Where to Visit in Gaziantep
Gaziantep, historically Aintab and still informally called Antep, is a major city in south-central Turkey. It is the capital of the Gaziantep Province, in the westernmost part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Region and partially in the Mediterranean Region. It is located approximately 185 km (115 mi) east of Adana and 97 km (60 mi) north of Aleppo, Syria and situated on the Sajur River. The city is thought to be located on the site of ancient Antiochia ad Taurum and is near ancient Zeugma.
As of 2021 census, the Gaziantep province (Metropolitan municipality) was home to 2,130,432 inhabitants, of whom 1,775,904 lived in the metropolitan area made of two (out of three) urban districts of Şahinbey and Şehitkamil, as Oğuzeli is not conurbated. It is the sixth-most populous city in Turkey. Gaziantep is a diverse city inhabited mostly by ethnic Turks and a significant minority of Kurds and Syrian refugees. It was historically populated by Turkmens, Armenians, Jews, and a plethora of other ethnic groups. In February 2023, the city was heavily damaged by the 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake.
Gaziantep is mostly inhabited by Turks. It is also inhabited by a significant minority of Kurds, about 450 thousand people, and roughly 470 thousand Syrian refugees.
In early 14th century, Arab geographer Dimashki noted that the people of Aintab were Turkomans. Aintab continued to be Turkish or Turkoman majority through 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Armenians inhabited Aintab from at least 10th century until the Armenian genocide. Having abandoned Armenian in favour of Turkish as early as the 16th century, the Armenians of Aintab predominantly spoke Turkish, while the usage of Armenian increased after 1850. The city also housed a smaller Jewish minority predominantly of Sephardic origin. The Jewish population quickly decreased in mid-20th century, reaching zero people by 1980s. Unlike most Southeastern Anatolian cities, the city of Gaziantep did not have a significant Kurdish minority until the 20th century, when it saw an increase in its Kurdish population through economically motivated migration from Turkish area. Up until the late 2010s, the Kurdish population increased to one fourth of the city and the province with 400,000 – 450,000 Kurds. In the late Ottoman era, the city included a number of Europeans and Americans. Aintab also had a sizable Uzbek minority dating back to the Ottoman rule.
Museums in Gaziantep
The Zeugma Mosaic Museum houses mosaics from Zeugma and other mosaics, a total of 1,700 square metres (18,000 sq ft). It opened to the public on 9 September 2011.
The Hasan Süzer Ethnography Museum, a restored late-Ottoman stone building, has the old life style decoration and collections of various weapons, documents, instruments used in the defence of the city as well as the photographs of local resistance heroes. It was originally built in 1906 as the home of Garouj Karamanoukian.
Some of the other historical remains are the Zeugma (also called Belkıs in Turkish), and Kargamış ruins by the town of Nizip and slightly more to the north, Rumkale.
Yesemek Quarry and Sculpture Workshop is an open-air museum located in the village known by the same name, 30 km (19 mi) south of the town of Islahiye. It is the largest open-air sculpture workshop in the Near East and the ruins in the area date back to the Hittites.
The Gaziantep Defence Museum: before you enter the Panorama Museum located within the Gaziantep Castle, you encounter the statues of three local heroes Molla Mehmet Karayılan, Şehit Mehmet Kâmil and Şahin Bey at the entrance. As you enter the museum, you hear the echoes: “I am from Antep. I am a hawk (Şahin).” The Gaziantep War Museum, in a historic Antep house (also known as the Nakıpoğlu House) is dedicated to the memory of the 6,317 who died defending the city, becoming symbols of Turkey’s national unity and resolve for maintaining independence. The story of how the Battle of Antep is narrated with audio devices and chronological panels.
Gaziantep Mevlevi Lodge Foundation Museum The dervish lodge is part of the mosque’s külliye (Islamic-Ottoman social complex centred around a mosque). It was built in the 17th century. The Mevlevi Lodge Monastery is entered via a courtyard which opens off the courtyard of the mosque.
Emine Göğüş Cuisine Museum Gaziantep is known for its cuisine and food culture. A historical stone house built in 1904 has been restored and turned into the Emine Göğüş Cuisine Museum. The museum opened as part of the celebrations for the 87th anniversary of Gaziantep’s liberation from French occupation.
