Malabadi Bridge is a 12th-century stone pointed-arch bridge spanning the Batman River, decorated with human, sun, and lion reliefs. The bridge is situated near the town called Silvan, Diyarbakır Province, in south-eastern Anatolia. It is one of the most famous historical heritage bridges of Anatolia and as such it was inscribed in the Tentative list of World Heritage Sites in Turkey in 2016.
The bridge was constructed in the years 1146-1155, during the reign of the local Artuqid dynasty - the Turkmen dynasty with the capital in Diyarbakır. The initiator of the construction was Temür-Tash, son of Ilgazi, and grandson of Artuk Ibn Ekseb - the chief from the Oguz tribe and the founder of the dynasty of his name.
According to Ibn al-Azraq al-Farīqī, the 12th-century historian, the bridge replaced the much earlier one, built in 668/669 that had collapsed in 1144/1145. Unfortunately, the two extant manuscript copies of the chronicle make the certain identification of the discussed bridge uncertain. On the other hand, the construction date of the new bridge, just one year after the earthquake, strongly suggests that Azraq al-Farīqī was discussing this particular object.
The chronicle of al-Farīqī recorded that the construction of the bridge was supervised by an architect called al-Zāhid bin al-Ṭawīl. Unfortunatelly, something went wrong, and the eastern footing of the structure was destroyed by a flood. As a result, the architect was fined for his mistakes and replaced by another builder, Abuʾl-Khair bin al-Ḥakīm al-Fāsūl. He corrected the structural faults of the bridge by using massive timbers in the construction. However, the work progressed slowly, and by the time of Temür-Tash's death in 1154, the arch of the bridge was still incomplete. It was only ready during the reign of Temür-Tash's successor, Najm al-Dīn Alpī, despite more interruptions caused by the floods.
At least a part of Ibn al-Azraq al-Farīqī's narrative was later confirmed by two French scholars - epigraphist Jean Sauvaget and architectural historian Albert Gabriel. They visited the region in 1932 was discovered an inscription on the bridge, bearing the name of Temür-Tash and giving the Islamic year 542, that corresponds to 1147/1148 of the Gregorian calendar. It could be the reference to the beginning of the second phase of the bridge's construction.
The bridge was renovated many times in the past, certainly at the beginning of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century. For many centuries it was the only bridge on this section of the Batman River and played an important role on the trade route between Diyarbakır and Van. It was used to cross the river until the 1955, when a new deck-arch bridge was built close upstream.
The bridge was built of multicoloured stones. The length of the structure is 150 meters, its width - 7 meters, and the maximum height - 19 meters. The central span has the shape of an arch rising over the deepest part of the river. The main arch has a span of 38.6 meters, making it the second longest in Anatolia, after Hasankeyf Bridge which is slightly longer but in much worse condition. Malabadi Bridge is also the widest of all stone arch bridges existing in Anatolia.
The span of the bridge runs perpendicular to the river, but the roadways on both sides of the bridge are at an angle to the river. The ramps are also supported by smaller arches that allow the river's water to flow freely, even at a high level, preventing the entire structure from being washed away. Over each driveway, gates were built, which used to be toll stations for crossing the bridge.
The two pillars of the bridge rest against the river bed, although in low water they are completely exposed. The western pillar is decorated with two carved figures, one standing and one sitting. The main arch spandrels, that is, the triangular corners between the crests of the arches and the side walls, were used to create small spaces, presumably to provide a resting place for tired travellers.