A City An Author

We asked renowned writer Ahmet Ümit about Gaziantep, the city where he was born and raised.

Ahmet Ümit’s Gaziantep
What was Antep like back in the sixties when you lived there?
It was a much smaller, quieter and less sophisticated Antep. Neighborliness and human ties were much stronger. If two kids fought in the streets, the families didn’t blame each other but would counsel their children not to get into another fight. It was also much greener. All the houses were set in gardens and vineyards.

What influence has Antep had on your books?
I am indebted to Antep for the flow and richness of the language I use. The courage, justice and concern for the downtrodden in my books derives from the local culture. The city’s deep-rooted history has influenced me as well.

We know that you enjoy making ‘Çigköfte’ (a Southeastern specialty made with raw minced lamb, fresh parlsley, and hot red pepper). What does the local cuisine signify to you?
Anyone who thinks Antep cuisine is confined to kebab is mistaken. The region’s homecooking is magnificent. Antep cuisine has been enriched by the contributions of other cultures. If there is cooking in heaven, then it would have to be Antep cuisine!

The Nâkıp Ali Cinema springs to mind at the mention of Antep. Are you old enough to remember those days?
Nâkıp Ali was the first ‘cinémathèque’ in Antep, perhaps in all of eastern Turkey. It was the school that trained people like Ülkü Tamer and Onat Kutlar. I used to go there at ten in the morning and not come out until five in the evening. I would watch five films a day.

What would you recommend to people going to Antep?
I would tell them to try Antep food, to visit the Zeugma and Mosaic Museum, and to see the Dülük ruins, the Hittite ruins at Islahiye, and the castle of Rumkale.