Cover Picture © Credits to iStock/Xantana
Cover Picture © Credits to iStock/Xantana

Five cities not to miss in Southern Turkey, for History lovers

5 minutes to read

Some people don't like spending their summer on the beach; honestly, I am living with such kind of person and still don't get how you people don't like swimming and beaches. If you are one of them or if you are simply looking for a different holiday this year, I got you covered! If you don't mind boiling under the sun, you have to check out these gorgeous cities in the Southeast of Turkey!

Adana

Picture © Credits to iStock/Nuh Mehmet Topkaraoğlu
Picture © Credits to iStock/Nuh Mehmet Topkaraoğlu

Bedded near the Seyhan river, Adana is definitely one of them. With its 8000+ year of history, this city hosted many civilizations, such as the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines Seljuks, and of course, the Ottoman Empire. Adana is one of the most agriculturally productive areas with its flat, fertile land named Çukurova, where the first human settlements have started. Since it is an ancient city, you can see the touch and influence of these many civilizations in culture, architecture, and in gastronomy instantly. In Adana, you have to check out one of the world's oldest bridges, Taşköprü, which dates back 3500 years ago. Legends say that the king poured gold to the "legs" of this bridge so that if it gets destroyed, people can rebuild it quickly. Taşköprü is also the only remaining landmark from the Roman-Byzantine era. Today, it is used to host cultural events, such as art exhibitions and theater festivals. It is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. After that, you have to enjoy "Adana kebab," which is hand-minced meat kebab mounted on a full iron skewer and grilled on an open mangal. It is often served with charred peppers and tomatoes, an onion-sumac-parsley salad, and lavaş. The taste of Adana kebab is famous worldwide since it is made with lamb, red bell peppers, and tail fat, all minced together. The best place to eat it is at the Kebapçı Cik Cik Ali!

Gaziantep

Picture © Credits to iStock/tolgaa80
Picture © Credits to iStock/tolgaa80

Known as a city of spices, ancient mosaics, incredible culinary and epic history, Gaziantep is one of the most exciting cities in Turkey. Gaziantep has a long and very rich history, and in fact, Antep means "King's Land" in the Hittite language. The city's history dates back to the 4th millennium BC! In addition, it's the city of the copperware and Yemeni sandals, and it also has the most beautiful olive groves, vineyards, pistachio orchards and of course Baklava! In here, you have to visit Zeugma, which was the name of the ancient city,  located in a small village called Belkıs, near Gaziantep. This city was founded by Alexander the Great in 300 BC. The Roman Empire also ruled Zeugma in 64 BC. During this time, the city gained great importance due to its strategic location. The town was on the famous trade road, the Silk Road, which made it perfect for a cultural fusion! People who lived there had left amazing mosaics, Roman baths, villages, gymnasiums and many more! You can find all these magnificent mosaics and parts of baths, villas, and gymnasiums in the Zeugma Mosaic Museum! But the world's most famous mosaic is, of course, the Gypsy Girl! In fact, in this 30,000 square meter museum, this mosaic is considered to be among the most famous pieces of work. In this ancient city, pistachio grows everywhere; as a result, the city is perfect for making baklava! Millet Han baklava museum, aka "Millet Han baklava müzesi," was built in 1562. In this typical Ottoman house, you can watch how the first class baklava is made and of course, try it! We all know that Gaziantep is famous for its baklava, but while there you also have to try Katmer, which is a thin phyllo pastry stuffed with goat cheese or cream, pistachios, and sugar. The best place to eat katmer is definitely at "Akşam Simit." And lastly, from spices to famous coppersmith,  lots of traditional goodies can be found in Zincirli Bedesten. This Ottoman bazaar looks like the Grand Bazaar in İstanbul. If you want to have a cultural tour, here is a great place to do that. You can also buy nargile (hookah pipe), Yemeni (local leather shoes), fantastic fabrics and many more!

Şanlıurfa

Picture © Credits to iStock/Ozbalci
Picture © Credits to iStock/Ozbalci

Şanlıurfa, also known as Urfa, is an ancient city in the Southeastern Anatolia. With its magnificent old buildings and its connections with Christianity and Islamic tradition, Şanlıurfa offers a great trip full of history, religion, and architecture. This city's name is also mentioned in a lot of biblical stories. Many believe that Urfa was the place where God tested Jacob. At the same time, it is also the place where Prophet Abraham was born, raised, and also died. In here, you have to check out the Balıklı göl - or in English "Lake with fish" or Balıklı Lake- a holy pool which was believed to be the place where Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod. The pool is in the courtyard of the mosque of Halil-ur-Rahman, which was built in 1211. Oh, and it is said that if you see a white fish, the door to heaven will open for you. The second stop should be the ancient city of Harran, one of the most attractive tourist attractions in Urfa. Archeological proofs state that this ancient city was a significant commercial, cultural, and religious center in 3rd millennium BCE period! Harran is famous for its cocoon-shaped houses that were initially made to keep the inside of these houses cold- which makes sense since it is bloody hot in this region! These houses are still standing strong for over 3000 years. This place is vital to Muslims since Harran has the oldest mosque built in Anatolia, and it's an essential showcase of Islamic architecture. The grand mosque of Harran was built in between the years 744–750 and stands still up until today! And the last stop, Göbeklitepe! Göbeklitepe is more than just a massive carved stone temple, which was crafted by prehistoric people, who had not yet developed metal tools or pottery! It is known that Göbeklitepe is 7000 years older than Stonehedge, and 7500 years older than the Pyramids of Egypt! This breathtaking archeological site has distinctive T-shaped pillars carved with images of wild animals, showing us what life was like about 11,500 years ago. It is located at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent, which was the perfect place of settlement for the prehistoric people. Do not miss out on visiting this incredible site along with the archaeological museum situated right next to it!

Mardin

Picture © Credits to iStock/nejdetduzen
Picture © Credits to iStock/nejdetduzen

With its 4300 years of cultural wealth and architectural heritageMardin is a magical city in southeastern Turkey. This romantic city still stands gracefully on the top of a hill and has managed to survive from one civilization to another. Like an actual fairytale, the golden stone houses of this enchanting city create the perfect balance and harmony. Of course, the rich history of the city shows in every corner and in every stone, fact which attracts many tourists each year. Just like an open-air museum, Mardin is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List! Mardin is jeweled with three gorgeous monasteries since it had been a significant city for Syriac Orthodox Christians in the 5th Century. Deyrulzafaran Monastery is one of them. It was built on the site of a 4500-year-old pagan temple, which is still visible from the underground floors of the monastery. Due to its golden colored limestone exterior, it is also known as the "Saffron Monastery." Inside this monastery, you will find a prayer room, which was used as a temple to Baal in 2000 B.C., a 300-year-old Bible, and a 1600-year-old mosaic floor! If the stonework architecture in the city center is not enough for you, you should visit one of the biggest towns in Mardin, Midyat. This whole town is jeweled with stone ornaments, which gives the feeling of an Arabic fairytale! Here, you can find the major center of the ancient Hurrian town in Southeast-Turkey. The whole city is like an open-air museum, where you can also shop handcrafts, such as carpets, towels and other cloth goods. Midyat is also famous for its Syriac silver crafts. The most famous one is its silver jewelry, known as ‘telkari,’ which refers to handcrafted filigreed ornaments. So don't forget to treat yourself with this fantastic hand-carved silver jewels!

If you want to enjoy delicious kebabs in historical cities, get inspired by itinari now!


The author

Alara Benlier

Alara Benlier

My name is Alara Benlier, I am Turkish but currently living in Germany! I share my experiences in Germany, Turkey and the Netherlands!

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