Ahlat Tourist Attractions
East Anatolia (Lake Van)Situation and CharacteristicsAhlat, center of its district, lies about 70km/43mi northeast of Bitlis on the western shore of Lake Van. It is a green sprawling place, parts of which still retain a village-like character. Reminders of the town's long history, some of them spectacular, are found everywhere. The area was very probably settled by about 900 B.C. by the Urartians. The Parthians then established a capital here, known as Hilyat in Roman sources and later as Chlat or Kelath to the Armenians. The Arabs called the town the Muslim enclave of the Kassite emirs of Malazgirt within otherwise Christian Armenia when they conquered it in the seventh centuryUnder Sökman Arman, emir of the Azerbaijan ruler Kudbeddin Ismail, Ahlat became from about 1100 until 1207 capital of the principality of Armanshahlar, its power soon extending as far as Mus and Khoy. The title "Shah i-Arman" was then adopted by the Kurdish Ayyubids who arrived on the scene in 1209. Evliya Çelebi records that an earthquake in the 13th century resulted in some 12,000 of the 300,000 inhabitants of the city emigrating to Egypt. Under Süleiman the Magnificent renewed building took place to the north of the site of the old village of Erkizan.
The Ahlat Kalesi, a one-time fortress situated directly on Lake Van has two sets of fortifications, inner and outer - the former (iç kale) smaller and fort-like, the latter, still partly inhabited, larger and more like a walled town. According to an inscription on the east gate of the ramparts, which were made even stronger by their round and square towers, construction began in 1554 under Süleiman and was completed under Selim II in 1568. Below the inner fort, which has its own ring wall, in the still inhabited part of the Old Town, are the remains of a bath house and two mosques. The more southerly of the two, the Iskender Pasa Çamii, a domed mosque built between 1564 and 1570, is named after its founder, the then governor of the town. The Kadi Mahmut Çamii, also domed, standing a little to the north, was built in 1597.
Around Ahlat are a number of interesting tombs, some dating as far back as the 13th C, and a huge cemetery with tombs from the 17th and 18th C.