Erzurum Tourist Attractions
East Anatolia (northern East Taurus)Situation and ImportanceErzurum claims with every justification to be the economic and cultural capital of eastern Turkey, with a university founded in 1958.
Surrounded by mountains rising to more than 3,000m/10,000ft, snow covered until well into summer (to the south the 3,176m/10,424ft Palandöken Daglari, to the north Dumlu Dag, 3,169m/10,400ft, and to the northeast the Kargapazari Daglari, 3,129m/10,269ft), the town lies on the Silk Road from Persia to the Black Sea. The climate is distinctly continental, with very long very cold winters and correspondingly short very hot summers. In the last couple of decades a food processing industry has developed, but the region generally is one of grassland on which livestock are reared. Located about 40km/25mi north of Erzurum on Dumlu Dagi is the source of the Firat Nehri, or Karasu as it is known, a major northern tributary of the 2,800km/1,740mile-long Euphrates. The Karasu flows west and then south for 460km/286mi before joining forces with the 772km/480mile-long Murat Nehri near Keban, both rivers now disgorging into the Keban Dam.HistoryErzurum's history can be traced with any certainty only from the fourth century A.D. at which time it was part of the Old Armenian Empire. When this collapsed the town found itself cast in the role of easternmost bastion of Byzantium, coming under siege by the Sassanids. The subsequent armistice left Erzurum in Byzantine hands. In the fifth century Theodosius II transformed the town into a frontier fortress and bishopric (held briefly by the Sassanids for four years from 502). In 632 a special synod was held in Erzurum in an unsuccessful attempt to unite the Orthodox and Armenian Churches. In 655 (until 751) the town was lost to the Arabs, being renamed Karnoy Kalak. It was so badly damaged in the fighting that the population had to be resettled in Thrace. Later, fleeing from the Seljuks who had been making incursions into the area since 1047, the inhabitants of a town called Arsan(?) took refuge in Karnoy Kalak, dubbing it Arsan i-Rum (Roman Arsan), from which the present name Erzurum is derived.The Mongol invasions in the mid 13th century brought the town's development to a temporary halt and for a period in 1400 it was the base from which Tamerlane mounted his campaigns against Bayazit I. In 1522 it was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. By now called Erzurum its strategic role as an eastern frontier town did little to enhance its prosperity. When the Anatolian railroad finally arrived in 1935, Erzurum was little more than a minor station on the line. In 1919 the city was the venue of the first Turkish National Congress, which saw Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) installed as leader of the national independence movement. Despite many earthquakes (including the severe 'quake in 1939 when about 40,000 people lost their lives), a considerable number of historic buildings have survived.
Northwest of the Yakutiye Medresesi in Erzurum, in a side street off the main thoroughfare, there is a small museum in the house where Atatürk stayed in the summer of 1919 at the time of the first National Congress (memorabilia).
Çifte Minareli Medrese
Some uncertainty surrounds the date of the Çifte Minareli Medrese in Erzurum, otherwise a typical example of a Seljuk Koranic school. Held by some scholars to have been built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad II in 1253, more recent research suggests it dates from 1291 at the earliest. The medrese's patron was the Mongol princess Hüdavend Padisah Hatun whose simply decorated türbe can be seen at the rear.Built of dark volcanic tufa, the medrese now houses a museum. Note the partial relief decoration in the form of ornamental borders, a tree with a double eagle and a vase of leaves. Around the galleried inner court (students' cells) are four iwans linked by arcades.Two fluted brick minarets flank the exceptionally fine ornamented entrance portal. The princess's türbe is in the form of a twelve-sided drum raised on a square base and capped by a conical roof.
Erzurum Archaeological Museum
As its name implies, the octagonal 13th century "Silver Mausoleum", situated some 250m/275yds east of the Çifte Minareli Medrese in Erzurum, was once clad in silver (the Russians are said to have stripped it).
Decorated with twelve blind arcades the so-called "Dark Mausoleum" (1378) of the Ilkhan Emir Sadrettin Türbeg stands near the Dervis Aga Camii in the northeast part of the Old Town of Erzurum.
Lala Mustafa Pasa Camii
The Lala Mustafa Pasa Camii, is a little mosque gracing the town center park of Erzurum. It was probably designed in 1563 by the famous Ottoman architect Sinan. It was commissioned by the then governor Lala Mustafa Pasa, better known as the conqueror of Cyprus.
Jewelry can be bought both at the Tas Hani and in numerous shops around the Georgian Gate Mosque (reached via the road running north from the Çifte Minareli Medrese). Erzurum's small artisan quarter lies to the northwest of the mosque.
Sections of the basalt city walls of Erzurum can be seen below the citadel hill (remains of a fort); there are more fragments near the stadium.
About 250m/275yds northeast of the Yakutiye Medresesi in Erzurum, lower down the hill, stands the two-storeyed Rüstem Pasa Kervansarayi, endowed in the 16th century by Süleiman the Magnificent's Grand Vizier, Rüstem Pasa. It now houses an array of shops and craft workshops where Oltu tas (jet) jewelry is made and sold.
The "Three Kümbets", all dating from the 13th or early 14th century, are located in a small park 200m/220yds or so to the rear of the Çifte Minareli Medrese in Erzurum. Much the most splendid of the three is the octagonal Emir Sultan Türbesi, with a conical roof, stalactitic mouldings and handsome reliefs (snake, eagle, rabbits' heads).
Erzurum's oldest building apart from the Çifte Minareli Medrese is the Ulu Cami, a plain seven-aisle mosque with pillared hall and covered courtyard. Constructed in 1179 it was badly damaged in the 1939 earthquake but has since been carefully and accurately restored.
Situated a short distance west of the Lala Mustafa Pasa Camii in Erzurum this delightful medrese and equally delightful tiled minaret were built in about 1308 by the Mongol Prince Uljaitu, whose türbe can be seen at the rear. The main entrance is beautifully decorated with reliefs (tree of life, eagle, lions).
Erzurum's citadel (wall-top walk) stands guard on its hill in the center of the Old Town. Originally constructed by the Emperor Theodosius, it was rebuilt by Süleiman the Magnificent in 1555, and at various other times. Inside the walls are a small 12th century mosque with a conical roof and a free-standing minaret. In the 19th century the minaret acquired a Neo-Baroque gallery complete with a clock presented by Queen Victoria. Known thereafter as the Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower), the minaret can be climbed.
Map of Erzurum Attractions