500.000 Syrian refugees Gaziantep


The 500.000 Syrian refugees form an important part of the actual population of Gaziantep. In western countries people feel that the amount of Syrian refugees form a burden: 1 million on 80 million in Germany, 60.000 on 6 million in Austria, 70.000 on 17 million in the Netherlands. They resist against the in their eyes large numbers of refugees.
Gaziantep is a town of 1,5 or 2 million people, and this town has received 500.000 (!) Syrian refugees. Think about this, compare it to the western countries I mentioned here… What is the feeling of a town where every 1 out of 4 or 5 persons is now Syrian instead of Turkish? There are several sides to this question.

Answer 1: the principle
I have found no one in Gaziantep to discuss the principle that the Syrian refugees are there for a reason and that Gaziantep should offer a shelter to them. All share that idea and find it normal to host the Syrian refugees in Gaziantep, even when it comes with a (huge) price. They see Syrians as their guests who lost everything. They see them as brothers they want to comfort in difficult times. The amount of 0,5 million refugees is seen as a heavy burden that is there to take – just like that. Already before the Syrian war, life was a struggle for the ‘ordinary’ Gaziantep-inhabitant. That life has become even more difficult. It is seen and taken as a fact of life. No one blames the Syrians for it. The Gaziantep-inhabitants have to live with it and they do. Helping Syrians is their duty and their pride. Just like that.

Answer 2: Daily practice
Syrian refugees in Gaziantep are very visible. You see them in the streets, in restaurants and coffeehouses, in the Zoo and around the shops. They do or do not work: that differs. They get loads of help in food, housing, clothing and the like. When they work, they do not pay taxes or health insurance. The Turks say: ‘your country is a mess, your house has disappeared. You are our guest. Keep your money for the day you can return – you will need it’. The ordinary, often not very wealthy Turks, pay for all the costs that the Syrian refugees bring. Moreover, they work for low wages so that ordinary Turks see their position and their income threatened. ‘Life was always difficult here, but now it has become even more difficult’, locals told me. But they do not complain, they are rather proud of the sacrifices they bring. ‘This is how we are, we want to help, look at the state of these poor refugees’.
When Syrians drive a car in Gaziantep, they get a special numberplate. It will show M when the car was bought in Turkey, and SA when the car was imported from Syria. Syrians must be recognizable because they are not insured for damage done. If they cause an accident to someone else, that person has to pay for the damage. So: you drive on a road, a Syrian does not pay attention and hits your car and you have to pay for all the damage. Gaziantep-inhabitants call this ‘absurd’ but they still accept it as a fact of life. They try to avoid Syrians on the road as much as possible.

Answer 3: personal feelings
In an apparently strange contradiction to the first two answers given, I have not found anyone in Gaziantep who liked Syrians. Syrians are called ‘our guests’ and ‘our brothers’ but they are far from popular. There seems to be a consensus that Syrians have no pride and ‘no values’. They fight a lot and show no respect to each other or to the Turks.
Moreover they cause problems in the streets. Thefts have increased and shopowners explain you (softly, when nobody can hear it) that these are Syrians; they have to keep a very close eye on their business when Syrians are around. Syrians also like to go out and make a lot of noise in late hours – note that the average hard-working Turk ends the day at 22.00h. Young Syrians commit robberies, destroy public objects and make the streets of Gaziantep unsafe. I haven’t heard inhabitants blame the police because ‘so many things happen, the police can just not keep up with it’. I witnessed myself a robbery with knifes, and vandalism.
Still, no one wants to ask the Syrians to go back to Syria because there is nothing to go back to and they are our guests – in Middle Eastern hospitality you don’t ask the guests how long they will stay. It is intriguing to see that the Turks offer, even sacrify, so much to people they do not like and that that goes for them without saying.

