Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond
Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

Balıklıgöl in Şanlıurfa is like a place deriving from the stories of 1001 night… or like one of the best places we have in the Netherlands, the Efteling. Balıklıgöl means fish pond and it contains more carps than you have seen or will ever see again in your life. Equally interesting is the story of the sacred fish pond’s origin. Balıklıgöl is not just very beautiful, it is also very holy part of the Dergah Komplex around Abraham’s cave of birth.

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

Once upon a time there was the cruel King Nimrod and the first monotheist in ancient times Abraham. King Nimrod had not succeeded to kill Abraham as a baby because his mother had given birth in a cave and hidden her child there during many years. So now King Nimrod, a worshipper of idle gods, had to cope with Abraham who resisted against existing religious practices. There is only one God, Abraham claimed and indeed he was pushing to have his point taken. King Nimrod got very annoyed with that man and decided to throw him into the fire to get rid of him once and for all. But Abraham had God on his side! God changed the fire into water for Abraham to make a soft landing and God changed the pieces of wood into carps. This is how Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond was created and Abraham survived to fulfill his precious work of the introduction of monotheism. Rumors say by the way that this is a story with roots in Jewish scriptures rather than Islamic scriptures but conservative Şanlıurfa is not the best place to discuss this sensitive type of rumors so I didn’t. Feel free to comment below if you have good knowledge about this, though.

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond
Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

Today Balıklıgöl is a favorite place to go for people of all ages. They feed the carps who will show up with hundreds – no exaggeration! – and squirm up, over, under each other to pick up the food thrown in the water. You can buy special food for 1 lira from sellers in boots next to the pond. And always remember this is a holy pond: if you try to eat one of the carps, you will become blind.

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

On the west side of the pond is the Halilur Rahman Mosque, another mosque that was built on a former church, a fact supposed to symbolize perceived holiness since many ages. The Halilur Rahman Mosque dates from early 13th century but the minaret, squarish in shape, is said to date originally from the church. I did not see the inside because it was closed for restauration purposes when I visited (Dec.2018). 

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

On the north side is the 18th century Rızvaniye Vakfı Mosque and Medrese complex, open to all visitors. 

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

On the south side is a great parc with trees, very green grass to my surprise (because of exceptional rainfall), restaurants and several canals used to bring up the young carps as you can see in the picture below: the young ones are also countless…

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond
Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

The parc ends where the rocks of the castle, the Kale, begin. To the east is Abraham’s cave of birth and the Mevlid-i Halil Mosque and beyond that the grand bazaar. But I’d say that the Balıklıgöl is worth a visit just by itself. It is wonderful to see both in daytime and in the evening!

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque: do as you like…

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque was built in the 19thcentury next to Abraham’s cave in Șanliurfa, Turkey’s South. Therefore it is a well frequented mosque. Especially in the period before the hadj to Mecca starts, many believers gather in this mosque to be blessed before their journey. 

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque inside

The Mevlid-i Halil Mosque is beautiful and peaceful. The grace and harmony that one feels already upon entering the courtyard welcomes the visitor who goes into the mosque. Rules like dresscode are strict in this holy place but that included the mosque is open for women who want to have a look around (‘yes of course, please come in and do as you like’). Most people do as they like, by the way. Men were hanging around, sitting against the wall talking or studying Quran. One man walked around to put some stuff from a stick to everybody’s hand – I got some too, no clue what it was or what it should bring, please comment on this blog if you do! – then he lay down somewhere in the middle of the floor to sleep. One guy asked him some questions but when the man didn’t respond clearly, he left him to do what he liked. Some men came in hastily, in modern suits, doing their prayers and leaving after that. The elderly were often dressed as classic Kurds, with shalvar and headscarfs or smaller caps or even a turban and seemed to pass a part of their social life in the mosque.

