Göbeklitepe to revive tourism in southeastern Turkey
Lying on thousands of years of history in Mesopotamia, Turkey’s bewildering, yet beautiful, southeast is finally set to experience its golden year in tourism in 2019 as it will mark the “Year of Göbeklitepe,” the site of the world’s earliest temple in the Şanlıurfa province.
For decades, Turkey’s restive southeast has lived through despair and turmoil, with clashes between the Turkish state and the illegal PKK claiming more than 40,000 lives. But Ankara says it has finally brought tranquility to the region, unleashing a tourism campaign to bring tourists in droves. The “Year of Göbeklitepe” seems to be the beginning of more tourism campaigns.
Besides the usual faith and cultural tourist hotspots, the region’s other monumental sites drew a flood of visitors last year.
With the Year of Göbeklitepe kicking off, tour companies have prepared full-fledged tours with various events planned.
Tourists are expected to visit the nearby picturesque province of Mardin and the culinary heaven of Gaziantep to experience a full golden year in a region that has never seen such levels of tourism.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, the head of the Regional Tourist Guides Chamber, Müslüm Çoban, said that last year there was a busy tourism activity in the region and “2019 will be even more active.”
“Last year we were very busy in the sector. This year, we expect more activity. At the moment, it is difficult to find a place in hotels for April and May. The announcement of 2019 as the ‘Year of Göbeklitepe’ is a happy and promising development for both Şanlıurfa and our region. We should not miss this historic opportunity. The tourist boom will surely happen, but we must consider it. Along with Şanlıurfa, Göbeklitepe will contribute to many of our cities including Diyarbakır, Mardin and Gaziantep,” Çoban said.
Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin said they were fully supportive of the regional development.
“We have the ancient city of Dülük, which is as old as Göbeklitepe. There are five ancient cities in Gaziantep. The city was included in the Year of Göbeklitepe. This is very important because in order to meet the needs of the region, Gaziantep has to be within this tourism project. Now the visitors of Göbeklitepe also visit Gaziantep,” she added.
An official from the Turkish Travel Agencies Union (TÜRSAB), Soner Bacaksız, said the tourism season continued in the region until the end of November, adding, “Especially in spring and autumn, occupancy rates of hotels in the region will increase. We can see it now from the reservations made. Occupancy rates in hotels in Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa have reached 80-90 percent. We think this will be better in the coming period.”
Adıyaman Provincial Culture and Tourism director Mustafa Ekinci said that the southeastern Anatolian region began drawing tourists from within Turkey and the world in recent years, adding: “The more destinations you can offer, the more tourists you can draw. This is why Göbeklitepe is an advantage not only in Şanlıurfa but also the whole region. In this sense, we continue our preparations in the city.”
Southeast ready to offer unique holiday
In Şanlıurfa, the birthplace of the prophet Ibrahim, the pool of sacred fish Balıklıgöl draws immense interest. Those who would like to spend the night in the city center can participate in the traditional “sıra nights,” where local music and local delicacies are served. The Şanlıurfa Museum Complex and Göbeklitepe excavation area are among places to be seen. Halfeti, Bozova and Birecik districts and the historical Harran district attract visitors for their natural beauties.
Diyarbakır, which hosted dozens of civilizations in history, provides a different atmosphere to visitors with its historical and cultural assets. They visit the city walls, Hevsel Gardens, İçkale Museum Complex, the Ulu Mosque, and tombs.
Mardin, dubbed the “city of coexistence,” stands out as one of the places where local and foreign tourists are interested in for its historical stone houses.
Located in the intersection of Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean region, Gaziantep is also one of the most important tourism destinations with its historical and cultural beauties. The city is in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in the gastronomy category.