Normalization begins in ancient temple site of Göbeklitepe
For Göbeklitepe, the world’s oldest temple located in modern day Turkey’s southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, a global pandemic is nothing novel, as it has survived throughout history for 12,000 years.
Göbeklitepe, dubbed “zero point of history” with its history spanning millennia, was one of the many ancient sites to shut down as Turkey enforced strict measures to contain the plague of the 21st century. Opened last week due to the country’s normalization phase, it has already welcomed almost 2,000 people.
Visited by many local and foreign tourists every year, Göbeklitepe saw its “golden age” in tourism last year after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared 2019 the “Year of Göbeklitepe.” In the ruins, 412,378 people were hosted in 2019, a record number.
Göbeklitepe had been closed for about three months due to COVID-19, but became the most visited site during this phase within the scope of the virtual museum application launched by the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
During the normalization phase that started on June 1, Göbeklitepe started to host its guests in accordance with the rules of mask-wearing, social distancing and maintaining hygiene. Some 2,000 guests visited the site after a three-month break, which has given hope for the future. Tourism enterprises in the ancient city are happy to be able to serve visitors again.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, the head of Şanlıurfa Regional Tourist Guides Chamber Muslim Çoban said that enterprises took precautions for visitors.
“We, as tourist guides and travel agencies, took our necessary precautions. We are continuing to inform our guides. Now we are waiting for all our visitors who cannot find an opportunity to come to our city during the 2019 Year of Göbeklitepe. Some costs increased during the pandemic process. We came together as tourism officials from Şanlıurfa and everyone took on responsibility in order not to reflect the price increases to the visitors. We expect our citizens who have been resting in their homes for about three months to come and see Şanlıurfa and Göbeklitepe. In 2019, 400,000 people visited Göbeklitepe. Perhaps it is difficult to get with these figures due to this process, but even the Spanish tourists came on the first day of opening.”
Çoban stated that there was a great demand for Göbeklitepe last year but there were visitors who could not come because the hotels were full.
Ömer Faruk Karınca, the general coordinator of a hotel in the city, explained that they had a significant increase in occupancy rate after June 1. “The number of guests increased in the first week. It made us very happy. In the meetings with tourism agencies, we can say that the reservations have already increased significantly because Göbeklitepe was the most visited ancient site during the epidemic process within the scope of the virtual museum application. I think that the number of visitors to Göbeklitepe will increase gradually in 2020 and 2021,” he said.