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque inside
Mevlid-i Halil Mosque dome

Look at the dome, the windows, the magnificent crystalline in the middle and the different stories with their arches: this visit will leave you with a great impression of fine art and passion to offer the best and if you are a believer, certainly even more. If you want to know the names of the makers of Mevlid-i Halil Mosque, read this Turkish blog.
This blog says one other interesting thing. It seems to prove the holiness of the spot next to Abraham’s cave by telling that it had always been a religious place there: a mosque dating from the 16th century before the actual mosque, before that a Byzantine church, and before that a church dating from 150AD. That church was built on the rests of a synagogue and the synagogue was based on a pagan temple. Well that’s history!

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque

Of course this place as Abraham’s cave is not uncontested: archaeologists in the 19th century have marked a place in Iraq 600 miles away as the real Ur of Chaldees. Others say there is no mention of the place where Abraham was born whatsoever in holy scriptures. And again others say there is no proof at all that Abraham was a real and living creature instead of a myth so that would leave us without any place of birth… Now Abraham’s cave is so holy because Abraham is considered as the man who fought idolatry and introduced monotheism. So why would pagans have built a temple next to his cave? Would they not have hated Abraham rather than loved him? The ‘proof’ introduced in that blog lacks a bit of logic… but if there was indeed a synagogue here and a very early church, that is more convincing than 19th century theories of guessing archaeologists (see this blog for extensive and detailed comments).

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque
Mevlid-i Halil Mosque

Anyway you do not need to know the exact truth to enjoy your visit of Mevlid-i Halil Mosque. Go in the evening as well as in daytime for different impressions and bring back your own stories!

You may also like the blog about the many graves near Abraham’s cave or the blogs about Harran where Abraham went when he left Ur of the Chaldees.

Abraham’s cave of birth

Abraham's cave

Abraham’s cave in Șanliurfa is considered as the place where Abraham was born. His mother gave birth to him and hid him during ten years as King Nimrod had ordered to kill all newborn children when he heard about Abraham’s appearance (and yes this looks like another famous biblical story). Abraham’s cave is an impressive religious place ot visit.


Abraham's cave entrance
Abraham's cave Selcuk objects

Abraham’s cave is surrounded by a large parc with a pond and several mosques. However the cave itself is quite small. You enter it while bowing under a low doorpost, after passing a room with some 12th century religious objects, most probably belonging to the Selҫuk period, and then you find yourself in a kind of open space with carpets to sit on and pray. The core part of the cave is protected by glass: you can have a look in it but not enter it. 

Abraham's cave, the very inside

As it had been raining for a while when I visited, an exceptional event in ever-dry Șanliurfa, the cave was full of water and the glass quite wet – this is why the picture is unclear. Most probably there are several measures to be taken on the background to prevent that the water rises too much, making visits impossible.

Abraham's cave guarded by a man in the evening

Oh and by the way, my comments are made from a female perspective only. Women enter through the left side where the guard is a woman in daytime and a man when it is getting dark (a fact I understood for practical reasons in a conservative city like Șanliurfa but not for religious reasons). As for the male side, you have to go there yourself to know what it is like…
Visitors to Abraham’s cave were few when I came in on a rainy December-day. The silence gave every possibility to let the holiness of the place sink in.

Abraham's cave by night

Abraham is worshipped here for introducing monotheism in the world 4000 years ago, when idolatry was the norm. Don’t confuse this with the respect Arabs pay him for being their ancestor: for Turcs he isn’t. This is about the holy introduction of one God, one book, one truth to mankind, about saving mankind from a loveless, ignorant and barbaric empty life.
A popular story they love here is about Abraham destroying a bunch of statues that symbolized idol gods. When people find out about the statues, they soon know where to search: this must be the work of that rebellious Abraham! They go and find him and bring him to the statues: ‘look what you’ve done’, they shout at him. But Abraham denies it: ‘I did not do that, that guy did’, pointing at one of the statues that is undamaged. The people protest, ‘what a fool you are, how could that statue do something, it can do nothing at all’, they snare at Abraham. Abraham shrugs his shoulders, because that is exactly what he had been telling them for a while already. ‘Well, if it can’t do anything, why do you worship it?’ Thus he made his point and introduced monotheism step by step, until it was there to stay. 

