A CITY OF HISTORY AND CULTURE: GAZİANTEP

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Gaziantep, formerly called as Ayıntap, is one of the oldest cities in Turkey even in the world. Mentioned as Paris of East because of its history, culture and boomig economy, it is absolute a must-see of the major cities for its castles, ancient places, mosques, Coppersmith Bazaar, Tahmis coffee, Zeugma Mosaics Museum, hans, baths as well as its delicious cuisine, baklava and pistachio…

Gaziantep is one of the oldest cultural centers in Southeastern Anatolia dating back to 4000 BC and being the emerging place of the first civilizations between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. It is situated on the ancient Silk Road. As one of the first settlements in Anatolia, it has experienced Chalcolithic, Paleolithic, Neolithic ages and Hittite, Mitani, Assyrian and Persian periods as well as Alexander the Great, the Seleucid, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Turkish-Islamic and Ottoman periods. Gaziantep brought the artefacts belonging to this ages and periods to present. Whence it is a city steeped in history.

gaziantep 1Gaziantep, formerly with the name of Ayıntap, is among the most populous cities of Southeast. It is the sixth largest city of Turkey in terms of population and it ranks first in the province in terms of industrial level and development. It is still one of the oldest cities in Turkey and even in the world. Besides, the city holds a very important place in industry and trade of Turkey. Among the reasons for this, we can consider the location of the city between Anatolia and Middle East and its proximity to the seaports.

The main symbols of Gaziantep are Antep Castle, baklava, pistachio, Zeugma Mosaics Museum and coppersmith. This city is a touristic paradise due to its natural beauties, geographical location, rich cuisine and shopping facilities as well as its cultural and historical richness. It is located at the crossing point of the Mediterranean and continental climate. Although the southern part of the city is under the effect of Mediterranean climate, it has generally hot and dry summers and the winters are cold and snowy. In the province, we see the most of rainfall in winter and spring.

Many ruins of ancient settlements can be seen in the city which have reached today from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. There had been built many mosques, madrasas, hans and baths in the periods of Seljuk, Mamluk and Ottoman. During these periods, the city was also progressed in terms of manufacturing, trading and handicrafts. Mentioned hans and baths maintain their functionality even today and continue to operate as the rich handicrafts centers which have unique features. And the temples, maintaining their existence in all its glory, meet still the needs of public for worships.

Antep assumed the title of “Gazi” in 1921gaziantep 2

After the First World War, Gaziantep region occupied by British and French soldiers, evoked admiration all over the world with its mind-boggling defense and unique heroism. Due to this success, Parliament entitled Antep as “Gaziantep” on February 8, 1921. In Gaziantep , you can still see the traces of the war period.

Geographically as an entrance center of GAP and with its industrial and commercial volume, Gaziantep holds many cities at around under its economical influence. One of fourth of its soil consisting plains suitable for agriculture and some portion irrigated by Euphrates River, Gaziantep retains the distinction of being a rich agricultural region with its pistachios, olives, cotton, grapes, industrial crops such as paprika and linen, lentils, and cereals such as wheat and barley . If you see people selling olive on the road do not be surprised while visiting the province. The cuisine of Gaziantep has an important place in the city tourism with special tastes.

Gaziantep is an important place as one of the most significant centers and with its memories during Independence War, the rich historical and cultural surroundings, newly built highway, international airport and railway station. The city invites you to see its touristic attractions as rich handicrafts, mosaics, mosques, castles, ancient places, historical sites, hans, baths, kastels, tombs, churches, plateaus, plains, sightseeing and recreation areas. It invites you for its special tastes as baklava and pistachio too. In recent years, it is being talked about a lot in terms of tourism, commercial viability and industrial plants. The city calles you to see this wealth.   

Gaziantep ranks first in Turkey in terms of dish varieties

Gaziantep has a very rich cuisine and it takes the first place in Turkey in terms of dishes with nearly 300 recipes. While the Gaziantep cuisine has been richer during the years and under the effect of various traditions by blending , it has become especially famous for its kebabs and meat dishes. Alaca soup, altı ezmeli kebab, Arabic meatballs, baklava, beyti, börk aşı, çağla aşı, cağırtlak kebab, doğrama, ekşili taraklı kebab, plum pan, firik rice, kavurma, kuşbaşı kebab, küşleme, lahmacun, aubergine kebab, garlic kebab, simit kebab, onion kebab, şiveydiz, yuvarlama ve yeni dünya kebab are some sorts of this special kitchen.

If you go to Gaziantep, do not return without tasting "küşleme" by Halil Usta. This famous shop is in Karşıyaka district of the city. The masters will be serving for you who were trained by Halil Usta. The restaurant which looks like a shop, has quite a horizontal depth that you can not see so clear from outside. Halil Usta kebabs are served in copper pots. You will find also vegetable kebabs there.

