Saturday, 18 May 2019

Gaziantep or Antep: it's still mosaics, castles, pistachios and coffee

It's a short bus journey from Adana to Gaziantep. Antep, as the city is informally known, is almost 200 kilometers east of Adana and not far from the Syrian border - Aleppo is less than 100 kilometers drive south.

Antep Castle (Photo: Imran Ahmed)
Antep's history stretches back to the Stone Age - remember the Stone Age from your history classes?!. That means the city has been continuously inhabited for over a million years with various powers, i.e. the Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines and finally the Turks (Seljuk and Ottoman) in control of the area.

Though it is Ataturk and the later Ottoman period which drives me to Turkey, the country also houses some amazing historical artefacts. A taste of this history is available at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Antep. The museum houses a diverse and breathtaking collection of mosaics. 

One of the most famous mosaics on display
at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, Antep, Turkey (Photo: Imran Ahmed)
Much of the art focuses on the ancient city of Zeugma, a city believed to have been founded by Alexander's army in 300 BC. Zeugma, which literally means “bridge” or “crossing” in ancient Greek, gets its name as it was located at a major ancient crossing point on the river Euphrates. The archaelogical site of Zeugma is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

Other than the Mosaic Museum, Antep is home to a Hamam Museum. The Hamam – or Turkish bath – is an integral part of Turkish culture. The museum is compact but provides a great introduction to the multifacted hamam culture found across the Ottoman Turkish empire.

The Hamam Museum is conveniently located next to the well preserved Antep Castle

So what, you say? Every Turkish city has an old castle and they all look and feel the same. Well, yes, but there is one difference in Antep. To get to the top of the castle visitors walk through a well constructed tunnel outlining the history of the Turkish War of Independence, specifically Antep's role in the War. Unfortunately the commentary is in Turkish so non-Turkish speakers can only view the visuals and guess at the commentary!

Menengic or pistachio coffee as served in one of Antep's many coffee shops (Photo: Imran Ahmed)
If history is not your thing then focus on the word 'fistik!' Fistik is the Turkish word for pistachio and there are a lot of pistachios in the region. 

The Antep fistik is famous throughout Turkey. It's plentiful and it's cheap. Try these nuts (technically pistachios arer drupes - a type of fruit – and not nuts!) straight from the shell, in baclava sweets or even in a type of pistachio coffee called menengic.

Antep has an unique place in Turkish history. No travels to Turkey's east are complete without at least a brief stopover in Gaziantep. From Alexander's general who started the Zeugma settlement, to the city's heroic defense during the War of Independence, Antep has it's own story to tell. Undoubtedly, Antep's story is incomplete without mentioning the word fistik. Taste it for yourself! 

Imran is a Singapore based Tour Guide with a special interest in arts and history. Imran has lived and worked in several countries during his career as an international banker. He enjoys traveling, especially by train, as a way to feed his curiosity about the world and nurture his interest in photography. Presently, Imran is spending ten weeks (March – May 2019) in Turkey exploring the country. He is available on twitter (@grandmoofti); Instagram(@imranahmedsg) and can be contacted at

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