You may also like the blogs about Harran, a city where Abraham and his family spent quite some time: Harran: nothing to see?! and Harran: nonsense with traces of the real past

A kastel is not a castle in Gaziantep


A kastel is not a castle in Gaziantep but a water distribution centre that has also sanitary and religious functions. Under the surface of Gaziantep there are large streams of water. ‘Nobody knows where they come from or where they go but we have always used them’, my guide said. He showed interesting parts of the extensive underground channel system. And we went into the oldest kastel, Pisirici Mescidi ve Kasteli from the 13th century. It looked very beautiful, well taken care of. In the different ‘niches’ you see on the picture above are toilets and baths where people could wash themselves. The water is very clean and also cold; it is not like a Roman bath where heating systems were in place. The roof was made so that good airconditioning for the kastel was secured, both in cold and in warm seasons, to have some kind of pleasant ‘average’ temperature continuously.
On the other side of the water reservoir room, there is a mescid, a room for prayer. They were often combined with the underground water reservoirs because it enabled believers to have their rituals in washing according to the islamic rules. Book shelves formed a small library in the mescid. Thus multifunctional centers existed already at very early stages in Gaziantep. Kastels are not very large and they won’t take a lot of your time when you visit them. But they are worth your visit as they are unique and refined in shape and light.

An interesting and large description of the kastel systems and six specific kastels in Gaziantep can be found here: https://whc.unesco.org/fr/listesindicatives/6345/ and for Turkish readers: http://www.gaziantepturizm.gov.tr/TR-52360/kasteller-ve-cesmeler.html

Other blogs about Gaziantep places to visit:
Zeugma museum
War museum Gaziantep

Minorities in Gaziantep

minorities gaziantep
Minorities in Gaziantep: there is a painful past that remains untold. Armenians and Jews lived in this city, called Aintep or Ayintep in the old days, for over a thousand years. Going to Gaziantep castle / kalesi, the signs that tell you about the history of 1919-1923 narrate about the coalition between the French and the Armenians, thus reducing Armenians to the status of traitors of their city and their country. It is a convincing, consistent story for visitors who never heard about the period before. As the death of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in 1914-1916 is even formally recognized by the Turkish government, a museum fails when it presents facts in this way.

Minorities in Gaziantep: heritage
Few signs indicate that Gaziantep once had thriving minority communities who largely contributed to the wealth of the city in trade, science and arts. The former synagogue has been restaured and is now a cultural center for the university. The former Kenderli church has also been transformed into a culturel center. The former Armenian Catholic Surp Asdvazdadzin church is now a mosque called the Liberation Mosque (Kurtulus Camii). In the center close to the castle there is a neighbourhood called Bey where the minorities used to live. It is full of cafes and hotels and also home to quite some Syrian refugees. The investment in restauration is strikingly less here than in other parts of the city. What is rebuilt, is the great Ottoman past. There is an inclination to wipe out a part of history that is more difficult to explain.

Minorities in Gaziantep: local truths 
I asked around to see what locals would answer me. Where are the Armenians and the Jews? Where did they go and why? These are sensitive subjects but locals were not unwilling to shed some light on them. For the Armenians, I met with two kind of responses. Mostly and at first sight locals told me that Armenians cooperated with the French and that they left with them, in 1923. But other views were also given, and what surprised me is that they were given by very nationalist locals. ‘They got rid of them, yani…’ (and then a waiving hand symbolizing their disappearance). ‘You know there was freedom of religion in the Ottoman empire and we were living side by side. That was better’. ‘I do not respect the heroes shown at the castle (see my blog about that), you know what these people did, they used the situation to steal from the Armenians and enrich themselves. They have become wealthy by killing and looting. I would never go to the exposition in the castle, these people are not good’. This kind of responses by ordinary locals show me that on a deeper level, there is awareness of how the Gaziantep society deals with minorities and the historic narrative, even when you do not hear it in the daily narrative.
As for the Jews, it is difficult to get an answer from locals. ‘But the Jews, where did they go? They were not involved in the fight with the French. I saw the synagogue, they were here. So…?’ All but one I got there was a kind of blank look; locals staring at me with a look I can not interprete. Don’t they know? Do they think I am naive? Is there some embarrasment they do not want to speak about? On the subject of the Jews, they stayed silent. All but one. ‘I will tell you what happened to the Jews, and to the last Armenians that were here in Gaziantep. In the ’70s crosses were put on their houses to indicate that Jews and Armenians lived there. So they left, not all of them abroad, also to Ankara, to Istanbul. They didn’t stay here because they were threatened. People won’t tell you that but this is what happened’…. (another wave of the hand, to show how despicable the actions in the ’70s have been).

