A fiery debate has been sparked in Turkey over the alleged use of the ancient city of Ephesus in the Aegean province of İzmir for wedding and circumcision ceremonies and other events, with the Culture and Tourism Ministry stressing that only cultural and touristic ceremonies are allowed at the site.
Images of decorated tables and chairs in front of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had drawn ire from the public, with some reports claiming that the site had been used for wedding and circumcision ceremonies.
Culture Minister Nabi Avcı on June 28 refuted reports that wedding and circumcision ceremonies have been held in the ancient city of Ephesus. However, he also said Ephesus was hosting a number of cultural and touristic events other than such ceremonies.
“There are no circumcisions, weddings or engagement ceremonies held at the site. However, there may occasionally be concerts where public institutions and tourism companies - especially cruise visitors - are hosted in compliance with our regulations and under the supervision of the authorities,” Avcı told reporters after an event at Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace
on June 28.
“The method in Ephesus is such that it will not damage the fabric of such a historic archaeological site. Can cultural and touristic events be held? Yes, our regulations allow that. But that does not mean weddings, engagements or circumcision ceremonies can be held there,” he added.
He also noted that all events at Ephesus, including concerts, had to get consent from the Culture Ministry.
In a separate statement on June 28, the ministry that images circulated online showed a meal organized for the visitors from a cruise ship, denying that weddings or circumcision ceremonies were held at Ephesus.
“Images in front of the Library of Celsus in the news and on social media show a meal organized for visitors on the Wind Star Cruise ship on June 27 by Sea Song Tours. Its allocation fee had been paid to the related department of the ministry. The ground where tables and chairs were placed is a concrete pavement dating back to restoration works in 1978,” the statement read.
It noted that cultural and touristic events were permitted at the site between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., after the ancient site is closed to visitors.
One of the country’s headline tourist sites as an outstanding example of a Roman port city, Ephesus comprises successive Hellenistic and Roman settlements. Excavations had revealed grand monuments of the Roman imperial period including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theater, as well as the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.”
Ephesus was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List on July 5, 2015.