Rapidly expanding GAZIANTEP, with a population in excess of a million, is the wealthiest city in the region. One of the main beneficiaries of the GAP project, its income derives largely from textile production, agriculture (it’s famed for its pistachio nuts) and trade with Syria (Aleppo, Syria’s second city, is just 100km away). Under its go-ahead AKP mayor, many of the city’s beautiful, pale-stone historic buildings have been restored, including its impressive castle. The archeological museum, which houses the best collection of mosaics in the country, is simply stunning and it alone makes a trip here worthwhile.
Known by local people as “Antep”, a corruption of the Arab ayn teb (“good spring”); the prefix “Gazi” (“warrior for Islam”) was only added in 1920 after Turkish Nationalist forces withstood a ten-month siege by the French.Read More
The highway crosses the Euphrates River at scruffy BIRECIK, 40km from Gaziantep. The endangered bald ibis, a relative of the stork, once nested wild here but is now confined to a breeding station, 1km north of town on the east riverbank. Birds are released into the wild every year, but so far none has migrated back. Storks themselves are ubiquitous both here and elsewhere in this region, best seen in spring and summer occupying their nests atop electricity pylons, telegraph poles and minarets.
Birecik’s castle, founded during the eleventh century, was a frontier outpost for the Crusader state of Edessa. In ruins now, both it and its entourage of old houses backed into the cliff-face are best seen from the west bank of the Euphrates, where the pleasant Kıyı Restaurant stands in shady grounds right on the water’s edge.
The Archeological Museum
The Archeological Museum
Gaziantep has been successively occupied by the Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Alexandrines, Romans, Selçuks, Crusaders, Byzantines and Arabs. Its prize asset is the archeological museum on İstasyon Caddesi (Arkeoloji Müzesi). Pick of the exhibits is a superb collection of some 800 square metres of mosaic rescued from the once-luxurious Hellenistic/Roman border-city of Zeugma, now virtually submerged by the Birecik dam on the Euphrates. Particularly impressive are the re-creations of Roman peristyle villas, complete with their original mosaic flooring. The mosaics are complemented by some fine frescoes, salvaged from Zeugma, and a magnificent bronze statue of the god of war, Mars. The original part of the museum also houses a collection of Hittite reliefs from Yesenek, 100km west of Gaziantep.