All in all, I think the Turks and especially the people of Gaziantep deserve our deepest admiration, respect and support for their enormous contribution to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Other blogs you might find interesting:
Dheepan: an outstanding movie about refugees
Refugees at work: best practices
Forget about the rules. Be human
Politics and diversity in your organisation

Zoo Gaziantep: lions, camels, cows


The Zoo (Hayvanat Bahcesi) in Gaziantep is rather new: it opened in 1998 and if you go there, in many spots you will see people working to make the Zoo bigger and more beautiful. There is a traditional Zoo-part where you can watch animals and a Safari-part where you can only enter in a bus. I couldn’t enter because I did not find the bus, maybe because it was winter when I visited, with few visitors at all.
  
The Zoo-part has large cages especially for the predatory animals, deers, camels, elephants, cangaroos and the like. Only the monkeys were in small, unattractive rooms maybe because of the winter time. The large cages outside were empty, that might be their normal homes.
  
The Zoo Gaziantep is a nice place to visit. It has strong educational aims, the Zoological Museum contains many examples of all kinds of animals  (be aware: all signs here are in Turkish only – either you can explain the animals to your children yourself or bring a dictionary) and it is fun to walk around.
There are a few places where you can eat or drink something – it is not allowed to bring food in the park that could be given to the animals such as grapes or nuts. Your bag will be checked at the entrance for that purpose. There is also a place to do your prayers (Mescid) and you find it on the signs (at the bottom of the picture).
The Zoo Gaziantep is large so you will be walking around to see all the animals. Think about that in the heat of the summer and go early in the morning. All places are accessible by wheelchair; differences in height might mean you need some help at certain spots.

What I liked most in the Zoo Gaziantep: the albino king snake; and, big surprise for a Dutch person to find that in a Zoo: the cow!
 
How to get there
Around the Zoo is an enormous park, you pay a small entrance price to get in. Follow the road through the parc and you will end up at the Zoo. The parc is a real family and friends parc with all necessary and also child-friendly facilities where you can sit, eat, sing, have a barbecue: an excellent combination with a visit to the Zoo.
The Zoo is about 15 kilometers from the center. The best is to take a taxi (cheap in Western standards) that will bring you to the entrance of the Zoo itself. Another options is what Syrian refugees do (there are many Syrian refugees in Gaziantep and they do visit the Zoo): take the tram until the endpoint Adliye and walk from there: 2-3 kilometers through the park.
See also: http://www.zoos.mono.net/12234/Gaziantep**
    

Another special site to visit in Gaziantep:
A kastel is not a castle in Gaziantep

Other blogs you may like:
Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi: unknown beauty
Gay penguins Buddy and Pedro

Zeugma museum: presentation matters


The Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey, is said to be the largest mosaic museum in the world. I am not sure whether that is true when it comes to the ‘amount’ of mosaics, but it certainly is the greatest mosaic museum when it comes to presentation. The finest mosaics of the region are shown here under perfect light, in a large and beautiful hall that is made in such a way that spectacular mosaics can be seen from nearby ànd above. This is how the best pieces of art are honoured; those who designed the Zeugma Museum were respectful to the mosiac works, visionary in what they wanted to created and ambitious in their goals. They have succeeded to give a life long impression to the visitors – who were almost exclusively Turkish by the way. I have not seen any other foreign tourist beside myself which is remarkable for a museum that deserves world fame. It must be its location, 30 miles from Syria, that is avoided rather than visited.
They got some cool stuff, for example this corner where you can see the mosaics better by the use of mirrors. Also they have touchscreens where you can look up the mosaic you prefer and watch it in detail; or another touchscreen where they show you ‘land’ and you have to guess which mosaic lies under the ground. The only thing lacking is the translation of Greek texts: some mosaics show texts and you’d like to know what they say. You’d expect a museum to explain that to its visitors…
As it is impossible to describe it all, here my top three of the many spectacular mosaics:
1. The Gypsy Girl, who has somehow become the symbol of Gaziantep; she is everywhere in the streets, in shops, on the airport. They gave here a special place in a dark room where no one enters without the presence of a museum guard. And there she is, in the dark, brilliant and mysterious in the same time, uniquer than unique among all the mosaics. Indeed it is a masterpiece. While I was standing there alone in the dark, she seemed to look right through me…
2. The Galateia mosaic, seen from above. Some mosaics have more worked out details or fuller images. I liked this one because of the balance and the colours. A description of the Galateia story can be found on the website of the museum (in English and Turkish, if you like), here