Zeugma is an ancient city which was established at the shallowest passable part of the river Euphrates, within the boundaries of the present-day Belkıs village in Gaziantep Province. Due to the strategic character of the region in terms of military and commerce since antiquity (Zeugma was the headquarters of an important Roman legion, the Legio IV Scythica, near the border with Parthia) the city has maintained its importance for centuries, also during the Byzantine period.
Gaziantep Castle, also known as Gala (lit. ‘the castle’), located in the centre of the city displays the historic past and architectural style of the city. Although the history of castle is not fully known, as a result of the excavations conducted there, Bronze Age settlement layers are thought to exist under the section existing on the surface of the soil.
Liberation Mosque, the former Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God (Surp Asdvadzadzin), was converted into a mosque after the liberation of the city from the occupying French forces following the Franco-Turkish War (1918–1921). The French forces which occupied the city between 1918 and 1921 included the French Armenian Legion.
Boyacı Mosque, a historic mosque in the Şahinbey district, was built by Kadı Kemalettin in 1211 and completed in 1357. It has one of the world’s oldest wooden minbars which is elaborately adorned with Koranic verses, stars and geometric patterns. Its minaret is considered one of the symbols of the city.
Şirvani Mosque (Şirvani Mehmet Efendi Mosque), also called İki Şerefeli Cami, is one of the oldest mosques of Gaziantep, located in the Seferpaşa district. It was built by Şirvani Mehmet Efendi.
Ömeriye Mosque, a mosque in the Düğmeci district. Tradition states that it was first built during the period of the Islamic Caliphate under the second Caliph, Omar (hence its name), which would make it the oldest known mosque in Gaziantep. The modern mosque was restored at the site in 1850. It is known for its black and red marble mihrab.
Şeyh Fethullah Mosque, a historic mosque built in 1563 and located in Kepenek. It has adjoining Turkish baths and a medrese.
Nuri Mehmet Pasha Mosque, a mosque in Çukur built in 1786 by nobleman Nuri Mehmet Pasha. Between 1958 and 1968, it was changed into museum but was reinstated as a mosque after an extensive restoration.
Ahmet Çelebi Mosque, a mosque in Ulucanlar that was built by Hacı Osman, in 1672. It is noted for its elaborate wooden interior.
Tahtani Mosque, a wooden mosque located in Şahinbey, that was built in 1557. The mosque has a unique red marble mihrab.
Alaüddevle Mosque (Ali Dola Mosque), built by Dulkadir bey Alaüddevle Bozkurt. Its construction started in 1479 and was completed in 1515. It has been restored recently with the addition of a new entrance.
Ali Nacar Mosque, a mosque in Yaprak, Şehitkamil, is one of the biggest mosques in Gaziantep, originally built by Ali Nacar. It was enlarged in 1816.
Eyüpoğlu Mosque, a mosque built by the local Islamic saint Eyüboğlu Ahmet during the 14th century. There has been a major restoration, so much so that the present structure hardly resembles the original building.
Kendirli Church, a church that was built in 1860 by means of the assistance of French missionaries and Napoleon III. It is a Catholic Armenian church. It has a rectangular plan and was built through white cut stones on a foundation of black cut stone within a large garden.
Pişirici Kastel, a “kastel” (fountain) which used to be a part of a bigger group of buildings, is thought to have been built in 1282. “Kastels” are water fountains built below ground, and they are structures peculiar to Gaziantep. They are places for ablution, prayer, washing and relaxation.
Old houses of Gaziantep, the traditional houses that are located in the old city: Eyüboğlu, Türktepe, Tepebaşı, Bostancı, Kozluca, Şehreküstü and Kale. They are made of locally found keymik rock and have an inner courtyard called the hayat, which is the focal point of the house.
Tahmis Coffee House, a coffee house that was built by Mustafa Ağa Bin Yusuf, a Turkmen ağa and flag officer, in 1635–1638, in order to provide an income for the dervish lodge. The building suffered two big fires in 1901 and 1903.
Gaziantep Zoo is one of the largest zoos in Turkey. Especially interesting are the bird pavilion and the aquarium. Gaziantep Zoo offers a large variety of animals, attractive picnic grounds, and a cafeteria. The facility is established on 1,000,000-square-metre (11,000,000 sq ft) field. There are 264 species and 6,814 animals.
