Historic Town of Beypazarı

Date of Submission: 14/04/2020
Criteria: (iii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
District of Beypazarı, Province of Ankara, Central Anatolia
Ref.: 6469

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Beypazarı is a district of the capital city, Ankara, and located in Central Anatolia 98 km west of the capital. Beypazarı has been settled since ancient times, and holds symbols of ancient traditions with rich historical and natural resources. Though the district has been ruled by the Hittites, Phrygia, Galatia, Rome, Byzantine, Anatolia Seljuk, and Ottoman dynasties, it was an important trade center on the Silk Road connecting Istanbul and Baghdad during the Seljuk’s time and was also the center of government military during the Ottoman Empire.

İnözü Valley, situated at the north of Beypazarı, has a considerably rich landscape with natural vegetation and architectural sites. It hosts many human-made caves on the rocky slopes at two sides which had been in use since Roman times for the purposes of residence, churches and graves. It is also believed that these caves were cenotaphs and built-in rock churches dating back to the early Byzantine where religious ceremonies used to be held. Vineyards and fruit fields as well as the vineyard houses located at the bottom of the valley have come to the fore with the traditional vineyard life for the people of Beypazarı both in the past and today (Aklanoğlu, 2005).

The settlement was established on the slopes between the steep rocks due to its advantageous for defense, and it was spread towards the hills. The settlement has developed both in the lowlands suitable for agriculture and in the high protected areas. The fact that Beypazarı is rich in water resources including streams, groundwater and hot springs, together with the fertile land around made the site suitable for settling. Therefore, natural environmental conditions (climate, hydrology, geology, topography, soil properties), suitability for economic activities (enabling river tribes to irrigated agriculture) and population were all effective in shaping the settlement.

The very center of Beypazarı urban fabric is the 200-year-old bazaar, or the market. During the Ottoman era, shopping centers founded in Beypazarı, turned into a large market in which neighboring cities, towns and villages came together. The bazaar was one of the largest in that period. In fact, the name “Beypazarı” is a derivative of the word ‘bazaar’.

The Ottoman bazaars were built in areas where water supply would be easy or water was brought to the bazaar and manufacturing works that needed water were planned on the outer parts of the bazaar. Neighborhood structures are clustered around the bazaar and they were separated from it (Sahinalp and Gunal; 2012: 156 - 157) with complexes such as mosques, Turkish baths, coffeehouses which would form a buffer zone between the bazaar and the neighborhood.

The neighborhoods are connected to the main street and mosque by streets. There are no trees in the streets; house gardens are wooded. House architecture is not extroverted but inward (Kuban; 1978: 206). There are dead-ends in the neighborhood streets, which served as private roads from the main road of the neighborhood to the houses (Kuban; 1968: 69). The courtyards in the historical urban fabric consisting of two-three-storey houses, the squares formed at the intersection of the streets and in front of the mosques, the gardens along the İnözü Valley that divide the city center form the open and green area system in urban space where a hierarchy of courtyard-street-square exists.

In this order; there is a space organization that goes from private to public, reflecting the level of social activity. The houses with small gardens, which are entered from the road facade and which develop organically in compliance with the topographic structure formed by the adjacent houses, constitute the historical urban fabric. Among the wide organic streets are houses with large gardens. Narrow, curved and tree-free streets occasionally intersect to form small squares. In the urban fabric, where inner courtyards are generally closed to the outside, courtyard walls are constructed high to ensure privacy. The width of the roads varies between 3-6 meters and is limited by courtyard walls.

The very characteristics traditional Turkish houses have an exterior, interior and central plan scheme. The residences are generally 3-storey building. The ground floors are made of stone, and the upper floors are made of stone or mud-brick filling system. While the ground floors are different due to their stony floor function, the 1st and 2nd floors are the main living floors which are more carefully and almost identically designed. The residences with exterior sofas consist of a series of rooms with a sofa in front. The stairs are sometimes in the middle of these rooms and sometimes in the sofas. A room facing the garden or the road appears to have climbed to the front. The medium-sized type sofa is surrounded by rooms and service areas and the rooms are located in the corners. Rooms with internal sofas are located on either side of the sofas, but the service areas are sometimes not on this floor. Stairs are in the hall or between rooms (Aksulu, 2005; Aklanoglu, 2010).

