South-east Turkey: Gaziantep and Urfa

Sorry, this post has taken a long time in coming. Lots happening, mostly good, so should be keeping up with things again from now on…!

Zincirli Bazaar, Gaziantep

Zincirli Bazaar, Gaziantep

And that was the end of my sourcing trip and the beginning of a short holiday. Mike and Tiya joined me in Istanbul and we all flew to Gaziantep (“Great” Antep). I was expecting a sleepy old town and was in for a bit of a surprise. Gaziantep is a buzzing city that is the machine-made carpet and pistachio capital of Turkey. It has its own unique handicrafts and whilst the copperware was excellent I didn’t much care for the thickish mother of pearl work. It is also famous for its food. We ate at the Imam Cagdas two nights in a row where the kebaps and pistachio baklava (they only make the pistachio filling in this town) were delicious – their website is in Turkish but you don’t need to speak the language to get the taste buds going!). and I discovered pomegranate molasses is divine on salads. By some strange miracle I seem to lose weight while travelling even though I am eating rather well. Yet another reason I like this job so much!

We met Lynn Gilbert, a photographer who has a similar interest in the Silk Road and was on her way back to the US. Her website is worth checking out for some fascinating photos of Silk Road homes.

We drove to Sanliurfa (“Glorious” Urfa or ancient Edessa) and I felt I was in the Middle East. Where Gaziantep is everything Turkish, Urfa feels like a different world, I was told much more Syrian culturally. The majority of women here wear head scarves with a few wearing the black chador. Older men were in baggy salwars and you can hear Arabic being spoken. The bazaar here felt like it hadn’t changed in about 500 years!

Halil Rahman Mosque and the Pool of Abraham

Halil Rahman Mosque and the Pool of Abraham

Urfa (“Prophets’ City”) is Turkey’s most religious site, dating back to Hittite times, and Tiya and I visited Abraham’s Cave where he is considered to have been born. It is in the Balıklıgöl area and whether you are Muslim or not, or like Islamic Art or not, there is something very poignant about Balıklıgöl. I think it has much to do with the fact that it is not cordoned off like a museum but very much part of daily life in Urfa.

We did a quick trip to Harran which was an ancient Silk Road city in Mesopotamia and lies on the road to the Syrian border. The cone houses, a tradition brought here by the Iraqi immigrants, and ruins were interesting to look in and around. My informal guide – a student from the area – sounded very surprised that I had only one child; apparently if I lived in Harran I would have 10 or 11! What a thought…

Conical Houses, Harran

Conical Houses, Harran

Tiya's Birthday in Gaziantep

Tiya's Birthday in Gaziantep

P.S. It also happened to be Tiya’s birthday whilst we were in Gaziantep, and since she is helping (?!) with the photo editing I had to include this one!

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