Zincirli Bedesten is the Ottoman-era covered bazaar of Gaziantep and was built in 1781 by Hüseyin Pasha of Darende. From records, it is known that there was formerly an epigraph on the south gate written by Kusuri; however, this inscription is not in place today. This bazaar was used as a wholesale market hall for meat, fruit and vegetables.
Bakırcılar çarşısi is the coppersmith bazaar of Gaziantep. This trade has existed in the region for over 500 years. The bazaar is part of the official culture route designed to help visitors discover the traditions and culture of the city.
Anatolia Inn The exact date of the inn’s (caravanserai) construction is unknown, but it is estimated to have been built in the early 19th century. It is a two-storey building with two courtyards. It is said to have been built by Muhsinzade Hadji Mehmet Bey in 1892. The inn was repaired in 1985 and parts of the top floor were rebuilt.
Kürkçü Inn Classic Ottoman Inn in Boyacı built in 1890.
Old Wheat Inn The original building was constructed by Mustafa Ağa in 1640 to provide an income for the dervish lodge, but was completely destroyed in a fire. The exact construction date of the present building is unknown; however the architectural style suggests the 19th century.
Şire Inn The building is built on a rectangular plan and contains many motifs of classical Ottoman inn architecture. It was built with evenly cut stones and the pitched roof is covered by tiles.
Tobacco Inn This inn has no epigraph showing the dates of construction or renovation, but according to historical data, the estimated date of construction is the late 17th century. Ownership was passed to Hüseyin Ağa, son of Nur Ali Ağa, in the early 19th century.
Yüzükçü Inn The construction date of this inn is unknown. The epigraph on the main gate of the inn is dated 1800, but the building apparently had been built earlier and was repaired at this date. The first owners of the inn were Asiye, the daughter of Battal Bey and Emine Hatun, the daughter of Hadji Osman Bey.
Gaziantep is largely regarded as the city with the richest cuisine in Turkey. It was the first city in Turkey to be designated as a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO in 2015. In 2013, Gaziantep baklava became the first Turkish product with a European protected designation of origin and geographical indication.
The cuisine of Aintab was attested to be “rich” by many travellers throughout the centuries. 19th-century British traveller noted: “The padishah himself would do well to visit Aintab, just to taste the rich food to be found there.”
Types of kofta (Turkish: köfte; Gaziantep dialect: küfte) include içli köfte (lit. ‘stuffed kofta’), sini küfte, yoğurtlu küfte, yağlı küfte (lit. ‘greasy kofta’), tahinli küfte, pendir ekmekli küfte (lit. ‘kofta with bread and cheese’), and more. Some koftas do not include any meat such as yapma and malhıtalı küfte (lit. ‘lentil kofta’).
Pilafs in the Aintab cuisine often accompany the main dish and aren’t the main course alone. Traditionally, bulgur is used for the pilafs. The bulgur pilafs can include orzo (Turkish: Şehriyeli bulgur pilavı; Gaziantep dialect: Şʿāreli burgul pilov) or ground beef (Turkish: Kıymalı aş or Meyhane pilavı, lit. ‘tavern pilaf’).
There are several types of exclusively-Armenian soups in Aintab cuisine. These include vardapet soup and omız zopalı. Vegetable dishes of Aintab often include meat but can be vegetarian as well. These include dorgama (Turkish: doğrama), moussaka, bezelye, bakla, kuru fasulye, mutanya, türlü, and kabaklama. Dolma is a very common dish, different variants of which are cooked. One is kış dolması (lit. ‘winter dolma’), for which dried vegetables, such as squash, eggplants, and peppers are used. Dolmalık balcan (Turkish: Dolmalık patlıcan) is a variant of smaller eggplants that are specifically used for dolmas. Common sweets include bastık and sucuk.
The local Turkish dialect of Gaziantep is classified as a part of the Western Turkish dialects based on phonetic and grammatical similarities. The dialect carries influences mainly from Armenian and Arabic. The local Turkish dialect of Gaziantep is an integral part of the native identity of the city and is being preserved through often humorous plays by theatrical troupes, such as Çeled Uşaglar (lit. naughty children)