Forty kilometres east of Tarsus sprawls ADANA, Turkey’s fifth largest city with over 1.5 million inhabitants – a modern place, which has grown rapidly since the 1990s. Today, as in the past, Adana owes much of its wealth to the surrounding fertile countryside of the Çukurova, with a textiles industry that has grown up on the back of the local cotton fields. It is also an important centre for the trade in gold.
Despite its contemporary, metropolitan feel, Adana has historical roots going back to 1000 BC. The arrival of the Greeks precipitated an on-off power struggle between them and the powerful Persian Empire to the east that was to last for a thousand years, ending only with the arrival of the Romans during the first century BC. Under the Romans the city became an important trading centre, afterwards passing through various hands before falling to the Ottomans during the sixteenth century. Despite all this, Adana has few sites of real interest, but if you are here between buses (it is an important communication hub) there is sufficient to keep you occupied for a few hours.
The city is divided, by the E5 Highway, into the swanky north, with its cinemas and designer malls, and the more traditional bustling south, with the markets, mosques and hotels of the old town. Traffic is uniformly helter-skelter and, as there are no pedestrian bridges or underpasses, you have to negotiate the traffic to reach many of Adana’s sights.
Start off with the Archeological Museum (Arkeolji Müzesi) on the north side of the E5 Highway, containing predominantly Hellenistic and Roman statuary, plus some fine sarcophagi and Hittite statues. The Sabancı Merkez Camii next door – with a 28,500 capacity and the highest dome in Turkey – is a testament to the continued strength of Islam in the southeast. It was built mainly by subscription, but finished with the aid of the Sabancı family, local boys made good and now the second richest family in Turkey.
One hundred metres southeast, the city’s most substantial ancient monument is the Taş Köprü, an impressive sixteen-arched Roman bridge built by Hadrian to span the Seyhan river and still carrying heavy traffic. Not far from the bridge in the centre, the Ulu Cami, on Abidin Paşa Caddesi, was built in the Syrian style out of white and black marble in 1507, the sole legacy of Halil Bey, Emir of the Ramazanoğlu Turks, who ruled Adana before the Ottoman conquest. Inside the mosque, Halil Bey’s tomb has some fine tile-work and beautiful mosaics.
South of Ulu Cami, the large clocktower, Büyük Saat Kulesi, is at the edge of a bazaar area, where the sound of metalworking echoes through the air. Walking west towards the Atatürk statue, you’ll see the Yağ Cami, accessed across a courtyard; unusually, one bay of the mosque was a church until it was incorporated into the main structure in 1502. A peculiar square building in the courtyard has an interesting domed roof supported by a line of slabs with Selçuk decoration; its original purpose is unknown. Another old building just off İnönü Caddesi, first a church, then a mosque, now houses the Ethnography Museum (Etnografya Müzesi), full of carpets and weaponry, with a nomad tent and its contents as an added attraction.Read More