Another place where you can eat all kinds of kebabs in Gaziantep is İmam Çağdaş’s. You can eat also baklava as well as kebab here. In fact, there are many kebab and baklava shops in Gaziantep. Imam Çağdaş’s is one of the oldest and well-known of them. Its establishment dates back to 1887. All sorts of alinazik, onion kebab, aubergine kebab and küşleme kebab are made of ram meat and the meat is chopped up with big knifes called “zırh”. The fat around the ribs is used in kebabs. There is garlic instead of onion in lahmacun. You can find there any sort of baklava which you want. If you say “I have tasted this delicious baklava and I want to have more for my friends”, then you must queue up for it in front of the bench next to the door when leaving.

Menengiç coffee, a drink of the region

If you ate in Gaziantep and feeled that you would like to drink a cup of coffee, I could suggest you a good address: Cafe Tahmis.. The city visitors can sit there to drink a coffee while having a rest. It is also a good place for narghile lovers who can find the doors open in early morning. Bahattin Dedekurt runs this cafe. According to the rumours, it was built in 1640 and destroyed in a fire in 1903. Then it was restored by Mevlevi Sheikh Mehmet Münif and re-opened. The newest customer of the cafe visits here since the last 30 years. Menengiç coffee belowing to this region, is quite tasty.

Historical sites are countless in Gaziantep; Gaziantep Castle, set on a hill

The historical Gaziantep Castle is located in the heart of the city. This is one of the most beautiful example of castles that still survive in Turkey… The castle stands on 25-30 meters high hill and has an imposing looking with drawing attention of people and hiding its establishment date as a secret.

There is no information about the built date and the builders. However we know that it dates to 6000 years ago. It was built on a mound in Chalcolithic period. There was a small town called “Theban” around this castle in AC 2-3th centuries.

Zeugma Mosaic Museum has no equal in the world

The archaeological monuments around Gaziantep are gaziantep 3preserved at Gaziantep Archaeology MuseumZeugma Mosaic Museum is right beside the Archaeology Museum and was opened in July 2005. As Turkey's largest mosaic museum, it has become the world's only museum to the original display. The old and new museum buildings have been connected through a gallery with each other. Meantime, the old museum is arranged as “chronological museum” where portable cultural assets around the city are exhibited in chronological order. Zeugma Mosaic Museum has 2 floors and 16 exhibition halls. Derived from the excavation of ancient city of Zeugma, “Gypsy Girl” mosaic is currently being exhibited at Gaziantep Archaeology Museum. This museum was moved to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in 2011 which is the largest museum in the world with its 1700 square meters of mosaics.

Hundreds of kinds of copperware to find in Coppersmith Bazaar

Coppersmith Bazaar, located at Gaziantep's oldest settlement, is surrounded with old hans, and other professions related bazars. The bazaar consists of rows of small shops. Once entered the marketplace, you would be amazed by the sight of the copper objects hanging from the shutters of the shops overflowingly. Masters produce handmade copper goods for everyday use, for touristic purpose and as ornaments. The big difference of Gaziantep’s copperware is to be produced as a whole piece without using solder unlike conventional pieces. This handicraft, inheriting from father, is an important source of income for Gaziantep.

Mosques, indispensable for the city

Historical Gaziantep mosques, which provides the city's skyline with visual contributions, are among the architectural values. Almost all of them were constructed with cut stone and are different from each other in the way of layout and decoration. However, the impact of Arabic architecture is seen at their formation plans and minarets. The oldest example of this type is Ahmet Çelebi Mosque. The twisted minaret of Haji Nasır Mosque, the portal decorations of Handaniye, Eyüpoğlu and Esenbek mosques are really admirable. Under the minaret balcony of Handaniye mosque, we see the İznik tiles of 16th century. Boyacı mosque is also important with the woodwork in its pulpit in terms of being the oldest example of Gaziantep. Decorative arts practiced at modern mosques in recent years, create a rich effect. These are notable for their tile works and calligraphy.

Hans and bedestens

Gaziantep was a trade and commerce center in the past as it is today. The hans date from the past, show this situation clearly. These hans are made up of two parts. The ones which called “menzil” were located on the access roads. Besides that, there are city hans which are used completely for commercial purposes.  Once, there were 31 hans in Gaziantep. Some of them were already demolished and the others still remains after being subjected to architectural changes. In the past, covered market areas on long and slender ways were called “bedesten” which were the centers of trade. You can feel such a pleasure in the city by shopping in these bedestens. It is a kind of pleasure like shopping at Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Once Gaziantep had 5 bedestens, but now there are only 3 bedestens which continue to perform their commercial functions.