HARBİYE, a short way south of Antakya, is a beautiful gorge to which revellers and holidaymakers flocked in Roman times, drawn by shady cypress and laurel groves dotted with waterfalls and pools. The Romans built a temple to Apollo here, since it was held to be the setting for the god’s pursuit of Daphne. According to the myth, Daphne, when seized by amorous Apollo, prayed for deliverance; in answer to her prayers, Peneus transformed her into a laurel tree. Another legend relates that Harbiye was where Paris gave the golden apple to Aphrodite, and indirectly precipitated the Trojan War. Later, and possibly with more basis in fact, Mark Antony and Cleopatra are said to have been married here.

Today, Harbiye makes for a pleasant day-trip from Antakya, especially for those with their own transport, and is famous for its Daphne (Defne) soap – a natural toiletry made from the scented fruit of the laurel tree, sold in regional bazaars.

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