Divriği strives to become major tourist attraction

The once-secluded town of Divriği -- located in the Central Anatolian city of Sivas »»

The once-secluded town of Divriği -- located in the Central Anatolian city of Sivas -- is preparing to become a major tourist destination, thanks to a vast number of projects that include renovating some of the city’s most important historic sites and the carrying out of a major archeological excavation scheduled to begin this summer.

The restoration of the one-of-a-kind Divriği Ulu Mosque complex, which includes the Daruşşifa Hospital, is at the forefront of the projects. The complex was built by a highly skilled architect, Hurrem Shah of Ahlat, in 1228-1229. Experts admire its universal artistic value due to its unique, three-dimensional stone carvings, which surpass time and space. The building complex has been under the protection of UNESCO since it was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1985. It is famous for its four great entrance gates which are covered in botanic motifs. One of these gates is named after the Garden of Eden.

As part of attracting publicity, Turkey’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture has organized, together with UNESCO, exhibitions featuring a replica of the Gate of Eden in countries such as Brazil, Japan, Germany and France.

The slogan for the Divriği Mosque and hospital complex is: You must see it before you die.

Meanwhile, various sites in the area will be excavated by veteran archeologists. City officials say these excavations -- which are expected to yield various historic artifacts -- aim to give people a fuller sense of the historical richness that resides in Divriği. For the first time, a Beylik (sultanate) capital will see the light of day. In fact, there is a cave beneath Divriği Castle which has yet to be explored. Last week, there were meetings held in Sivas with property owners and their heirs to discuss 110 property parcels that are to be expropriated by the state. According to estimates, the properties stretch across a total of 50,000 acres of land and are where the excavations to unearth historic artifacts will take place. The excavations will begin on July 15.

Along with the restoration of this 13th century Seljuk masterpiece, the Divriği Ulu Camii complex, Divriği District Governor Salih Ayhan told Sunday’s Zaman that there is a further project that involves integrating the complex with Divriği Castle, which can be found on the north side of the mosque via a pathway.

A new highway due to be completed by end of 2013 is on its way to connecting Sivas with Divriği. Under the directive of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who visited Divriği last August, the distance between Sivas and Divriği by car will be reduced to 135 kilometers. This will facilitate a greater number of visitors and constitute a connection between the northwestern and central regions of Turkey.

Divriği hosts 119 Ottoman-style townhouses. After viewing the project planning, Prime Minister Erdoğan gave consent for eight of these townhouses to be transformed into boutique hotels, of which two are now complete. The Abdullah Pasha Hotel is an example of the new series of authentic hotels Divriği accommodates.

Ottoman bazaar will host visitors

Another exciting project is the Ottoman bazaar that will be set up in Divriği Square and will be designed in accordance with the historical ambiance of the town. Ayhan noted that the provincial administration is financing this particular project with resources from the governor’s office. “A large amount of estate taxes is being spent on this project,” he said.

While Divriği received between 50-60 tourists a day prior to its ambitious program of renovating its historic edifices, with the increased attention from the press and the government support, today 100 tourists on average visit on weekdays and up to 1,000 people flow into the city on weekends. With its geographical wonders -- the mountainous landscape, valleys and streams that flow from the Fırat River, Divriği has lot to offer in the way of nature tourism.