The new Syrian minority 
Syrians form now a 20% minority in Gaziantep. Their migration has come up in just a few years time. They are called ‘brothers’ and that is not only because of the status of neighbours; they are muslims like the people of Gaziantep are. I can not prove it but walking and talking around I had a stronge sense that that matters more than ethnicity. Also, Syrians are seen as guests and their venue is expected to be temporarily, although maybe for ten or fifteen years. Future will tell how that develops.
Another thing that I can not prove, there is a new, cosmopolitan spirit in Gaziantep that would like to go back to Ottoman times where respect is shown for minorities, also religious minorities. Although there is hardly any Armenian and Jew left in town, this is always a sign of hope. We can not change the past but we might influence the future.

Links
A very interesting blog about the Liberation Mosque, (Kurtulus Camii) and the Armenians in Gaziantep’s history: a beautiful mosque …

About the restauration of the Kenderli church:
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/century-old-church-now-a-culture-center-45562

Short info about the synagogue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaziantep_Synagogue

Other blogs you might like
Istanbul and souvenirs with a religious component
Maronites in Northern Cyprus

Travelling in Gaziantep

Travelling in Gaziantep is very nice. Here are some observations about life in Gaziantep and some tips to enjoy yourself.

Craftmanship
Craftmanship is of great value for Gaziantep. You can find high quality for food and drinks as well as for products. Gaziantep’s copper market for example is famous and more than just a tourist attraction with loads of stuff you don’t need. Beautiful shops for herbs, nuts, coffee and tea like the one on the picture above from Emir Musa that is close to the Millet Hani, on the opposite side at the end of Gümrük Sokagi (Street). In front of Emir Musa’s shop, you find Ramazan’s Sahlep Car. Sahlep is a milk drink on the basis of an orchid root. It is very healthy and helps you through winter times (in summer he must be selling some other drink). Ramazan serves his sahlep with cinnamon and pistaccio and it is the best sahlep I ever drank in Turkey.


A clean and accessible city

While walking or travelling through Gaziantep, you will find a city that is clean and well taken care off, with good public transport. The city is old (= oneven in surface) but on several places there are efforts to make it accessible also for people with a handicap. The Zeugma Museum houses an organisation for young people with a handicap. There are visible efforts for all to participate (except minorities from other religions, see a later post). Works are ongoing everywhere. Gaziantep is the 6th city of Turkey and the 3rd in wealth. The government invests actively in the development of the city: building and restauration, tourist attractions, parcs, trade, transport. As for restauration, especially remains of the Osman period get government attention as well as anything related to the War of Independance or remains from pre-islamic, ancient times. In an old Osman neighbourhood I had a guide who showed me around for a few hours and refused to accept any money as the government paid him for his job. This guide was well educated, he knew everything about his part of the city, also historical. His expertise, enthusiasm and honesty were impressive.

Walking and sports
Sports get some attention in Gaziantep. In general, people walk a lot in Gaziantep, much more than in other Turkish cities. They don’t seem to care and unlike other Turkish cities, nobody asks you `why you walk`. Most people in the streets look slim and fit. Last Sunday, there was an organised  ‘Freedom Run’ through the city: 10 kilometers for professionals, 5 kilometers for amateurs. Loads of people participated, including children. To be honest, in the way it was organised it looked a bit chaotic – on certain crosspoints many took different directions – but it was a real sportive challenge and fun in the meantime. A great event that got the right attention.

Women`s wear
Something else, in the streets I saw no women wearing a skirt or dress, apart from the long, covert dresses that veiled women wear. I wonder whether that was because the city is overall rather conservative or just because women were cold as it was winter when I visited. I also noticed skinny jeans are the general fashion for those who do not cover up completely. I`d like to know from someone who visited the city summertime, if `not showing legs` is usual or seasonal and how that relates to skinny jeans. Feel free to comment.

