Turkey’s Hatay eager for visitors after UNESCO gastronomy prize
Restaurateurs and cafe owners in one of Turkey’s ancient cities, Hatay, are hoping the recent UNESCO award as the “City of Gastronomy,” will offer a cash boost to the local economy.
The southeastern province of Hatay was among a handful of cities across the world recognized last week for its exceptional cuisine.
The region, bordered by the Mediterranean and Syria, is famous for its distinct food, which reflects the province’s mixed Turkish and Arab history.
Sabahattin Nacioğlu, head of the Hatay Tourism Association, said Hatay’s cuisine includes around 600 dishes that can be distinguished as originating from the region.
“We need to represent this title in the best way,” Nacioğlu told Anadolu Agency. “All of Hatay’s traders have a lot to do,” he said.
The city of Hatay, also known as Antakya, has been a tourist and pilgrimage destination for centuries. Founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals as Antioch, the city was one of the centers of early Christianity.
However, in recent years its proximity to the Syrian civil war has dissuaded many visitors.
“From now on, gastronomy tourism will also be at the forefront along with culture and faith tourism,” Nacioğlu said.
Mustafa Sertbaş, a pastry chef who specializes in making the cheesy dessert Künefe, was equally enthusiastic about Hatay being among the list of eight cities marked for their cuisine.
“We already knew Hatay was a city of gastronomy but from now on, the whole world will know it. This has been our pride,” he said.
“I hope we will host many more visitors, thanks to the flavors we are cooking. This will make a great contribution in the city,” added Yusuf Eser, a cafe manager.
Bahir Muratoğlu, a chef skilled in making regional delicacies, such as flatbread with spicy red pepper, also predicted a boost in visitor numbers.
“This title will be heard across the world and many foreign visitors will come to our city. We will welcome them with pleasure,” Muratoğlu said.
Among the 64 cities designated as Creative Cities by UNESCO last week were Istanbul, which was named the City of Design and Kütahya, which was awarded the City of Crafts and Folk Art.
The Creative Cities Network was established in 2004 to increase cooperation among cities. It covers crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, music and media arts.