Gaziantep

Gaziantep, Turkey
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The largest city in southeast Turkey has a rich heritage dating back to the Stone Age. Yet apart from its fortress, floodlit at night upon a man-made hill, this heritage is giving way to a veneer of modernity. Today, Gaziantep competes with its neighbors for pre-eminence in trade and industry. At night, locals flock to Centenary Park, complete with water gardens, bike tracks, shopping, and a cinema. Beyond the city, a fertile plain of pistachios, olive trees, and vineyards extends in all directions. Gaziantep is a crossroads town for travelers heading west to the Mediterranean coast, south to Antakya and Syria, or east to Van. The Turkish Grand National Assembly granted the town its epithet Gazi (war hero/veteran) in 1921 for its resistance to foreign occupation during the War of Independence.

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TRANSPORTATION        

  • Flights: THY ( 230 15 65) offers service to over 60 cities worldwide, including Athens, Cairo, London, Miami, Moscow, New York, and Paris.
  • Buses: The otogar is a palatial structure 3km north of town. Regular minibuses ($.40) run from İstasyon Cad. at the waterway. Hidayet Turizm (328 96 96) is one of many companies with offices here. To: Adana (3hr., 5 per day, $5); Ankara (10hr., 5 per day 7:30am-midnight, $14.50); Antakya (3/2hr., 9 per day, $5); Antalya (14hr.,10 per day, $16); Diyarbakır (11hr., 8_perday, $7); Erzurum (6hr., 4 per day, $15); İstanbul (16hr., 6:30am-9pm, $17); İzmir (16hr., 2 per day 4-7pm, $17); Kahramanmaraş (1hr, plenty, $2.50); Kars (19hr., $18); Kayseri (8hr., $10); Sivas (18hr., 5, 8pm; $11); Trabzon (18hr., 6 per day, $18); Van (10hr, 9pm, midnight; $14).
  • Trains: There are 3 rail routes out of Gaziantep. The service to the west runs to tiny Narli to meet the Adana-Elazig Express to Adana, Konya, and İstanbul. One train leaves daily for Narli to meet the Diyarbakır Express, via Malatya and Elazig. Another runs east along the Syrian border to a dead end at Nusaybin, 50km beyond Mardin. The station (323 30 15) lies conveniently enough at the northern end of İstasyon Cad.Gaziantep has a disorderly street plan, centered upon its Antep Kalesi fortress and divided by a park-lined waterway, Allenben Deresi. İstasyon Cad. crosses the waterway before intersecting with Atatürk Bul. to the right and Eski Saray Cad. to the left at the town’s commercial center.
  • Tourist Office: A large Information office (230 99 60) in 100 Year Park. Uzguy Çinkay speaks English. Regional info, maps, brochures. Open M-F 8am-noon, 1:30-5:00pm. Banks: All major banks have ATMs and line Atatürk and Eski Saray Cad. Open 9am- noon, 1:30-4pm.
  • Hamam: 2 of the city’s better hamams are in the shadows of the fortress. Nalp and Paşa both admit women by day, before switching to male only clientele after dusk.
  • Police: (230 18 30). The headquarters are across the Parki on Aksöy Bul. and 4 Cad. Hospital: Devlet Hastanesi (public, »220 93 37). Sani KonukoğluTip Merkezi (220 95 00) provides care at international standards. Most convenient is the private clinic Özel Hayat Hastenesl (230 60 60) at 17 İstasyon Cad. $10 per patient. 24hr. Internet Access: The Eksen Internet Cafe, 14 Atatürk Bul.,  (231 41 48), 100m from İstasyon Cad. $.75 per hr. Open 8am-midnight.
  • PTT: On İstasyon Cad., just past Atatürk Cad., on the right. Open 24hr.

