Historical Rumkale to be reintroduced to tourism

Rumkale, meaning Roman Castle, was a powerful fortress on the river Euphrates, 50 km west of Şanlıurfa.

Located between Turkey’s southeastern cities of Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa, Rumkale bears the traces of Urartian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Seljuk and Ottoman civilisations.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses
Rumkale bears the traces of many civilisations. Photograph by Nichola Chapman
Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses
The fortress is only accessible by boat. Photograph by Nichola Chapman

The fortress, now situated across a peninsula created by the reservoir of the Birecik Dam within the boundaries of Şanlıurfa’s Halfeti district, is currently accessible by boat either from the neighboring site of Zeugma or from the town of Halfeti.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses

The boats make their way leisurely through a water-filled gorge then, on the western bank of the river, you can begin to make out the shattered walls of what must once have been a magnificent seven-gated medieval castle.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses
The magnificent seven-gated medieval castle of Rumkale

As of March 2017, it was not possible to land at the site; extensive rebuilding is under way inside the fortress and on the external walls. Rumkale will be reintroduced to tourism upon the completion of the restoration works in the area.

Boat ride to Rumkale from fethiyetimes on Vimeo. Video couresy of Nichola Chapman

Rumours about the Bible

Accepted as a sacred place by Christians as well, Rumkale is rumored to be a place where John the Apostle dwelled during the Roman Empire and made a copy of the Bible in a room excavated inside a rock. He then hid it until it could be smuggled out to Beirut. Some believe that John died and was buried here although his remains have never been found.

Halfeti – above and below the Euphrates

Halfeti is a small farming district on the east bank of the river Euphrates in Şanlıurfa Province in Turkey, 120 km from the city of Şanlıurfa.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses
Halfeti on the east bank of the river Euphrates. Photograph by Nichola Chapman

In the 1990’s, Halfeti was submerged under the waters of the dam on the Euphrates at Birecik and the town was removed to the village of Karaotlak.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses
The town was removed to the village of Karaotlak. Photograph by Nichola Chapman

As part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, aka GAP, several dams were constructed in the area and surrounding regions as part of a larger agricultural and economic initiative by the Turkish Government. The town of Halfeti was among those settlements, ancient and contemporary, that would remain under the rising water levels of the local dams and rivers following the execution of the GAP.

The old town of Halfeti is only partially submerged and is beginning to attract visitors, especially those who hire a ferry to visit the ruins of the nearby fortress of Rumkale.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses
The old town of Halfeti is only partially submerged. Photograph by Nichola Chapman

The countryside is also attractive, although the green valley of the past is now underwater.

Until the area was flooded in 1999, the people lived by fishing in the Euphrates and farming on the riverbank, especially growing pistachios and the Halfeti rose.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses
Pistachio trees growing on thee banks of the river

The Turkish Halfeti Rose – The Black Rose

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses
The stunningly beautiful black roses of Halfeti

Black roses, called the Turkish Halfeti Rose, bloom in small numbers exclusively in the village of Halfeti.

This unique rose is extremely rare and strangely beautiful. It doesn’t bloom in petals of ebony immediately. The rose blossoms a dark red but this scarlet shade fades to black as the summer progresses.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses

While the Turkish Halfeti Rose can only be grown in this very specific part of the world, its limited availability wasn’t immediately known until the residents of Halfeti were forced to relocate.

The residents took their rose plants with them and replanted them in their new village but quickly realised that something was wrong.

The roses failed to thrive in their new location. While only a short distance from their original home, the soil in Old Halfeti had been fed by the waters of the Euphrates, which has a unique pH level. To prevent the extinction of this unique beauty, district officials collected seeds from the roses and planted them in greenhouses close to Old Halfeti. In doing so, they managed to save the striking rose.

Only in Halfeti does the rose bloom in its black hue; when planted elsewhere, the rose always blooms in deep red.

There is a fragrance named for these beautiful roses.

Rumkale, Halfeti and Black Roses

Unique, intriguing and only found in one part of the world, the Turkish Halfeti Rose is truly one of a kind!

Sources: Wikipedia/Interflora

Featured photograph of Halfeti by Nichola Chapman