ALANYA is one of the Mediterranean coast’s major resorts, a booming and popular place that in the last twenty years has expanded beyond all recognition along its sandy beaches. In addition to the massive influx of tourists, locals reckon that some thirty percent of the population is made up of expat Germans and Russians, whose villas litter the hillsides behind the town. Most visitors enter the town from the west, an approach that shows Alanya at its best, the road passing through verdant banana plantations on the outskirts and suddenly revealing a rocky promontory, topped by a castle, rearing out of the Mediterranean.
Little is known about Alanya’s early history, although it’s thought that the town was founded by Greek colonists who named it Kalonoros, or “beautiful mountain”. Things were pretty quiet until the second century BC, when Cilician pirates began using the town, known by now as Coracesium, as a base to terrorize the Pamphylian coast. Eventually, the Romans decided to put an end to the activities of the pirates and sent in Pompey, who destroyed the pirate fleet in a sea battle off Alanya in 67 BC. In 44 BC, Mark Antony gave the city to Cleopatra as a gift. Romantic as this might sound, there was a practical reason for his choice: the area around the city was an important timber-producing centre, and Cleopatra needed its resources to build up her navy. In 1221, the Byzantine city fell to the Selçuk sultan Alâeddin Keykubad, who gave it its present name and made it his summer residence. It’s from this period that most buildings of historical importance date.
Guarding the harbour on the east side of the promontory stands the Kızılkule – the “Red Tower” – a 35-metre-high defensive tower of red stone built by Alâeddin Keykubad in 1226 and restored in 1951. Today it houses a pedestrian ethnographic museum and has a roof terrace that overlooks the town’s eastern harbour. Old wooden houses cling to the slopes above the tower, and you can follow the old coastal defensive wall along the water’s edge to the Tersane, an Ottoman shipyard, consisting of five workshops linked by an arched roof. Beyond here is a small defensive tower, the Tophane.Read More