is the journeyman. He asks his master to go up to the minaret. First comes the journeyman, then the master come. The master who goes up is surprised to see his journeyman downstairs. He is impressed by the minaret stairs made with a special technique by his journeyman, whom he did not see coming down, but when he could not be proud of congratulating, he committed suicide by jumping from the minaret. The proverb “The horn passes the ear” is also said to come from this story.
While the area was flooded with the dam created due to the hydro-electric power plant built in 2020, some artifacts were moved to be exhibited in Hasankeyf Museum.