Hizan: A town frozen in time

Lo­cated be­tween the high moun­tains of eastern Turkey, Hizan is an un­ex­pected tourist at­trac­tion with his­toric stone houses and strange ar­chi­tec­ture

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Feature & Lounge -

MOUNTED on the hills of Bitlis, Hizan looks like a town frozen in time. With its his­toric stone houses that seem like they are about to fall apart, Hizan of­fers a very au­then­tic scene not just to guests, but artists as well.

The first set­tle­ment in the re­gion dates back to the Urar­tians in the first cen­tury B.C. Through­out his­tory, the re­gion where Hizan is to­day went has been ruled by the Per­sian, Ro­man, Byzan­tine, and Arab em­pires. In the 16th cen­tury, Hizan be­came an Ot­toman town un­til it was oc­cu­pied by Rus­sia in 1913. When the Rus­sians with­drew from the re­gion a year later, the lo­cals re­turned to their homes for good.

Since then, Hizan has re­mained un­known to most, hid­den be­tween moun­tains that cover 90 per­cent of the area.

Re­cently, pho­tog­ra­phers dis­cov­ered the town and its unique ar­chi­tec­ture. To­day, many pho­tog­ra­phers and artists from var­i­ous cities in Turkey meet in Hizan to take pho­tos and paint the town’s his­toric sites and its nat­u­ral beauty. Pho­tog­ra­phers, who at­tended the photo trip ti­tled “Hizan is beau­ti­ful for sea­son,” recorded the hid­den beauty of Hizan on the three­day trip. They pho­tographed the stone houses, a his­tor­i­cal layer of the dis­trict and the nat­u­ral beauty of the re­gion.

As one of the most im­por­tant set­tle­ments in eastern Ana­to­lia through­out his­tory, Hizan has 10 neigh­bor­hoods and 75 vil­lages that have a com­bined pop­u­la­tion of 35,000.

Apart from its vis­ual beauty, Hizan is also a land of knowl­edge and ed­u­ca­tion with many madras­sahs and kül­liyes (Is­lamic so­cial com­plexes). Of­fer­ing in­for­ma­tion on the town, Hizan Dis­trict Gover­nor and Deputy Mayor Bü­lent Hami­toğlu said: “So many re­li­gious func­tionar­ies and schol­ars were ed­u­cated in the dis­trict and it still pre­serves its val­ues. Hizan, so to speak, en­light­ened Turkey. These lands were home to prom­i­nent fig­ures such as Bediüz­za­man Said-i Nursi and Gavsi Hizani.”

Not­ing that pho­tog­ra­phers from var­i­ous re­gions in Turkey took pic­tures of the dis­trict dur­ing the three­day event, Hami­toğlu said that they will cre­ate an al­bum fea­tur­ing all of the pho­to­graphs.

“Our main aim is to present the beauty of the re­gion and its peo­ple. This event of­fered a chance to show how ter­ror dis­torted the area and the in­no­cent side of the re­gion’s peo­ple,” he said.

Hami­toğlu stressed that coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions are con­ducted non-stop by the mil­i­tary, po­lice and se­cu­rity forces and Turkey has made a great ef­fort in its fight with ter­ror­ism.

Musa Mutlu from Malatya, who took part in the con­test, said that as a re­tiree, pho­tog­ra­phy is a hobby for him. Not­ing that he was awarded with many prizes at the con­tests he has par­tic­i­pated in, Mutlu said: “I vis­ited the area two years ago as its na­ture and struc­tures at­tracted my at­ten­tion, and this year I de­cided to par­tic­i­pate to this con­test. I think I will visit Hizan again. The na­ture is great here,” he said.

“Hizan is a mes­mer­iz­ing dis­trict. Its na­ture takes us to the old days. Its vil­lages are like the vil­lages we used to live in in the past. I hope it will not be dis­torted due to con­struc­tion. In the vil­lages, peo­ple wel­comed us very nicely, they were so hos­pitable,” he said.

The stone houses of Hizan are wit­nesses to his­tory for sure, and al­though they look like they are about to fall apart, Hizan lo­cals have been liv­ing in these strange looking houses for decades.

A girl car­ries a lit­tle boy on a don­key in Hizan’s nar­row streets.

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