It is located at the foot of Ararat Mountains, crowned with the highest peak of the same name in the territory of Turkey today, in the northeastern province of Agri. Here, they also use the name of Agri for the mountain itself and for the two peaks – Small Ararat (3896 m) and Big Ararat (5137 m). The latter dominates the landscape near the town of Dogubeyazit, where we will find the Ishak Pasha Palace. Since Turkish spellings are a bit tricky for foreigners, you can often hear the name as “Isaak Pasha” as well.

Ishak Pasha Palace from afar

The locals say that, until relatively recent times, the castle was left to ruin, enjoying complete inadvertence on the part of the relevant authorities. A large-scale restoration took place some 10 years ago and today it is a major stop on tourist routes in northeastern Turkey. The visit of the medieval Armenian capital of Ani and Ishac Pasha Palace are in the program of anyone traveling from Trabzon on the Black Sea to Lake Van and the city of the same name to the south.

The gates of Ishak Pasha Palace

We can judge about the year of construction of the palace by the inscription on the portal to the harem – 1784. Its measures are impressive – 7600 sq.m. –  but these are just numbers until one finds themselves on the spot and gets lost in its officially counted 360 individual premises. From the official entrance (in the photo above), you can enter the first patio. Around it are the premises for the guards, horses and carts, as well as the mandatory fortress prison. Most visitors prefer to take pictures with the stone fountain.

The first patio with the stone fountain

It is even more impressive that here you can find the boiler room of Ishac Pasha Palace, and it is impressive because historians claim that this is the first building in Anatolia with central heating. Inside the complex itself and in the walls and floors of the premises, the pipes and openings can be seen on which the warm air that performs the heating function was carried. Given that the palace stands at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level, this is definitely an advantage.

Parts of the first central heating system in Anatolia

Between the first and second yards, you’ll find the entrance to the premises of servants and warehouses. In view of the uneven mountain terrain, the castle was built on a vast leveling terrace. This basement contains the warehouses in question. In addition, this engineering decision facilitated the protection of the palace, which has become accessible only from one side, the one with the main entrance. Nowadays, the “roofs” of these premises are mostly missing, so they had to improvise with restoration.

The storerooms of Ishak Pasha Palace

In the second courtyard, some stone filigrees start to appear, which make people like your humble storyteller, Manya, to fly to another planet. Everyone who has had butterflies fluttering in their stomach know what I am speaking about. I simply adore stone filigrees, and people in the east really know how to make them. In Ishak Pasha Palace, they are not as many as, say, in the castle of Alhambra in Granada, but they are quite enough for a good set of butterflies.

In the second courtyard

From the second courtyard, you can enter the living quarters, as well as the ceremonial halls. There is no furniture left but the views from the windows towards Ararat Mountains are fantastic. The complex has several baths, toilets, an indoor terrace with a garden and a small pool, and of course a kitchen. The kitchen is impressive in size, two-storey high, with a smoky arc-shaped ceiling, numerous wall niches and a large oven. Stone filigree stellae ask the Lord to bless the food and water in this kitchen.

The kitchen of Ishak Pasha Palace

On official occasions, the family was gathering in the ceremonial hall in the heart of the harem. What exactly the reasons for these ceremonies were, it is difficult to say today, in the same way it is difficult to imagine what the hall would have looked like with the corresponding furniture and even a ceiling included. What has survived are the poems written in stone in the arches of the walls, praising the Pasha and his status as a favourite of Allah.

The Ceremonial Hall

Once, they say, a whole settlement stretched around Ishak Pasha Palace. Today the slopes are naked and empty and only occasionally you can see the foundations of walls. There is also an old mosque located at the foot of an even more ancient fortress. The latter has no name, it is only known that it is the remnant of a long-lost civilization that ruled these lands during the Iron Age – Urartu. Only the walls are left of the fortress, and the treasures of Urartu can be seen at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.

The panorama from Ishak Pasha Palace