Tourism and (security) problems
Last but not least, there are only few visitors from abroad in Gaziantep, all tourists are Turkish. I myself got several warnings beforehand not to go to Gaziantep that would be dangerous because of the Syrian border nearby and because of the political situation between Turkey versus the Netherlands and Germany: the Turks might arrest me. Except from normal security matters there are no specific dangers in Gaziantep, on the contrary: the great hospitality in Gaziantep means that all want to help you for whatever you need. There has not been one single prejudice about me being Dutch and the political blabla. I do not consider Gaziantep more or less dangerous than Istanbul, Izmir, Paris or Rome. Don’t let nervous comments prevent you from visiting Gaziantep!
The city is big, two million inhabitants, but has the character of a provincial city. That means that many people only speak Turkish and their knowledge comes from Turkish speaking media which is, compared to international cities, limited. The struggle for daily life is predominant, global issues such as sustainability are rather unknown. Refusing a plastic bag in a shop ‘because you already have a bag’, to save the environment, is not understood, it is not within their frame of reference. Shop keepers will feel that you do not let them take good care of you and get disappointed. This is a gap you might not bridge during a simple visit. I just took the plastic bags and stayed friends with the locals. As for the language, try to learn a few words, it will be highly appreciated. Be aware when you try to explain something, that people with no experience in second language learning usually do not understand your problems such as `looking for words’. If they don’t help you in expressing yourself, that is the reason. Use objects to show what you want and see the humour of the struggle. Gaziantep locals have a great sense of humour and creativity. As long as respect is shown, all problems will be solved.

More tips for travelling in Gaziantep
For tips concerning Gaziantep museums and other touristic destinations:
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2017/12/22/archaeological-museum-gaziantep/
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2017/12/21/zoo-gaziantep/
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2017/12/20/money-museum-gaziantep/
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2017/12/18/war-museum-gaziantep/
and other blogs on this site. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Archaeological Museum Gaziantep: ‘just’ local stuff


The Archaeological Museum Gaziantep has a large and most interesting collection, starting with fossiles and ending with islamic artefacts from the Osmanli period. The start of the museum shows all the periods of Gaziantep history and their timelines; with the last period, the Turkish Republic, as the greatest. The Archaeological Museum Gaziantep is well designed and well organized. The objects are presented beautifully and all signs are in Turkish and English.
The collection is overwhelming in variety and quality. If you go to a Western Archaeological Museum, most of the collection derives – legally or illegally – from other countries. Not here…. Gaziantep is one of those places where civilization started at a very early age. The collection derives not even from ‘Turkey’ as a whole but from the region. Locals told me that they grew up with archeological artefacts; just by playing outside, they would regularly find old stuff. It is everywhere. So nobody will tell you about the beauty of the museum: locals consider this richness as a normal status!
You can easily spend two hours at the museum. If you can only endure one hour at most (like many people do), chose your period in advance and go to the part of the museum where that can be found.

Choice of masterpieces
I give you here some pieces that I found very interesting – remember that it is a choice out of thousands of artefacts so go and see for yourself what you like.

Neolithic prehistory: it is always nice to find a lively scene at the entry of a museum. Many evidence of early settlers (10.000 – 5.500BC) were found in the Gaziantep region.

 

A grave that dates from the Iron Age, with gifts that indicate a belief in life after death. The necropolis at the Euphrates in Nizip showed that graves were reused multiple times throughout the years. ‘Old’ bones and their ornaments were just pushed aside to make room for the newcomer.

 

 

Kuttamuwa Stele, used in a temple where sacrifices were brought for the death. There is a video in the museum that revives the temple and the ceremonies, very nice!

 


Steles from the Hittites. Depicted is Teshup, the God of the Mountain, of Trade etc. Wonderful pieces!

