Kadılar Cemetery: Ankara’s Oldest Turkish-Islamic Cemetery

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Kadılar (or known as Kırklar) cemetery is the oldest known cemetery of Turkish-Islamic heritage in Ankara, Türkiye (Turkey). Yet, it is in a very bad state.

What’s in the article?

  • Briefly about the Kadılar (Kirklar) cemetery
  • The state of the cemetery (Very saddening)
  • What to expect? (Be safe)
  • Where is the cemetery?

Türkiye’s capital city Ankara is a huge metropolis with a population of 5.6 million. The city has countless historic sites of different heritages. In this article, we will learn about the oldest Turkish-Islamic cemetery in Ankara, which is relatively unknown and, sadly, in quite a horrific state.

Brief information about Kadılar (Kirklar) cemetery

The cemetery is assumed to have been first used in the 13th century by the Seljuk Turks, and later on the Ottoman Turks. However, it is unknown when exactly the first burial took place on this site.

There are countless tombstones, dating from 1247-1438 AD, adorned with beautiful Islamic motives, and Seljuk and Ottoman art.

As a quick trivia, the word “kadı” translates to “judge”. The term refers to judges who preside over matters in accordance with Islamic law in Ottoman Empire, Seljuk Empire and many other states in history.

As the historic accounts suggest, this place was initially a cemetery for the kadıs of the Seljuk Empire. However, over subsequent centuries, many other Ottoman officials were buried here as well.

The state of the cemetery (Very saddening)

Okay, having talked about the history of this important heritage site, I should add that the cemetery is located on a dilapidated street in a not-so-safe ghetto behind Ankara’s touristic citadel.

The door of the cemetery is usually locked, but you can comfortably see the tombstones from outside as there are large windows. I tried to jump inside the cemetery via one of the abandoned houses behind the northern facade. But the houses are filled with trash and rubble, and are not very safe as you might step on a nail or something sharp.

If you visit this place, just observe the historic tombstones from outside the walls. That’s good enough as well.

It is overall very surprising to see that, one of the oldest remnants of Ankara’s Turkish-Islamic heritage is in such a bad state of neglect. I was surprised to see such a sharp decline of cultural heritage preservation, just 10 minutes away from Ankara’s well-preserved citadel.

However, the tombstones are breathtakingly beautiful.

What to expect (Be safe)

I have to admit that even as a somewhat big, bearded guy and an Ankara local, I didn’t feel very safe while visiting the Kadılar Cemetery. Even local shop owners, to whom I asked about the cemetery, told me to be careful.

The neighborhood where the site is located has dilapidated houses filled with trash, street dogs, and high drug abuse.

Frankly, no one bothered me or even looked at me. I didn’t have any issues going there, but I think it’s important you know what to expect.

If you visit the cemetery, most likely nothing will happen, but just be careful. Be street smart and walk like you are sure of yourself 🙂

If you want to explore a lesser-known historic site in Ankara, this old Turkish cemetery will surely scratch that itch.

Where is the cemetery?

From the main entrance of Ankara Citadel, you have to take a 10 minute walk to reach Kadılar Cemetery.

If the map widget is not working on your device, click here to see the location of the 13th-century Kadılar Seljuk-Turkish cemetery.

Coordinates of the cemetery: 39.939726, 32.868528


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