Hosap, which had an important role in the past as a local administrative center in the Van province, is now a small village on the Van-Hakkari road known primarily for its historic castle and bridge. The Kurdish name (Hosap) and the administrative Turkish name (Güzelsu) of the village both translate as "beautiful water," referring to the river on whose banks the town was founded.
The castle is built on a rocky outcrop on the north bank of the Hosap River. The structure that we see today dates mostly from 1643 (1052 A.H.), when Mahmudi tribal lord and Hosap's governor Sari Süleyman Bey rebuilt the castle and added a new entrance tower. A castle may have been built at this location as early as the Urartu Kingdom (9th c.- 6th c. B.C.E.); it is certain, however, that the structure was built early on and modified numerous times until the seventeenth century. The Mahmudi castle was damaged in two sieges by the Ottoman Beylerbeyi, or Governor General of Van in the 1650s and in 1839. It was restored between 1970 and 1973 and in 1986 by the Turkish Ministry of Culture in 1970-1973 and is currently being considered for touristic rehabilitation.
The Hosap Castle consists of an inner castle, whose walls are extended to the north and west to enclose a large fortified village. Only about thirty dwellings and a mosque remain inside the outer castle, which was protected with forty towers. Used exclusively by the Mahmudi Beys, the inner castle was abandoned after the Ottoman siege of the nineteenth century.
The inner castle occupies the rocky apex of the cliff, which falls sharply towards to the east and south. Its irregular plan is divided into three walled courtyards at two levels. The upper level, to the south, contains the Observation Kiosk (Seyir Köskü) and the women's and men's quarters. The lower level to the north contains the ramparts, guard rooms and the entrance tower (burç) embedded into the rocks.
Built by Sari Süleyman in 1643, the entrance tower is twenty-six meters in diameter including its four-meter-thick walls. Its west-facing door is set inside a tall, arched frame that contains the foundation inscription carved in black basalt stone. The inscription is set in a frame of muqarnas and cable molding and crowned with a large tear motif flanked by two lion figures in relief.
The Observation Kiosk, which is thought to have been the administrative core of the inner castle, is perched high at the southeast corner of the rock. It is three stories high and has a roughly rectangular plan elongated in the east-west axis. The ground floor, which is entered from the northwest, contains a bath (hamam) and servants' rooms. Little is known of the layout of the upper floors; they have collapsed, leaving behind their side walls with few windows. The southern wall is buttressed with two-semi cylindrical piers; the western one contains the chimney for the kiosk's heating system and the eastern one is an observation tower.
The women's (harem) and men's quarters (selamlik) are also located along the ridge, and to the west of the Observation Kiosk. The women's quarter was two stories high with a flat wooden roof. Its remaining western section is about twelve and a half by twenty one and a half meters and consists of an entrance hall flanked by pairs of rooms. The two-story men's quarter occupies an area about ten by thirty-seven meters at the southwestern corner of the inner castle. It is separated from the women's quarters by a small mosque that has lost its dome. Entered from the north, the prayer hall is almost six meters square on the inside and has a semi-circular mihrab niche on its south wall. It is illuminated with two windows on its west wall.
The inner castle contains a prison with dungeons which were built between the rocks, below the women's quarter. The oval, domed structure to the northwest of the Observation Kiosk housed the bakery. The rooms aligning the northern walls were used mainly by guards, or served as storage.
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Uluçam, Abdüsselâm. Ortaçag Sonrasinda Van Gölü ve Çevresi Mimarligi, 217-223. Ankara: T.C. Kültür Bakanligi, 2002.