The largest producer of apricots in the world, MALATYA, is a seldom-visited city of nearly half a million people that’s set in a broad green valley around 60km north of Nemrut Dağı. Despite a long history going back over five thousand years, during which the Assyrians, Hittites, Romans, Selçuk Turks and Ottomans all held sway, there’s little of any significant age left to see within the city. Nonetheless it makes a pleasant overnight stop before tackling Nemrut Dağı, while, very close at hand, the old town of Eski Malatya offers an interesting diversion, as does Aslantepe (Lion Hill), a millennia-old settlement mound that’s been newly interpreted for visitors.
Scratch beneath the surface in Malatya, and an at-times uneasy mix of Turkish nationalists, devout Sunni Muslims, Alevîs and Kurds soon becomes apparent. Always a political town, it’s the home of two former presidents of the Republic, General İsmet İnönü and part-Kurdish Turgut Özal, and is also the birthplace of Armenian-Turk Hrant Dink, slain by an ultra-nationalist Turkish teenager in 2007.
The old Şire Pazarı, in the centre between Atatürk Bulvarı and the ring road, is devoted to local agricultural produce, namely cherries, mulberries, apples, walnuts and, especially, apricots. There’s an apricot festival (second week in July) at Mişmiş Parkı, 5km east of the centre.