Turkey’s Hatay eager for visitors after UNESCO prize

Turkey’s Hatay eager for visitors after UNESCO prize

Turkey’s Hatay eager for visitors after UNESCO prize

Restauranteurs and cafe owners of one of Turkey’s most ancient cities hope that winning UNESCO City of Gastronomy status will inject much needed cash into the local economy.

Hatay was among a handful of provinces across the world recognized last week for its exceptional cuisine.

The region, which borders the Mediterranean and Syria, is famed for its distinctive food, which reflects the province’s mixed Turkish and Arab heritage.

Hatay Tourism Association head Sabahattin Nacioğlu said Hatay’s cuisine includes approximately 600 regional dishes.

“We now need to live up to the status as best we can. Hatay’s traders have a lot to do,” Nacioğlu said.

The province of Hatay, also known as Antakya, has been a tourism and pilgrimage destination for centuries. Founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals as Antioch, the city was an early center of Christianity.

However, its proximity in recent years to the Syrian civil war has put off many potential visitors.

“From now on, gastronomy tourism will feautre alongside culture and faith tourism,” Nacioğlu said.

Mustafa Sertbaş, a local pastry chef who specializes in the iconic and highly popular cheesy dessert Künefe, was also enthused by Hatay’s inclusion in the list that marked out seven other cities for their cuisine.

“We already knew that Hatay was a gastronomy province but now the whole world knows it too. It emboldens our pride,” Sertbaş said.

“I hope our tasty cooking draws in many more visitors. It will make a great contribution to the city,” cafe owner Yusuf Eser said.

Bahir Muratoğlu, a chef skilled in making regional delicacies such as flatbread with spicy red pepper, also predicted a boost in visitor numbers.

Istanbul, which was named City of Design, and Kütahya, which was awarded City of Crafts and Folk Art, were also among the 64 cities designated as Creative Cities by UNESCO last week.

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.