Where to Visit in Hatay

Hatay Province is the southernmost province of Turkey. It is situated mostly outside Anatolia, along the eastern coast of the Levantine Sea. The province borders Syria to its south and east, the Turkish province of Adana to the northwest, Osmaniye to the north, and Gaziantep to the northeast. It is partially in Çukurova, a large fertile plain along Cilicia. Its administrative capital is Antakya (ancient Antioch), making it one of the three Turkish provinces not named after its administrative capital or any settlement. The second-largest city is İskenderun (formerly Alexandretta). Sovereignty over most of the province remains disputed with neighbouring Syria, which claims that the province had a demographic Arab majority, and was separated from itself against the stipulations of the French Mandate of Syria in the years following Syria’s occupation by France after World War.

Hatay is traversed by the north-easterly line of equal latitude and longitude. 46% of the land is mountain, 33% plain and 20% plateau and hillside. The most prominent feature is the north-south leading Nur Mountains and the highest peak is Mığırtepe (2,240m), other peaks include Ziyaret dağı and Keldağ (Jebel Akra or Casius) at 1,739 m. The folds of land that make up the landscape of the province were formed as the land masses of Arabian-Nubian Shield and Anatolia have pushed into each other, meeting here in Hatay, a classic example of the Horst–graben formation. The Orontes River rises in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and runs through Syria and Hatay, where it receives the Karasu and the Afrin River. It flows into the Mediterranean at its delta in Samandağ. There was a lake in the plain of the Amik Valley but this was drained in the 1970s, and today Amik is now the largest of the plains and an important agricultural center. The climate is typical of the Mediterranean, with warm wet winters and hot, dry summers. The mountain areas inland are drier than the coast. There are some mineral deposits, İskenderun is home to Turkey’s largest iron and steel plant, and the district of Yayladağı produces a colourful marble called Rose of Hatay.

The majority of the population adheres to Islam, belonging to either the Alawi branch of Shia Islam or Sunni Islam, but other minorities are also present, including Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Maronite, Antiochian Greek and Armenian  communities. The village of Vakıflı in the district of Samandağ is Turkey’s last remaining rural Armenian community. Arabs form the majority in three districts out of the twelve: Samandağ (Suwaidiyyah) (Alawi), Altınözü (Qusair) and Reyhanlı  (Rihaniyyah) (Sunni). Unlike most Mediterranean provinces, Hatay has not experienced mass migration from other parts of Turkey in recent decades and has therefore preserved much of its traditional culture; for example, Arabic is still widely spoken in the province. To celebrate this cultural mix, in 2005 “Hatay Meeting of Civilisations” congress was organised by Dr Aydın Bozkurt of Mustafa Kemal University and his “Hatay Association for the Protection of Universal Values”. During the Syrian Civil War, the province has experienced an influx of refugees. According to official figures, as of 21 April 2016, 408,000 Syrian refugees lived in the province.

World’s second-largest collection of Roman mosaics in the Hatay Archaeology Museum at Antakya. Habib-i Najjar Mosque  where two saints are buried and visited by Muslims. Rock-carved Church of St Peter in Antakya, a site of Christian pilgrimage. Gündüz cinema, once parliament building of the Republic of Hatay. Titus Tunnel of Vespasian, in Samandağı, built as a water channel in the 2nd century. Castles: Koz Castle, Bakras Castle, Payas Castle, Mancınık Castle, Cin Castle,  Darbısak Castle

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