Travelling in Gaziantep is very nice. Here are some observations about life in Gaziantep and some tips to enjoy yourself.
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.
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:
and other blogs on this site. Enjoy!