Kizkapan, a cave that paints the ancient history of a people

A view of the Kizkapan Cave west of Suleimaniya.

The word Kizkapan is of Turkish origin meaning “Girl Catcher”.

Kizkapan Cave is located to the west of the city of Sulaimanyia, near the Chami Razan Resort on the road between Sulaimaniya and Dokan Resort.

A side path, close to River Tabin, takes you through Chami Razan to Zarzi Village, the nearest inhabited place to the cave. Kizkapan Cave is located behind the village about one kilometer away.


According to archeological sources, the history of Kizkapan Cave goes back to around 600-550 B.C, the era after the reign of the Medes and is the oldest archeological remains in the area.

The word Kizkapan is of Turkish origin meaning “Girl Catcher”, a new name that was reportedly set by the Ottomans during their governance of the region. The Ottomans changed the names of many places during their rule in the country between the sixteenth and twentieth century.

Hashim Hama Abdulla, Archeologist and Director of Sulaimaniya Museum argues that the drawings and engravings in the cave have no correlation or indication to its current name, as this name was consigned centuries later.

The cave is now registered as an archeological attraction and some routes and streets have been constructed around the cave this year to give tourists access to the cave and to the drawings and engravings on its various walls.

Kizkapan and ancient Kurdish rule

There are different ideas and opinions about the role and importance of the cave, some refer it to the Ottoman era, while others to the Median era, with the latter more commonly agreed.

Kamal Rashid Rahim, Director of Sulaimaniya Archaeology, stated “The significance of this cave is that it tells a history about the Kurds and their rule in this area.”

“This has a special significance for the Kurdish tourists to know more about the archeological sites,” added Rahim. “It is important for foreign tourists as well as they may want to know more about the history of the Kurds.”

Abdulla, on the other hand, maintains that as archeologists suggest, the history of the place dates back to very ancient times, which is of a great significance as an archeological attraction for the Kurdistan Region in general and Sulaimaniya Province in particular.

The engraved map of Kizkapan

Abdulla talks about a map engraved on the walls of the cave, and states that in the map there are two men with their hands held up and their arrows on the ground, seemingly conveying a message of peace.

“This map is different from many other archeological maps as it has a message about war and hostility. There are two explanations on the map, the first explanation belongs to the archeologists Admon, M. Tofiq Wahbi and Taha Baqer, who believe that the men are two Zartosht religious men that take an oath by the fire. The second explanation proposed by other archeologists is that those two men are not religious men but rather leaders.

According to historical accounts, there had been a sun blockage around 585 B.C. At that time a fatal war ensued between the Medes and Ledes, but when the sun was blocked and it got dark, they stopped the war and announced a truce. Later the Ledes’ princess married the Medes’ prince in a marriage of political convenience to coincide with the truce.

Damage to the cave

Abdulla said that due to negligence some damaged had been caused to the cave and the old stairs were mostly damaged. As a result, they have built new stairs leading to the engravings on the cave.

“However, the cave’s gate is locked and tourists cannot enter the cave, but can only look at the drawings and maps on the outer walls of the cave,” explained Abdulla. “This is to protect the ancient tools and archeological remains in the cave from damage and loss.’

He also added that a large number of tourists visit the site on a daily basis.

Tourist complaints

However, tourists are complaining about lack of good services at the place.

Over the past two years, the cave was closed due to the renovation works that took place. Now as the renovation is complete and access is granted again, the many tourists who visit the place complain about lack of services in the area.

Aso Ghafoor, a local tourist who visited the cave with his family, complains that there is no place for tourists to relax.

“Sufficient care has not been given to this ancient cave that has very old maps and engravings with special historical and archeological significance.

“It is necessary to take care of the archeological sites that have valuable remains and that they become a priority for the Kurdistan Regional Government and be considered a national asset,” Ghafoor, who is a history teacher at a high school in the city of Sulaimaniya. “Besides, they could also be used as a tourist attraction and source of income for the people and the region.”


An Australian/Kurdish joint venture, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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