 

 


Banquet Staged Stele, also Hittite period: if you see this 2800 year old picture, you can imagine that you would have a nice night out dining with a Hittite friend. There is no time-gap in pleasure…

 

 

Karkemish is on the border with Syria; half of the ancient city (antik kent) lies in Syria (Jarablus). I wanted to visit this but it is still closed due to the situation in Syria. Still there are active excavations and the Turkish government is preparing to reopen Karkemish as soon as possible.

 

The pieces are absolutely unique. For several objects, there are texts on the back side in hieroglyphs or cuneiform (both were used) and they are translated in Turkish and English on signs: extremely interesting.

 


Red polished ceramics of the Urartu; perfection of craftmanship and the ability to organize trade for it 2800 years ago. Design used not just by royals, also by ordinary folks. Just wow.

 


Urartu bracelets, have a look: the same type of bracelets can even be sold today. They have designed jewelry that passed through the ages…

 


Roman bracelets, made out of glass. They are so beautiful! I’d love to see those reproduced in the actual days (maybe an idea for the Murano factories in Italy?).

 

Notice: I skipped fossiles, beautiful iron objects, dramatic Urartu weapens, Persian statues, Commagene objects, golden jewelry… it is just too much to show here. So: go there and see for yourself.

How to get there?
Be aware that there are 3 museums in Gaziantep about antiquities. This is information that is hard to find on internet and locals generally do not know the exact details.
* Medusa Glass museum with glass and many ancient artefacts, this is a private museum next to the Castle/Kale in the center.
* Zeugma Museum for mosaics, seen from the center it lies on ‘the other/outer side’ of the former train station, a 2-3 kilometers walk from the Castle/Kale.
* Archaeological Museum, next to the Stadion (locals know the Stadion best so ask for that location). Organisationally Zeugma and Archaeological Museum belong together, in distance there is about 1,5 kilometer between them, both on another side of the former train station. Archaelogical Museum Gaziantep is about 1-1,5 kilometer walk from the Castle/Kale.

Museum shop
Both the Archaeological and Zeugma Museum have a beautiful museum shop with original products, prints of museum artefacts on magnets, booklets, cushions etc, handwoven high quality shawls or handmade bags and so on. The books they have about archaeology, economy, trade and local life are most interesting but alas only in Turkish. The cooking book of the Gaziantep kitchen would deserve a translation in the first place as this excellent kitchen is attractive for many nationalities, not just Turks. Note that the shop in the Archaeological Museum Gaziantep is at the entrance but they lead you out through the cafe, so for the shop you have to walk back to the entrance to find it; in Zeugma museum shop and cafe are combined at the exit (and they have good coffee 🙂

More info also at: http://www.gaziantepkulturturizm.gov.tr/EN-200731/gaziantep-museum-of-archaelogy.html

You may also like this blog: Archaeological Museum Haarlem

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

More money than ever in Money Museum Gaziantep

In Money Museum Gaziantep (Devr-i Alem Para Müzesi) you will see money everywhere. It is a private museum, very different from other money museums I visited (f.ex. my blog about Nicosia, Tunis) because it is not about showing a particular collection. It is – really, I do not exagerate – about showing money in quantities.
 
There is money hanging on trees. There is money in bottles along the wallsides, hanging on the ceiling, standing on a table that is almost overloaded.  
On the table alone there is 4000 kilo (!) of coins. There is a box with money that has never been used because it was not legally acquired and the ‘owners’ found no way for the necessary money laundering. There is very old money, from ancient times, and new money that could be used today but it is just there, apparently useless but not completely useless as many visitors admire the place every day and see that there are different ways to deal with money. TV-reporters from different countries have discovered the museum already; the day before I visited the museum, an Iraqi TV-channel was there.
The Money Museum Gaziantep is run by a local guy who worked in the Netherlands during many years and founded this museum on his return. Make sure that you speak to him because he is very much part of the charm of the museum. And most probably days after you visited the museum you still think about all the money you saw and why a place like this exists in the world – and how it is run and secured….

