Gaziantep – on the edge of Anatolia in southeastern Turkey

I led two groups in a row in May 2021 in southeastern Turkey during the total lockdown due to the Covid pandemic and Ramadan. Time seemed to have stopped – everything was closed except for the pastry shops and grocery stores. There were almost no people on the streets, and the few lonely souls milling about the empty streets seemed to add to the sense of apocalypse. As if an invisible hand had wiped away all the people, leaving only dead matter behind.

In some parts of the city, I saw children playing in the streets. The others who were allowed outside were foreign tourists. However, in southeast Turkey, there were almost none in the whole region, except in some of the more famous places like Gobekli Tepe.

However, the lockdown allowed me to explore the city at length without the crowds, noise and pollution caused by the latter.

Gaziantep, often called Antep, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is famous for its food, pistachios and baklava, and is considered the culinary capital of southeastern Turkey. There is even a culinary museum that I did not get to see.

Almaci market is beautiful – a typical oriental place, very similar to Covered Market in Istanbul. The market was the best place to feel the surreal atmosphere during the lockdown – a total lack of people, closed shops, empty spaces.

I saw the market after the lockdown was lifted. The difference is indescribable – crowds of people, exotic spices, flowers, the smell of roasting, old people drinking their tea early in the morning – a completely different world!

The biggest attraction in the city is the Gaziantep Fortress. It is not known precisely when it was built. It was rebuilt by the Byzantines in the 6th century, then again in 1481 during Qaitbay, the Sultan of Egypt. The last reconstruction happened in 1557 during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Observation towers, mosques and residences were added to the fortress. Today, 36 round towers can be counted. It is believed that under the fort, galleries and corridors are leading to the river.

The remains of the ancient city of Belkis (Zeugma) are located in the village of Kavunlu, 10 km from the city. In June 2005, the second-largest mosaic museum in the world opened in Gaziantep (the first one is in Bardot, Tunisia), displaying mosaic pieces, a statue of Mars and other artefacts found in the ancient city. This museum is a must-see.

The ancient houses of Gaziantep, mainly located in the central part, are among the best representatives of Southeastern Anatolia’s rich architectural and cultural heritage, Mesopotamia and Syria. Because of the hot climate, the houses of Gaziantep are made of stone, surrounded by high walls, with large courtyards and smooth roofs.

The city has many mosques. I personally managed to photograph at least 10 of them. Although they follow the Islamic building canon, the mosques in Gaziantep are nevertheless different, mainly because of the richness of their decorations.

The city is beautiful, rich, the people are great, and the food is delicious. So if you have never considered travelling to Gaziantep, it is time to reconsider.

Practical Information

The easiest way to reach Gaziantep is by plane. It is well connected with daily flights to the main cities in Turkey, including 2 or 3 times from Istanbul. The airport is 15 km from the city centre and you can travel between them using the Havaş shuttle service (10 lira). The busses depart from the airport after most arriving flights. It takes 30 minutes to reach the city centre.

From Istanbul, it usually takes 15 hours with express overnight busses. From Ankara it takes 9 hours and from Izmir 16 hours. Turkey has surprisingly perfect highways and comfortable coaches with drinks on offer to make your journey safe and relaxing.

We use Ibis Hotel in Gaziantep. It is perfectly located in the city centre, not far from the fortress. Another nice hotel is Gaziantep Plaza Hotel.

Please check here also a nice collection of hotels in Gaziantep to choose from.

My Gaziantep image gallery with high-quality photos that you can license and purchase as open edition prints can be found here.

An interesting book – “The Mosaics Of Zeugma” – with over 40 colour pictures, this book holds the discovery and rescue of the mosaics of Zeugma, the ancient Greco-Roman crossing point on the Euphrates, which is regarded as the most important recent archaeological event. 

Photo Slideshow

Click to buy The Gypsy Girl Mosaic Art Print

More information about southeast Turkey

I organise and lead small groups to southeast Turkey through my licensed travel agency “Thousand Voyages” Ltd. If you are interested in joining a group or travel independently, please drop me a line.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Mardin

Hostels and budget hotels: Old City Mardin Hotel & Hostel;

Hilton Mardin Inn Mardin

Yay Grand Hotel

A selection of nice hotels in Mardin

Accomodation in Sanliurfa

Hotel Ugur in Sanliurfa

A selection of nice hotels in Sanliurfa

Accommodation in оther cities in southeast Turkey

A collection of hotels in Diyarbakir

Accommodation in Gaziantep

We use Ibis Hotel in Gaziantep. It is perfectly located in the city centre, not far from the fortress. Another nice hotel is Gaziantep Plaza Hotel.

Please check here also a nice collection of hotels in Gaziantep to choose from.

Activities

Mesopotamia 7 Day Tour – Diyarbakir, Mardin, Urfa, Nemrut and more

NP110 Grand Biblical Tour Turkey

Visa requirements

The VisaHQ world service we use will provide full assistance in applying and obtaining a visa for Turkey if you need one.

You also can check out the iVisa service here.

Insurance

Do not travel without travel insurance! We have an excellent experience with World Nomads, as it is the only company that covers an unlimited budget, provides coverage of a massive bunch of adventure activities and you can purchase it while on the road. Get a free quote using the form.

Books about Turkey

Free delivery worldwide (with no minimum spend) from Book Depository (Amazon), a leading international book retailer. Please click on the title of the book to read the full description and to buy it.

Lonely Planet Turkey

DK Eyewitness Turkey

Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know (R)

The Great Turkey Walk

A nice collection of books about Turkey