Travel to southeastern Turkey and northern Mesopotamia, an area rich in ancient history, where ongoing archaeological discoveries further substantiate its claim to being the cradle of civilization. Tour leader, Dr Richard Marsh, takes you to an area undiscovered by mass tourism, to explore such gems of antiquity as the first site of worship in the world. Along the way, experience a traditional society much more in tune with history than the modern day, and enjoy its cuisine.
Travel from Diyarbakir and look out across a spectacular view over the plains of Mesopotamia. Follow the Tigris River to Mor Hananyo Monastery and visit Mardin, perched high on a rocky mountain over a vast sunburnt plain. Spend time in Sanliurfa, ancient Urfa and the birthplace of the prophet Abraham. Visit Göbekli Tepe, considered to be the oldest man-made place of worship yet-discovered, and hear of the influence of geography on history and belief.
At Nemrut Dagi, on the summit of a mountain, witness the legacy of a pre-Roman king’s megalomania before continuing to the Silk Roads crossroads of Gaziantep. The tour ends in Cappadocia, a long-standing spiritual centre for Hittites, Persians, Greeks and Jews, and an early Christian centre.
Richard will give a series of specialist talks during the tour, providing context and exploring belief and the history of the region.
Dr Richard Marsh has a long association with the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. He is the author of Black Angels: The Art and Spirituality of Ethiopia, Prayers from the East and co-authored Millenium Challenges for Development and Faith Institutions. He works in the voluntary sector, building capacity and improving governance and impact. Richard has travelled extensively and is an experienced tour leader, having led many successful tours to many destinations. He lives in Co. Mayo, Ireland.
Day 1: Diyarbakir (Tues, 12 Sept)
If taking flight package, depart London Heathrow on Turkish Airlines, flying via Istanbul. Arrive in Diyarbakir and check into the Diyarbakır Anemon Hotel.
Day 2: Diyarbakir (Wed, 13 Sept)
Explore the old city of Diyarbakir, built to a Roman town plan encircled by triple walls built of striking black basalt dating from 394 A.D. Enjoy a spectacular view over the plains of Mesopotamia. Visit the stone caravanserai of Deliller Han, the Arab-style Ulu (Great) Mosque built in 1091 by an early Seljuk sultan. Take a tea and coffee break while listening to the singing story tellers at the Dengbej House. Visit the old city walls and the 3rd century Aramaic Church of the Virgin Mary where Aramaic, the language of Christ, is still spoken.
Day 3: Diyarbakir (Thurs, 14 Sept)
Follow the Tigris River to Mor Hananyo Monastery. Continue to the beautiful Arabic-style city of Mardin, perched high on a rocky mountain over a vast sunburnt plain, and take an orientation walk of the old city including the mosque, stone houses and old bazaar. Talk: 'Belief Systems of the Region' RM.
Day 4: Diyarbakir / Sanliurfa (Fri, 15 Sept)
Drive to Sanliurfa and explore the ancient city of Urfa and birthplace of the prophet Abraham. Visit the Crusader citadel overlooking Urfa with its Roman columns and visit the Mevlid Halil Mosque, the Cave of Abraham and the pool of sacred fish. Enjoy time at leisure to walk around the old bazaar.
Day 5: Sanliurfa (Sat, 16 Sept)
Drive to Göbekli Tepe, considered to be the oldest man-made place of worship yet discovered. Visit the excavations, including Karahan Tepe. Return to Sanliurfa and visit the city museum, home to the oldest statue in the world, and at leisure. Talk: 'The Influence of Geography on History and Belief' RM.
Day 6: Sanliurfa / Adiyaman (Sun, 17 Sept)
Drive to Adiyaman via the Ataturk Dam, Turkey's national irrigation project which transformed the country's formerly parched southeast. Following a lunch break in Kahta, drive to the World Heritage Site of Nemrut Dagi and walk to the summit. This impressive archaeological park, perched high on a mountain top, is the site of a pre-Roman king's megalomania. Return to Adiyaman.
Day 7: Adiyaman / Gaziantep (Mon, 18 Sept)
Take a boat trip on the Euphrates to Rumkale. Visit Kelaynak Special Breeding Station where the bald Ibis is protected and is being reintroduced into the wild. Continue to Gaziantep.
Day 8: Gaziantep (Tues, 19 Sept)
Explore Gaziantep, including the old city castle, copper bazaar and the Medusa Roman Glass Museum. Following lunch at the Tahmis Coffee House, visit the Hammam Museum and the Culinary Museum. Talk: 'Life on the Silk Road' RM.
Day 9: Gaziantep (Wed, 20 Sept)
Visit the stunning Mosaic Museum which features mosaics excavated from Zeugma, a Roman city now inundated beneath dam waters. Lunch at Imam Cagdas and take part in a culinary tour, including a baklava workshop.
Day 10: Gaziantep / Cappadocia (Thu, 21 Sept)
Drive to Cappadocia, stopping en route for coffee and ice cream in the town of Kahramanmaras. Arrive in Goreme late afternoon.
Day 11: Cappadocia (Fri, 22 Sept)
The word magical is over-used in travel writing, but Goreme more than lives up to this description. The small village is set amid towering fairy chimneys and majestic honeycomb cliffs. Take a tour of its open air museum, visit the remote and lovely church of Pancarlik and the spectacularly sited town of Ortahisar and the delightfully situated Keslik Monastery. Lunch in Mustafapaşa at the Old Greek House. Optional walk into Pigeon Valley or at leisure. Talk: 'The Cappadocian Fathers' RM.
Day 12: Cappadocia (Sat, 23 Sept)
Drive from the hotel and visit the Ihlara Valley, a beautiful, verdant gorge occupied by a fast-flowing river. The gorge is believed to have contained more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred churches cut into the rocks, used for worship by early Christian communities. Explore some of these churches and visit the underground city of Kaymakli. Visit one of Cappadocia's most famous wineries to learn about the region's 4,000 year old wine industry. Enjoy a wine tasting. End the day with a panoramic sunset view followed by a farewell dinner.
Day 13: Cappadocia (Sun, 24 Sept)
Optional hot air balloon ride to enjoy the sunrise over Cappadocia. Depart for the airport or extend in Cappadocia.
The cost of the tour per person sharing a room is USD $4,342. The cost of the tour with a room to yourself is USD $5,161.