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Van is a city in eastern Turkey and the seat of Van Province, and is located on the eastern shore of Lake Van. Under the ancient name of Tushpa, Van was the capital of the Urartian kingdom in the 9th century BC. Its ancient inhabitants called themselves Nairi. The early settlement was centered on the steep-sided bluff now known as Van Castle (Van Kalesi), close to the edge of Lake Van and a few kilometers west of the modern city. Here have been found Urartian cuneiform inscriptions dating to the 8th and 7th centuries BC.
The region came under the control of the Orontids in the 7th century BC and later by Persians in the mid 6th century BC. In 331 BC, Van was conquered by Alexander the Great and after his death became part of the Seleucid Empire. By the early 2nd century BC it was part of the Kingdom of Armenia. It became an important center during the reign of the Armenian king, Tigranes II, who founded the city of Tigranakert in the 1st century BC.
The Byzantine Empire briefly held the region from 628 to 640, after which it was invaded by the Muslim Arabs, who consolidated their conquests as the province of Ermeniye. Decline in Arab power eventually allowed local Armenian rulers to re-emerge, with the Artsruni dynasty soon becoming the most powerful. Initially dependent on the rulers of the Kingdom of Ani, they declared their independence in 908, founding the kingdom of Vaspurakan.
Incursions by the Seljuk Turks into Vaspurakan started in the 1050s. After their victory in 1071 at the battle of Manzikert the entire region fell under their control. After them, local Muslim rulers emerged, such as the Ahlatshahs and the Ayyubids (1207). For a 20 year period, Van was held by the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate until the 1240s when it was conquered by the Mongols. In the 14th century, Van was held by the Kara Koyunlu Turks, and later by the Timurids.
The first half of the 15th century saw the Van region become a land of conflict as it was disputed by the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Safavid Empire. The Safavids captured Van in 1502. The Ottomans took the city in 1515 and held it for a short period. The Safavids took it again in 1520 and the Ottomans gained final and definite control of the city in 1548. They first made Van into a sanjak dependent on the Erzurum eyalet, and later into a separate Van eyalet in about 1570.
Towards the second half of the 19th century Van began to play an increased role in the politics of the Ottoman Empire due to its location near the borders of the Persian, Russian and Ottoman Empire, as well as its proximity to Mosul.
Typical for Van region is the Van Cat. The Van Cat has been reported living in the vicinity of the city of Van for centuries, and medieval sources mention white cats as being one of the exports of the Van region.Their most notable genetic characteristic is their almond-shaped eyes that often are mismatched colors. The most valued and valuable members of the breed generally have one amber-green eye and one blue eye. They also reportedly have a genetic tendency to deafness, as any breed of all-white breed of domestic cats and dogs.
In culinary terms, as some cities in Turkey became renowned for their kebap culture or other types of traditional local dishes, Van has distinguished itself with its breakfast culture.