Iranians flock to Turkey’s Van for shopping, nightlife
Zeynep Bilgehan – VANIranians celebrating the Nevruz holiday, which started mid-March and will last until the beginning of April, have flocked to the eastern province of Van for its nightlife and shopping.
There are no available rooms left in the province and several hotels have turned their meeting halls into rooms to be able to meet the demand of Iranian tourists.
The streets, shopping malls and restaurants are full, and shopkeepers are content from the interest shown to Van.
There are signs in Persian that say “Sale” outside shops in one of Van’s most popular venue, the Cumhuriyet Street, as crowds carrying large pockets are a common sight. Shopkeepers greet customers with smiling faces.
All the hotels in the province, of which two are five-starred, are completely full. The general manager of one of the hotels said they are surprised by the interest.
“There has been a decrease in demand in the last four seasons. We’re now surprised. We didn’t expect such a high interest. There are some people who agree to stay as eight people in rooms of four,” Merit Şahmaran Hotel’s general manager, İpek Turul, told daily Hürriyet on March 23.
A significant portion of the Iranians spend the daytime going shopping. The attention shown to Turkish textile brands in Van’s only shopping mall, which opened in 2015, is very high.
“We have three celebrations in Van; the Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Nevruz. We’ve been making preparations for this week for a very long time. We are among the top 10 branches in Turkey that is making the most sales this week,” a shopkeeper said.
Iranians tend to shop more in cash and find the prices in Van cheaper than the ones back home.
“This place is cheaper than Iran. In addition, there are a lot of brands,” Iranian tourist Bahar Youssufzade, who looked exhausted from carrying shopping bags, told daily Hürriyet, adding that she and her husband came to the province for shopping.
Another tourist, a musician from Urmia, said they visited Van to perform.
“Van is close and we see it as one of our own cities. Some 80 percent of the people around are Iranians. Previously, we were afraid to visit Van because of the incidents. Then we saw that it can happen in any country. That’s why we are more relaxed now,” musician Heyri said, referring to the recent attacks in Turkey staged by either the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
When nighttime approaches, cars with Iranian license plates fill the streets of Van and the crowds never break up. There are events organized only for Iranians in nightclubs, which have become popular spots in the province in recent years, and where leaflets in Persian are being distributed by nightclub staff.
Iranian singers and DJs take the stage in a number of nightclubs, as tourists prefer to spend time with each other.
The vivacious nightlife is among the reasons why Iranians prefer Van. Mena Muderrezzih, an Iranian steward who has been working in Van for the last three years and who has also been working as a guide for Iranians, said she loves Turkey a lot.
“Van is really close to Iran. There is no music in Iran. Here, nightlife is unconstrained and Iranians are relaxed,” Muderrezzih said, as she waited in front of a nightclub in the early hours of the day.
The dance floor is almost never empty, as an Iranian DJ plays songs in Turkish and Persian. Families enjoying the night can also be seen. The manager of the nightclub, Nedim Sönmez, said they also wanted to make families spend a relaxed time.
A tourism plan lies under Van’s success in attracting Iranians, and the organizer of the plan is the Van Industry and Trade Chamber (VATSO).
“We determined the basic needs of Iranians; shopping and having fun in a modern city. We launched the Shopping Fest. We hung posters in Iran. The number of five-star hotels rose to two. With cafes, entertainment centers, we have become the center of attraction,” VATSO head Necdet Takva said, adding that Persian courses were being given to employees in the province.