Anatolian Tigers from Malatya
I have had the chance to visit the three cities that I had wanted to get to know for long years: my mother’s birth place Edirne, Eskişehir and Malatya.
How late I was in getting to know these three cities that have different identities and characteristics.
Edirne, with its city center, mosques, hans (inns), kervansarays (caravanserais) and konaks (villas) that have been preserved miraculously, is like an open air museum of the Ottoman architecture. It is calm and peaceful with its loaded Ottoman past.
Eskişehir, with its 60,000 undergraduate students, is perhaps Turkey’s youngest and most dynamic city. Thanks to its legendary mayor Prof. Dr. Yılmaz Büyükerşen, it has transformed from an industrial city to a city of arts, culture and education.
Malatya, where I was for a long visit last week, is totally different.
With its giant shopping malls, which some have been already and some are yet to be actualized, with its five stared hotel and mosque projects, and its 38 factory investments in the last two years, Malatya is the rising star of the Anatolian Tigers.
If you listen to what the Chairman of the Malatya Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hasan Hüseyin Erkoç has to say, the number of investors who come to Malatya from Kayseri, which is known as the center of the Anatolian Tigers, is rising gradually.
Malatya is known around the world as the “apricot center” because the city supplies 80 percent of the world’s apricot demand.
The apricot export is around 350 million dollars and 60,000 families, thus 250,000 people make a living from apricots.
It is quite impressive to see the mountainous dried apricot piles at the second biggest factory Entegre Gıda Sanayi, which is one of the largest dried apricot export companies, and was built with a 5.8 million dollar investment.
According to İbrahim Güzel, one of the second-generation owners of the company, the export ranges from the U.S. to the Far East, though an important portion of the exports go to Russia.
There is nothing wrong of Malatya being identified with apricots as one third of the province’s area is covered with apricot gardens.
The strongest sector after the dried apricot sector in Malatya is textiles.
The GAP Güneydoğu Tekstil company that belongs to Ahmet Çalık, which we also had the opportunity to visit, rests among the top 10 companies in the denim sector. In Turkey, it is ranked number one in the quantity of the denim exports. We have learned that famous brands like Diesel, Wrangler and Replay are among the customers of the GAP textile factory, which twills exactly 100 km of fabric everyday by producing around the clock.
Vahap Küçük, who created the LC Waikiki brand with the inspiration he took from Hawaii’s Waikiki beach, is also another source of pride for the people from Malatya.
With its 3.5 billion Turkish Liras turnover, LC Waikiki has 45 stores in 15 different countries, apart from the 72 stores it has in Turkey.
Vahap Küçük’s 2023 vision is to become Europe’s third most successful ready-to-wear brand and increase the company’s turnover to 10 billion liras.
Malatya stands out with its entrepreneur and dynamic Anatolian Tigers but the city, which rests mostly in eastern Anatolia and partially in southeastern Anatolia, also holds a treasure like Aslantepe.
Palaces and archives of the first Anatolian state have been found in Aslantepe, where Italian archeologists have been conducting excavations for the past 40 years.
We have seen pictures painted on the walls 3,500 years ago while touring walking around Aslantepe with the Italian archeologist Francesca Balossi.
Most of the findings that were unearthed from Aslantepe are being exhibited at the Malatya Archeology Museum. But the museum as it is today is not in a stance to properly exhibit the findings from such an important archeological site as Aslantepe.
Aslantepe deserves attention as much as dried apricots.