3.The out-of-the-box mosaic. I haven’t got a clue what it is but I adored it immediately. It is one of the more recent mosaics. Apparently, in that period, they started to put images in the mosaics just where they wanted – at random – no apparent rules were followed any more. I imagine that it was a breakout from all the detailed work that was done during ages; and how free it felt and how it was criticized by traditionalists and knowledgeable people and all those who feared that craftmanship was now about to disappear, to be replaced by art work that ‘even my three year old son can make’.

Gaziantep has a lot to offer, apart from the Zeugma Museum. Still, the Zeugma Museum is all by itself an excellent reason to go to Gaziantep. You will not be disappointed.

Link to my blog about the Bardo Museum in Tunis, the other mosaic museum with world fame and Zeugma`s competitor in volume – quality: Bardo Museum wowowow

Other interesting museums about ancient times in Gaziantep:
the Medusa Glass Museum (in fact a private archaeological museum)
the Archaeological Museum

1000’s of years old boots, toys, breast pumps…


3000 years ago someone made the ‘boots’ you see here; they are rhytons, drinking vessels or horns, and date from the Urartu (read more about Urartu here). You can find them in the Medusa Glass Museum, also called the Medusa Archeological Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey. This museum is richer than most archeological museums, yet rather small in size and hidden in a back street.
If you look around in the streets close to the Kale, the castle of Gaziantep, you can find it and most people know it so just ask around; they will show you. This museum is so much worth a visit! It is most wealthy in its collection; amazing both in the amount and the quality of its artefacts. These objects would be worth a national museum with lots of space for individual pieces. More than anything this museum shows the ‘normality’ of super ancient artefacts in this region.
If you think like me, that ‘old’ starts at least in the era BC, this museum is your place to be! Some examples: they got a range of children’s toys (‘cars’) from the early bronze age (3000-2000 BC). The picture shows 2 of them. They got lots of gold from 100 BC (Greek). While I was watching it, I looked around full of sorrow: was this place really well protected? The Medusa Museum gives you the idea of a home, rather than a museum with full security equipment… I thought (you never know).

And what about this strange object that is apparently from a very old age; it is exhibited in between a marvellous Hittite stone piece and several tablets with cuneiform writing. Alas the lack of information makes you wonder without finding the answer…
Moreover there are some figurines from 6000-5400 BC; this means among the oldest findings ever. They reminded me of findings in Malta, where the same kind of mother goddess or fertility statues were found and nobody can explain what culture they belonged to, what they mean. There is a similarity with the figurines shown in the Medusa Museum which would support the theory that in ancient times certain places served religious rituals with regard to fertility and/or the female godess.
These are just some examples. The Medusa Museum is full of comparable pieces, and glass work, stone and glass jewelry that I do not show here. To finalize: there is some amazing Roman stuff (more recent, 100-200 AC):
– ‘sexual objects’ that I do not show so you have a reason to go there.
– a breast pump (really!) made out of glass. All kind of ideas came to my mind when I watched it.
For those who love ancient times and who think `ancient` goes further back than the Middle Ages, the Medusa Glass Museum in Gaziantep is a dream – you have to go there. The title `glass museum` is misleading: there are indeed many glass objects, but even more impressive is the collection of unique non-glass pieces that deserve a full presentation (it reminded me of the Archeological Museum in Amman) – more room than there is now for them.

See also: http://www.glassismore.com

Related museums in Gaziantep:
Archaeological museum Gaziantep
Zeugma museum Gaziantep