Turkey 'aims to draw 50 million visitors yearly with help of faith tourism'
Umut Erdem - ANKARA
Tourists explore the St. Nicholas Church in Turkey's southern province of Antalya. It is notable for being the burial place of St. Nicholas of Myra, a 4th-century Christian bishop of the ancient city of Myra, an important religious figure for Eastern Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics and the historical inspiration for Santa Claus. The Church is on UNESCO's tentative list to become a World Heritage Site. (Demirören News Agency)
Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry will carry out promotion works to boost faith tourism starting next year, aiming to increase the number of tourists coming to the country from 45 million to 50 million, it has said.
The works will include 15 religious monuments which have served for the believers of the three monotheistic religions, with chances of the Hagia Sophia Museum and the St. Nicholas Church also being added to the works.
The Hagia Sophia is a significant destination for religious tourists, which has served for the faithful of both Islam and Christianity. It is renowned internationally for being one of the most important Byzantine structures and the world’s greatest monuments.
uilt in Istanbul, then Constantinople, in 6th century under the order of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453. In the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the 20th century, it was converted to a museum. The Hagia Sophia is also an important place in the arts world with its architecture, grandness, size and functions.
By the same token, the St. Nicholas Church in the Mediterranean province of Antalya — the hometown of Santa Claus — is another destination for visitors looking for a religious experience. The church used to be home to the grave of Saint Nicholas, known throughout the world as Santa Claus.
Other centers set to be included are Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque in Istanbul, the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, Cappadocia in the Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, Ephesus in the Aegean province of İzmir, the Saint Pierre Church in the southern border province of Hatay, the Hagia Irene in Istanbul, Selimiye Mosque in the northwestern province of Edirne, the House of Virgin Mary in İzmir, Mevlana Museum in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, the Deyrulzafaran Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin, Sümela Monastery in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, and the Divriği Mosque and Şifaiye Madrasah in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas.
A committee including representatives from the foreign, interior and culture ministries and other public institutions was founded. The committee spotted nine important locations for Christianity. They include the Church of Santa Claus in Antalya’s Demre, the Saint Pierre Church in Hatay’s Antakya, the House of Virgin Mary in İzmir, the Saint Nicola Church in İznik, Hagia Sophia Museum, Sardis Synagogue in Manisa, Laodikia ancient city in Pamukkale, the Derinkuyu Orthodox Church in Nevşehir, Saint Jean Church in the Aegean district of Alaşehir, and the Pisidia ancient city in the Central Anatolian province of Isparta.