A short video impression about the Money Museum Gaziantep:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZIgkpAwCj

Other interesting sites to visit in Gaziantep:
A kastel is not a castle
Zoo Gaziantep: lions, camels, cows
Gaziantep castle: panorama and nationalism

Another blog you may like:
Self Help Africa

War museum Gaziantep


Everybody in Gaziantep told me to go to the War Museum (Savas müzesi). ‘I went already to the castle‘, was my answer – the description of the independance war there is detailed and could not be improved (see my blog about that visit here). ‘But the War Museum is different’, they claimed. I did not go but in the end I happened to drink a tea with a guy who appeared to be a guard and he did not even ask me whether I wanted to go. ‘I have to show you’. And there we went. Well it was a happy surprise.
The War Museum Gaziantep situates mainly in the underground caves that were used by the Turkish resistance during the Independance War. You can experience there what life looked like for them. They made everything themselves, food, olive oil, soap, even rifles. The guy who made the rifles is shown in the picture on top and here on the sign.

Other ‘puppets’ make clear how women and even children were filling the bullets.
The story of the sewer canals is also interesting: they were used to move underground through the city without the enemy noticing anything. Knowing one’s own field has always been a decisive element in man-to-man battles. A few (entrances to the) canals can be seen on the spot. The wounds and the suffering of the heroes have been made quite explicit in several puppets. The picture here shows the underground hospital and you can see the blood run.
Most of all however, I liked the rattles. When the French started to shoot and the Turks didn’t have enough ammunition, they would play the rattles to imitate gunfire. I got a demonstration from my guard, it was brilliant – you’d really think that a well equiped army is responding to your gunfire…
Those who said `the War Museum is different` were right, it is different and it is adding some important information to what the Gaziantep castle presents. Daily life in the caves is absolutely interesting to see. And the result is also that I will never forget how brave (`Gazi`) the inhabitants of Antep are, and will be in any war in the future. The lesson is transmitted thoroughly both to visitors and to the population.

“Every Turkish city, every town and the smallest Turkish village can accept the people of  Gaziantep as examples of heroism”

Another blog about this subject: http://turkishtravelblog.com/gaziantep-war-museum/

Other interesting places to visit in Gaziantep:
Medusa Glass museum
Money museum Gaziantep
Zoo Gaziantep

 

Gaziantep castle: panorama and nationalism


Gaziantep castle (Gaziantep kalesi, also called: the panorama museum) goes a long way back: most probably the Romans already had a first fortress on this rock, followed by the Byzantines, Arab rulers, Selcuk and Mongol rulers and whoever passed by in this region: the list of different rulers is long. Going to Gaziantep castle means having a perfect panorama over the city. It is nice and well enough restaured for a good impression what the castle was like in the old days.
Moreover this castle is used as the expression of Antep’s heroism. The people of Antep played a crucial role in the War of Indepences in 1920-1921 and were honoured by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk with the title ‘Gazi’: great, heroic. The war of indepence came after that the Osman emperor and its calliphate were defeated; Turkey was attacked from all sides, by the English, the French, the Armenians, the Greek, the Russians: they all wanted their share of the remains of Turkish territory. Under the leadership of Atatürk a war of independence started and they won. This is seen as the ultimate survival of Turkey – without this war, Turkey would no longer exist and Turks would not have a land of their own. Five or six thousand inhabitants of Antep lost their lives in that war but their role was decisive. The Gaziantep castle shows this history and the pride, the nationalism of this town. Lots of kids are visiting the castle to learn about the war but also many Turks from Gaziantep and elsewhere show indepth interest in the exposition.
All the written texts are in Turkish and English, the film is only in Turkish. If you want to understand the politics and national feelings of Turks in the past and the present, this is a must-go. gaziantep castle exposition
A disadvantage is that they feel the need to copy the fights. During the whole exposition, you will hear the sounds of guns and artillery; it can make you nervous and I do not see the purpose it serves. But apart from that, I’d recommend a visit. It is another, however non-critical example of how people interprete and write their history (see my blog about the Stockholm Museum), in relation to the actual context.
More on this subject: the War Museum (Savas Müzesi) in Gaziantep

Other short info about the castle: https://www.alaturkaturkey.com/destinations/gaziantep-castle.html

A blog about another nearby interesting site to visit:
A kastel is not a castle in Gaziantep

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