 ACCOMMODATIONS              

Gaziantep carries the full range of price and quality. Prices are generally negotiable. Bulvar Palas Oteli O, at 11 İstasyon Cad., has simple rooms and an uneven foyer reminiscent of the Addams Family. (231 34 10; singles $7; doubles $10.) For slightly nicer accommodations, the Hotel Büyük Murat , 15 Suburcu Cad. ( 23184 49) and the Hotel Güllüoğlu , 18 Suburcu Cad. (232 43 63) offer nearly equivalent amenities next door to each other just off Eski Savey Cad. Both feature large, clean rooms with full bath. (Singles $10, doubles $15.) The Hotel Katan  (220 69 69), on İstasyon Cad. by the waterway, is a step up, with a terrace restaurant, balcony, and fridge. (Singles $15, doubles $20.)

FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT                            

Wander 500m along Eski Saray Cad. from İstasyon Cad. to Hi Cavusoğlu  ( 231 30 69) or the less pretty Hi Cagdas  (234 40 00), one block off to the left on Uzun Carsi 14. Both offer quality kebaps and baklava for $3 per person. (Both open 9am-llpm.) Tucked off İstasyon Cad., on Sayi Ahmet Sok., is quiet Sadirvan (231 8188). Visitors to the Anthropological Museum can relax at the nearby Fuar Restaurant (323 69 69) and sample alinazik, a combination of local yogurt dip and kebap. Beware the rapidly mounting bill. The uncontested baklava master is Güllüoğlu on Suburcu Cad. 20. (231 22 82. Open 7am-8:30pm.)

Gaziantep’s nightlife includes a good deal of prostitution and pornography; check your sun carefully before ordering a drink. Close to Güllüoğlu is Dedikodu, Gaziantep’s favorite disco, though ravers would prefer Taj Mahal, 3km out of town. Walking from town along the Parki offers outdoor drinking, light dining, and live music, ideal for evenings. After passing the tourist office, look for Birecikliler Yardimlasma (232 88 81), under the bridge, and Pegasus. Just before the mosque is Incilmar Sofrasi (234 26 57), with an attached antique shop. Between the mosque and Fevzi Çakmak Bul. is the youthful Rainbow (338 88 77), run by

Eylem Yilmaz. It has nightly music and traditional potato yufka cooked on a plate in a nearby tent. The best of the west can be found in the space-age Beğendik arcade on İstasyon Cad. Its third floor restaurant offers the last profiteroles, lasagna, and donuts before travelers dive into the Anatolian heartland. At the intersection of İstasyon Cad. and Atatürk Cad., a large cinema/bowling alley plays first-run, Hollywood films on six screens (220 76 58, $2).

 SIGHTS              

Day visitors should target Gaziantep’s Archeological Museum (a23111 71), just beyond the stadium on İstasyon Cad., and if possible, the Ethnographic Museum (‘3-230 47 21), on Hamfıoğlu Cad. in the Bey district. (Both are open Tu-Su 8am-noon, 1-5pm.) Duluk village, one of Anatolia’s earliest habitations lies 10km north. It contains an archaeological site with Hittite and Roman influences, blended in underground stone churches and mausoleums. Take a minibus from İstasyon Cad. ($1.00) and sit in the village çay house until a bus returns. Taxis cost $7 but may not wait for you to explore the site.

Three key sites lie outside Gaziantep. Belkis (Zeugma) is just off the Şanlıurfa road, 10km from Nizip village. Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine influences are combined in a series of villa remnants, many of which will flood with the construction of the Birecik Dam. Check with locals to establish what remains visible after water levels stabilize. Yesemet is a field of Hittite statues, progressively excavated over the last 100 years. It is a two-hour detour from the town of Ishlahiye, accesible by taxi. Rum Kale, 25km from Yazuveli and 62km from Gaziantep, requires an additional day to visit. This late-Hittite castle is said to have held St. John’s biblical manuscripts. Rising water levels from a nearby dam are likely to flood the approaches to Rum Kale, so inquire at tourist information first.

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