I’ve been chipping away at seeing every bit of Turkey I can, ever since I lived here back in 1997-1998. Last year, when I was on a yogurt panel at the foodie fest GastroIstanbul, I learned – surprisingly for the first time, since it seems every Turk knows this – that the so-called food capital of Turkey is Gaziantep. And thus I had my next destination on this recent Turkey trip. Other than a visit to Antakya (the important historical city of Antioch), I had never really ventured into the Southeast. Now would be my chance. After showing my wife Cappadocia for the first time, we boarded a 10-hour bus to Şanlıurfa, more commonly referred to as its previous name, Urfa. This is a two-hour bus ride east of Gaziantep (formerly known as Antep before Gazi – war hero – was added to the name in honor of those who fought against the French here during the Turkish war of independence right after World War I). But we decided to start in Urfa and finish in Antep.
Istanbul and the Antep region are world’s apart. Both Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa are close to the Syrian border and Arabic influences are apparent in the culture. Both cities are religiously conservative, especially Urfa, where buying a beer is a bit of a challenge. Many of the women wear head scarves, but the complete covering is still rather unusual. We saw more of the old Ottoman pants with the baggy crotch down between the knees, and some very colorful village clothing and head scarves. Neither place seemed to have many tourists but Urfa had more than Gaziantep it seemed.
On the archaeological side of things, we had two must-sees on our list: Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep, a huge collection of mosaics from a Roman town that was eventually flooded by a dam/reservoir project, and Göbekli Tepe, a 10,000-year-old Neolithic “temple” site that pre-dates pottery and agriculture.
The rest of the trip? Food. And more food. We had limited time, but we took recommendations from friends, experts, and the internet, and set about trying to stuff ourselves senseless.
What will follow here is a series of short blog posts over the next couple weeks about many of those experiences and they will all link from here as well on an archive page tagged #GaziantepTrip
Enjoy a little food porn from Southeastern Turkey! Click here for the Gaziantep trip posts.
For more articles and photo galleries about Turkey and Turkish culture, see The Mad Traveler home site.