“Gusgana”, which is a special section encountered in certain houses with gardens, is built by rising the upper floor and protruding from the roof. This section was developed as a local response for fires to be used for purposes of storing valuable belongings. 

The material of the walls facing north and having a hearth is adobe. Partition walls are usually built in Baghdadi technique. Different types of bay windows increase the connection of housing with outdoor space (Özmen, 1987, Aklanoğlu, 2010).

“Sweet Plaster”, which is found only in Beypazarı Houses in Anatolia, was used on the interior and exterior surfaces of all wooden frameless and adobe walls of Beypazarı traditional houses. The binder raw material of the plaster is obtained from the quarries in the Beypazarı region and processed only in the Tekke Village of the Beypazarı District, making it usable for plastering. It is then mixed in place by the local plaster masters and applied as coarse and fine plaster in the buildings. It is important to apply this plaster directly to wood wall fill and adobe surfaces in such a way that it can enter between wood and adobe. Thus, the plaster, whose thickness varies between 3 and 10 cm, is adhered to the surfaces. 0.5 cm of this is thin plaster and no coating is applied on it. This plaster is also called “Tekke Lime” (Urak and Çelebi, 2005).

In addition to its traditional style of housing and the Ottoman architectural patterns, all the characters of Turkish culture are still alive in Beypazarı, craftsmen still carrying out their professions in the bazaars as well as the local cuisines which date back to some 600 years.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The town has been an important junction point on the road route connecting Istanbul to Ankara from the Middle Ages to its recent past and was among the main centers of sof (a kind of clothing made from mohair wool) trade in Anatolia, especially in the Ottoman period. Beypazarı, developed around neighborhoods consisting of the traditional houses that surround the historical trade center and were mostly built in the late 19th and early 20th century, clearly displays the practices of the Ottoman urban system in a rural town with its religious, social and commercial structures within this historical texture (Bozkurt, 2004). It also demonstrates a high level of harmony to the nature through taking the advantages of geographical thresholds when settling, and making good use of the natural environment that surrounds the settlement for both spatial and economic development. This relation is still embodied in the life of the community today.

The historical bazaar, which was rebuilt in 1849 in "grid plan" according to the "ebniye regulations", the zoning plan of its period, is an important structure reflecting the “planned historical bazaar” example, and arranged according to the tradition of ahi order.

Though reconstruction of Beypazari houses after significant fires in history was supported by experience and knowledge of craftsmen brought by Safranbolu, local differentiation is also witnessed in the use of local material in construction, in the architectural elements like roofs, doors, windows, consoles, in the façade relation between the building and the street and in floor uses.

Thanks to the conservation efforts since 2000s supported by sustainable tourism practices, the high number of the traditional building stock as well as the level of integrity and authenticity of traditional houses and urban fabric in general conveys this characteristic features to a high degree today.

Criterion (iii): Beypazarı is a preserved example of 19th century Ottoman urbanism, which reveals the administrative, ecological (İnözü Valley), aesthetic, economic (bazaar), technological (house architecture) and socio-cultural (clothing, etc.) conditions of the period. The area preserves intact products of the Seljuk and Ottoman religious architecture as well as invaluable examples of traditional Turkish houses with interior and exterior spatial setups, material specialties, structural elements, internal design items and street textures compatible to nature.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The majority of the total area of 76 hectares consists of residential gardens (21.92%) and residential areas (19.24%). The Beypazarı Bazaar was severely damaged by the great fire in 1849 and the streets and shops (600 shops) were rebuilt of masonry (made from stone and brick) (Torun and Torun; 2011: 232 and 323). The guild system, arasta and artisan street at the Beypazarı bazaar have survived to the present day intact. Although the positioning of artisans and craftsmen in the shops, which are not easy to survive culturally and economically, is not maintained, the sub-branches like barbers, coffeehouses and so on, still live in the bazaar.

