adventure travel & photography
Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong ◦◦ Greece ◦◦ Ukraine ◦◦ Syria ◦◦ Morocco ◦◦ Italy ◦◦ Mauritania ◦◦ Oman ◦◦ Algeria ◦◦ Faroe Islands
Tours/Expeditions: List with all our scheduled tours and expeditions
About the place
In May 2021, I led two groups in a row in southeastern Turkey during the total lockdown due to the Covid pandemic and Ramadan. Time seemed to have stopped. Everything was closed except for pastry and grocery stores. There were almost no people to be seen on the streets, and the few lonely souls milling about on the empty streets seemed to add to the sense of apocalypse. It was as if an invisible hand had wiped away all the people, leaving only dead matter behind.
A few children were playing in the streets, and there weren't many foreign tourists, except at some of the more famous places such as Gobekli Tepe. The lockdown allowed me to explore the city extensively without the crowds, noise and pollution.
Gaziantep, often called Antep, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is famous for its food, pistachios and baklava and is considered the culinary capital of southeastern Turkey. There is even a culinary museum, but I could not visit it.
The Almaci market is beautiful - a typical oriental place, similar to the Covered Market in Istanbul. It was the best place to feel the surreal atmosphere during the lockdown - a complete lack of people, closed stores and empty spaces.
As soon as the lockdown was lifted, I returned to the market. The difference was indescribable - crowds of people, exotic spices, flowers, the smell of roasting, old people drinking tea early in the morning - a completely different experience!
The biggest attraction of the city is the Gaziantep Fortress. It is not known precisely when it was built, but it was rebuilt in the 6th century by the Byzantines and in 1481 under Qaitbay, the Sultan of Egypt. The last reconstruction took place in 1557 during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Observation towers, mosques and residences were added to the fortress. Today, 36 round towers can be counted. It is believed that there are galleries and passages under the fort which maybe lead to the river.
The remains of the ancient city of Belkis (Zeugma) are located in the village of Kavunlu, 10 km from the city. In June 2005, the second largest mosaic museum in the world was opened in Gaziantep (the first one is in Bardot, Tunisia), where mosaic pieces, a statue of Mars and other artefacts are found. This museum is a must-see.
The ancient houses of Gaziantep, located mainly in the city's centre, are among the best representatives of the rich architectural and cultural heritage of Southeastern Anatolia, Mesopotamia and Syria. Because of the hot climate, the houses of Gaziantep are made of stone, surrounded by high walls, with large courtyards and smooth roofs.
The city has many mosques. I managed to photograph at least 10 of them. Although they follow the Islamic building canon, the mosques in Gaziantep are different, mainly because of the richness of their decorations.
The city is beautiful and rich, the people are great, and the food is delicious. So if you have never considered traveling to Gaziantep, it is time to reconsider.
The easiest way to reach Gaziantep is by plane. It is well connected with daily flights to the main cities in Turkey, including 2 or 3 times from Istanbul. The airport is 15 km from the city centre and you can travel between them using the Havaş shuttle service (10 lira). The busses depart from the airport after most arriving flights. It takes 30 minutes to reach the city centre.
Travel to Turkey
I organize and lead small groups to Turkey through my licensed travel agency "Thousand Voyages" Ltd. You can find out more about the guided tours here. A list of all scheduled tours can be found here.