The history of the basket houses: hidden gems in Turkey

A lot of times, when visiting historical sites in Turkey, we are overwhelmed by majestic buildings, rock solid stonework, and grand theaters. It doesn’t matter if the buildings have been restored or not; each site has its own magic. But sometimes, all it takes to be amazed are a few modest houses, giving an insight in a different period in history, when families from African countries were brought to Turkey to work as farmhands for the Ottoman rules and their armies. These woven houses or basket houses of which only very few are still standing are part of the hidden gems in Turkey. We had read about them on the Dalyanlı website a few years ago and were intrigued enough to know we would have to go and have a look at them one day.

Fascinating Basket Houses!

Fascinating Basket Houses!

What is a basket house?

A basket house is essentially a house built by weaving fresh branches between solid poles rammed deep into the ground. The basket houses had a wooden, reed-covered roof, and mud-clad, whitewashed walls inside and outside. They sometimes had a fireplace built of mud and stone, giving to a circular woven chimney built at the exterior side of the house against one of the side walls. These basket houses were built in the area around Lake Köyceğiz by African families who had been brought to Turkey to work as farmhands for the Ottoman Palace in the 18th and 19th century. Not all families left Turkey after the nationalization of the farms in 1935, and those who stayed started building basket houses to live in while they were working their fields. You can also see basket houses in Latmos – the area around Lake Bafa – where locals, as well as nomad people, lived in them. The fence houses (as they are also called) were cheap to build since all that was needed was the craftsmanship to build them. These houses were earthquake resistant, hot in winter, and cool in summer.

You Can Clearly See The Cladding Inside

You Can Clearly See The Cladding Inside

Close Up From A Basket House Window And Clay Pad Walls

Close Up From A Basket House Window And Clay Pad Walls

Where can you find these hidden gems in Turkey?

Nowadays, only a few of these basket houses are still standing. Known examples are the ones in Hamitköy, near Köyceğiz and in the village of Karacahayıt Köyü in Latmos (Beşparmak Mountains), between Söke and Lake Bafa. In Latmos, many people who are now over the age of 50 and are living in the countryside were born in a basket house and spent the bigger parts of their childhood growing up in them. They were extensively used up until the 1980s in the Latmos area, and until the 1950s around Köyceğiz. By that time, the reed roofs had been replaced by roof tiles, a more permanent solution. In the Beşparmak Mountains, Hüseyin Karakaya is the last master known the be able to build fence houses in the area. He was born in one and is now collaborating with EKODOSD, the ecosystem protection, and nature lovers organization of the area, to keep the art of building woven houses alive. We visited the ones in Hamitköy, near Köyceğiz. They are now in decay and used as sheds, but there’s still enough left to get a good picture of how they once looked like. You just have to look past the stuff stored against the walls and get a closer look.

Basket House Seen From The Side Where You Can Clearly See The Circular Chimney

Basket House Seen From The Side Where You Can Clearly See The Circular Chimney

One Side Of The House Is Still Completely Plastered

One Side Of The House Is Still Completely Plastered

Visit the nomad museum in Çandır

While you are taking a trip into history, why not combine it with a visit to the Nomad Museum in Çandır? Now that you’ve seen the homes also used by many nomad families, getting a picture of their way of life and the objects that were part of it. Don’t worry; the Nomad Museum isn’t a very formal museum, it’s a project from a local who started collecting nomad artifacts he has now put on display; a fascinating and colorful collection of objects and clothes. The museum is set up in a small building in the garden. During the season, tea is served, and you can enjoy a taste of the quiet village life in Turkey. Another one of those perfect little gems in Turkey!

Spinning Wool

Spinning Wool

Still Life Of Nomadic Objects For Coffee Lovers

Still Life Of Nomadic Objects For Coffee Lovers

Practical information for your visit to Hamitköy and Çandır

Hamitköy, where the basket houses are, is very near Köyceğiz. It’s a typical Turkish village where most people are orange farmers. The basket houses are along the road from Hamitköy to Sultaniye, famous for its mud baths. The woven houses are fascinating, especially if you are aware of their history, but they are not a destination on their own. They are a perfect road stop if you’re into this kind of thing. Combine it with a visit to Köyceğiz and its lake, Kaunos, and Dalyan, or Iztuzu beach. The drive from Hamitköy to Çandır is scenic, with stunning lake views along the way. From Çandır and the Yörük Müze, head back to the main road connecting Köyceğiz with Muğla and Fethiye using the ferry to Dalyan. It takes you past Kaunos, where you can enjoy a distant view of the ancient site and also have a closer look at some of the lower Rock Tombs, which are hard to spot from the river or the other side of the river.

Scenic Lake Views During The Ride

Scenic Lake Views During The Ride

Driving Past Kaunos

Driving Past Kaunos

Are you interested in visiting this area with the guidance of a local? Then check out this private boat tour from Dalyan with a local guide. The entrance to the Yörük Müze in Çandır is free, but they do have a charity tip box to which we happily contributed.

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Never wonder about the weather in Turkey again. The Turkish climate is as diverse as the country with significant differences between the regions.

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