Monumental buildings including Akşemseddin Mosque (rebuilt from stone after the fire of 1869), Sultan Alaaddin Mosque (known to be built in the beginning of 1800, but architectural features are taken up to 15th  - 16th centuries), Kurşunlu Mosque (dated to 1684 in the door inscription, but repaired after the fire of 1882), İncili Mosque (dated to the beginning of the 1900s, the last period of the Ottoman Empire), Tabakhane Mosque (the mosque in the Bazaar is dated to the mid-1800s) together with the masjids of HocaKiris, Beytepe, Cevizlerkaşı Street and Kazgancı Masjids and Turkish baths of Rüstem Paşa (16thcentury) and Old Bath / Beyoğlu Bath are among those have been preserved until today.

Almost all of the area outside the historical bazaar, which has turned out to a grid-iron plan scheme following the reconstruction after the fire, has an organic structure where narrow or dead-end streets are formed in places. This pattern is composed of the small and formless parcels shaped according to the landscape conditions. The houses with gardens are situated within the parcels irregularly while any of the houses does not block the sunlight and scenery of any other.

Pursuant to the Act on the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Assets no. 2863, the İnözü Valley has been registered as a first degree archaeological site while the vineyards located in the bottom of the valley have been registered as second degree natural conservation site by Ankara Regional Conservation Council’s decision dated 13.11.1990 numbered 1452. Historical urban fabric has been declared as the urban conservation site by Ankara Regional Conservation Council’s decision dated 18.01.2008 numbered 2911. Besides, 283 buildings including civil architecture (residences, shops, administrative and school buildings) and monumental building (mosques, masjids, tombs, hammams, inns, fountains and bedrooms) belonging to the Anatolian Seljuk, Ottoman and Republican periods have been registered so far.

New urban developments did not include the old city center so far. Conservation Oriented Development Plan for urban conservation site was developed by Beypazarı Municipality in 2007. The urban conservation site boundary involves all the historical fabric whose limits are defined by the topographic thresholds in the west and northwest while the boundary draws the line of differentiation between the old and new urban textures in the north, east, southeast and south. 

Major threats to the property would be the possible loss of local knowledge and expertise for conservation of traditional buildings, loss of water resources due to climatic conditions, and over tourism.

While the state of conservation of 18,33% of buildings is good, 34,02% is in moderate and 47,65% is in bad condition. Conservation practices initiated as of 2000s by Beypazarı Municipality, with the support of many other relevant institutions, resulted in repair and façade rehabilitation of nearly 500 houses out of 3500, including those which are not registered yet. Among other are the restored 30 streets where façades of new modern buildings are covered with wooden frames in order for providing a harmony between the old and the new.

The functions and uses in the site have slightly changed over time, parallel to the developments of new economic activities. The buildings generally preserved the use of housing while the structures are used for commercial as well as tourism purposes in the areas closer to the center. However, tourism uses are concentrated in areas with larger parcels or larger structures. In addition, although it is not intense, the uses for public and private enterprise and universities have been included in the traditional texture following the restoration works.

Comparison with other similar properties

With outstanding examples of Seljuk and Ottoman monumental and civil architecture, Beypazarı has equivalent features with many other Turkish - Ottoman cities or towns including but not limited to Safranbolu, which is already inscribed in the World Heritage List and Mudurnu, Odunpazarı and Birgi which are registered in the Tentative List. However, “sweet plaster” that is a local technology applied in construction and conservation of traditional buildings, and “gusgana” which is a special spatial innovation as a response to fires, are exceptionalities of Beypazarı that are not found in other comparable sites. Each being a representative of Ottoman rural settlement situated and developed on the Silk Road and having its own peculiar characteristic too, a serial nomination to be formed by those sites would lead to a better and holistic representation of Turkish-Ottoman technological and artistic achievement in urbanization and architecture.