İskenderun

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Formerly known as Alexandretta, İskenderun was founded by Alexander the Great to commemorate his decisive victory over the Persians at Issus. As the principal port city of Antioch, Alexandretta became a powerful and cosmopolitan burg in its own right. Modern-day İskenderun has retained very little of historical interest, but its waterfront promenades and wide boulevards are pleasant to stroll, and its position on the Mediterranean trade routes has protected the diversity of the towns’ Christian, Muslim, and Jewish populations. To the south, some pleasant beaches make İskenderun a popular destination for Turkish and Arab tourists.

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ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION.

İskenderun is a major waystation for all buses connecting Antakya to points north and east. Travelers arrive in the otogar, 1km north of the town center.

Atatürk Cad. runs along the waterfront park, and intersects the town’s two main boulevards, Sehit Pamir Cad. and Ulu Camii Cad., at the Atatürk statue. All travelers’ needs can be met on these three streets. South on Atatürk Cad., the tourist office, 49B Atatürk Cad., has mimeographed maps and brochures. (614 16 20. Open M- Sa 8am-noon, 1-5pm.) Next door, the tourist police (613 61 76) is open 24hr. Banks and pharmacies line Sehit Pamir Cad.; exchange is best at the Türkiye İş Bankası, by the Atatürk statue. The Devlet Hastahnesi (613 35 70) offers 24hr. medical care. Ambulance 122; pharmacy information 118. The PTT is up Sehit Pamir Cad. on the right. Open 8:30am-5:30pm.

ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD.

Hotel Açikalın, 13 Sehit Pamir Cad. (617 37 32) is the best deal in town, with clean air-conditioned rooms and shared bath for $5 per person. Next door, the Turistik Hotel Imrenay ,  Sehit Pamir Cad., is a step up with A/C, bath, fridge, and TV for only a little more. (613 21 17. Singles $8.50, doubles $17.) One block over on Ulucamii Cad. No. 16, the Hotel Cabir  (612 33 91) offers well-appointed suites with powerful climate control and spotless bath for $15 per person. For those seeking a more beachside locale, the Arsuz Otel 0,30min. south in the resort town of Uluçinar, provides 3-star luxury with private beach, restaurant, and waterfront bar. ($20 per person.)

İskenderun has several passable but nondescript lokantas; the exception is the atmospheric Hasan Baba Restaurant , 35 Ulu Camii Cad. (613 27 25), famous for its tasty İskender kebap ($3), served in a garden with fountains and terraces.

SIGHTS.

Plenty of Turkish and Syrian tourists come to İskenderun for the nice stretches of beach south of the city, which somehow avoid the pollution that fouls the beaches in southern Hatay. The most popular destination is Uluçinar, a pretty enough resort town with beachside cafes and sandy beaches over clear water. The coastal highway ends at Uluçinar, but the town has the southernmost outpost of the Kahramanmaraş ice cream chain 46 Edem, with glorious $.40 cones.

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