Capital of the Silk Road

Bringing together thirty countries located on the historic Silk Road at the 7th Silk Road Mayors’ Forum, Gaziantep is preparing for a bright future with a 5.5-kilometer Cultural Promenade filled with shops and eateries, ten new museums, and a science center.

Blending its eight thousand years of history with the features of a modern city, Gaziantep is a colorful feast set up in the southeast of Anatolia with its kebabs, baklava, bazaars, and caravanserais. Home to numerous civilizations from the Commagene to the Ottomans, the city entered the domain of the Turks starting in the 11th century. For the brave struggle it waged in the Turkish War of Independence, it was granted the honorific title gazi, meaning “veteran.” With a great potential for cultural, gastronomic, nature, and faith tourism, the city is on its way to becoming Anatolia’s star thanks to new investments. Gaziantep is the export champion of Southeast Anatolia by virtue of its developed industry and a population that has reached two million, and it is aiming to become a touristic center of attraction in the near future. The fifteen new hotels constructed to this end have provided employment to roughly fifty thousand people. According to veteran journalist Coşkun Aral, Gaziantep could exceed its annual target of one million tourists by diversifying its touristic offerings. The city is being transformed into a veritable open-air museum. It contains many things that will surprise you—at Medusa, Turkey’s first glassware museum, you can see Hittite-era toys that are four thousand years old. Meanwhile, the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, which hosts the world’s largest and most significant collection of mosaics, is preparing for a grand surprise. Skylife is the first to obtain the information that the Menderes Mosaics, with an area of roughly 450 square meters, uncovered in Nizip (Nezib) under the supervision of the archaeologist Fatma Bulgan of the Presidency of the Gaziantep Museum, will be exhibited following restoration. The eight-piece fourth-century mosaic, which is currently being kept in storage at the museum, that is presently kept in storage at the museum is very important in that it proves that the mosaic tradition survived in the area even more than a century after Zeugma. Furthermore, a planetarium, science center, fairy-tale park, botanical garden, and ecological city project have already started to exhibit the diverse facets of tourism in Gaziantep. The 5.5-kilometer Cultural Promenade, centered around Gaziantep Fortress, unites the city’s foremost attractions—walking along serpentine streets flanked by a total of nineteen khans, nine mosques, and four bathhouses—including Ali Nacar Mosque, Naib Bathhouse, Gümrük Khan, Zincirli Bedestan, Tahmis Coffee House, Almacı Market, and Bakırcılar Bazaar—evokes in a person a feeling resembling that of solving a puzzle. With the restoration of the 550 houses and 1,100 shops along the Cultural Promenade, it could be said that the city underwent a makeover. Regional handicrafts such as cobbling, coppersmithing, nacre inlaying, and kutnu fabric weaving survive on this road, which is also used as a shopping route. The city, a bustling center of commerce from the past to the present day, resembles a giant open-air market. Historical khans are lined in sequence as bazaars intertwine to present a vast array of merchandise, including sacks of spices, dried vegetables, medicinal herbs, dried nuts and fruits, and more. Efforts are under way to extend the Cultural Promenade to the Bey neighborhood, which will bring its length to 13.5 kilometers. In Bey, filled with historical houses characteristic of Antep, the courtyards are adorned with motifs and fountains are embellished with rose reliefs. The tall stone walls were built to shelter homeowners against the heat of summer. Subterranean Antep is as rich in history as the surface: there are caves beneath almost every one of the old houses. Ali Ethem Keskin, Underwater Photographer for the Obruk Cave Research Group, likens underground Gaziantep to a giant ant’s nest. Gaziantep is also a city of venerable, elegant mosques, including Tahtani, which exhibits the region’s characteristic features; Boyacı, which was renewed in the Ottoman era; Handaniye, which is noted for its kündekâri woodwork portal; and Şirvani, dating from the 14th century, among others. The contemporary face of the city, on the other hand, is found in the modern apartments towering beside Alleben Stream, the city’s vital artery. A little farther away is a skate park in 100. Yıl Park, where the youth stage acrobatic feats throughout the day. There is a tradition in the city—a crossroads of cultures—of dining that starts at five a.m. with a bowl of beyran—a mutton broth—and continues until midnight with katmer, a flaky pastry dish; yuvalama, a dumpling soup of sorts; and baklava. Any time in Antep is a suitable time to eat baklava. According to Ahmet Ümit, an author from Gaziantep, the regional cuisine, which was enriched with the contributions of various cultures, might provide a clue as to dining in the heavens—when you try Antep’s delicacies, you will likely recognize the famous literary scholar’s point.

Gaziantep Guide
Palatial Elegance: Yemeni
The yemeni, a kind of colorful leather shoe, was once a favorite among princes, and occupied an important place in the daily life of the Ottomans as well. When it was on the brink of being forgotten, it was revitalized in the hands of artisans from Gaziantep under the leadership of Orhan Çakıroğlu. A fourth-generation practitioner of this craft, Çakıroğlu notably crafted yemenis for several Hollywood films.

How to Eat Baklava
According to Coşkun Koçak, a baklava expert of thirty-two years, baklava should be eaten not immediately after a meal but when one is only slightly full. It should be placed in the mouth upside down and be caressed against the palate for some time to enjoy its flavor to the fullest. It should be kept at room temperature, not in a refrigerator. To prolong the aftertaste, one should avoid drinking water immediately after consumption.

Around the City
Rumkale, Halfeti, Yesemek Open-Air Museum, and the ancient town of Doliche (Dülük) are must-see places in Antep and its surroundings.

Mosaic Classes
You may enroll in mosaic classes at private or public institutions in the city center, notably those of GAMEK (Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality Courses for Artistic and Professional Education).

Keme Kebab
Antep, which boasts more than sixty kinds of kebabs, has two kebabs unique to the months of spring: keme (desert truffle) and loquat kebab.

City Museum
Various works related to Gaziantep culture are on display at Bayazhan City Museum on Atatürk Boulevard.