Underground Cities

Cappadocia, Goreme, the Land of Fairy Chimneys, Rock Cut Churches

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Another interesting phenomenon found in Cappadocia is its underground cities. Although many underground cities were discovered in Cappadocia, the finest examples are Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, which are located between Nevsehir and Nigde. Beneath the earth lie these rock-cut cities, which extend for several kilometers in different directions. Certain parts of the cities have up to eight or nine levels, and form a veritable labyrinth of narrow tunnels leading to rooms of various sizes numbering in the thousands. The tunnels meet at intersections where they form squares.

These cities were almost perfect as a system of defense. In times of danger very large slabs of rock resembling millstones were placed at the entrances and in the tunnels. Everything required for life underground was carved from the rock: defense posts for the guards, escape tunnels, and rooms of various sizes furnished with beds, tables, storage areas, stables, and chapels. An efficient man-made system of air shafts provided ventilation even at the deepest levels of the underground cities.

Although underground cities existed prior to the Christian era, they were especially useful during the Arab attacks. Numerous military strategies to stop the Arabs were unsuccessful, and therefore people were forced to retreat to their underground cities. Those who lived in the mountainous areas of Cappadocia, on the other hand, skillfully carved their dwellings high in the cliffs and in cones, which provided natural camouflage and inaccessibility.

It is interesting to note that underground cities appear to have been used even before the Arab invasions. One of the oldest known descriptions of an underground city is found in the 5th century B.C. historian Xenophon's Anabasis. In this work he describes his visit to a nearby town named "Dana" where the villagers had underground dwellings. Xenophon mentions that the entrances to the cities resembled wells; the rooms, however, were quite large, and some were used for housing goats, sheep, and poultry. Corn, rice, and barley wine were stored in large jars. Xenophon warns about a potent barley wine and advises that it be diluted with water.





Geological Formations
Fairy Chimneys
Goreme in Cappadocia
Uçhisar in Cappadocia
Zelve in Cappadocia
Ortahisar in Cappadocia
Çavuşin in Cappadocia
Goreme Village
Avanos in Cappadocia
Underground Cities
Soganli in Cappadocia
Ihlara in Cappadocia
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Cappadocia from Air




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Last modified: September 15, 2009