The sun was shining and we were on the way to Halfeti, a town at the river Euphrates, semi-submerged in a reservoir, from where we wanted to take a boat and go on a little cruise.
The Birecik Dam, one of the 21 dams of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) of Turkey, is located on the Euphrates River, 80 km west of Şanlıurfa. It serves for irrigation and energy production. As a consequence villages were destroyed and people had to resettle. The Birecik Dam was even built on top of the ruins of the ancient city of Zeugma, luckily the magnificent mosaics were rescued and are now in the museum in Gaziantep.
We went on a standard cruise tour, which costs 25 TL (less than 2 Euros), which took us past the castle Rum Kalesi and to the sunken village of Eski Halfeti.
The Rumkale Fortress was a powerful fortress, its strategic location already known to the Assyrians, although the present structure is largely Hellenistic and Roman in origin. It is said that John, an apostle of Jesus, lived in Rumkale during Roman times. The site was occupied by various Byzantine and Armenian warlords during the Middle Ages. During the 12th century, it also became the seat of an Armenian bishop. In 1293, it was captured by the Mamluks of Egypt.
We had a great time cruising the reservoir on this sunny day, we even met a fellow Austrian traveller on the ship.
In the late afternoon, we wanted to visit what is left of the ancient town of Zeugma, but the site was closed. A visit to the museum in Gaziantep was what we had planned anyway. More on our next post!