Where to Visit in Manisa

Manisa, historically known as Magnesia, is a city in Turkey’s Aegean Region and the administrative seat of Manisa Province.

Modern Manisa is a booming center of industry and services, advantaged by its closeness to the international port city and the regional metropolitan center of İzmir and by its fertile hinterland rich in quantity and variety of agricultural production. In fact, İzmir’s proximity also adds a particular dimension to all aspects of life’s pace in Manisa in the form of a dense traffic of daily commuters between the two cities, separated as they are by a half-hour drive served by a fine six-lane highway nevertheless requiring attention at all times due to its curves and the rapid ascent (sea-level to more than 500 meters at Sabuncubeli Pass) across Mount Sipylus’s mythic scenery.

The historic part of Manisa spreads out from a forested valley in the immediate slopes of Sipylus mountainside, along Çaybaşı Stream which flows next to Niobe’s “Weeping Rock” (“Ağlayan Kaya”), an ancient bridge called the “Red Bridge” (“Kırmızı Köprü”) as well as to several tombs-shrines in the Turkish style dating back to the Saruhan period (14th century). Under Ottoman rule in the centuries that followed, the city had already extended into the undulated terrain at the start of the plain. In the last couple of decades, Manisa’s width more than tripled in size across its vast plain formed by the alluvial deposits of the River Gediz, a development in which the construction of new block apartments, industrial zones and of  Celal Bayar University campus played a key role.

The city of Manisa is also widely visited, especially during March and September festivals, the former festival being the continuation of a five-hundred-year-old “Mesir Paste Distribution” tradition, and also for the nearby Mount Spil national park. It is also a departure point for other visitor attractions of international acclaim which are located nearby within Manisa’s depending region, such as Sardes and Alaşehir (ancient Philadelphia) inland. The city also has a Jewish community

Historically, the city was also called Magnesia, and more precisely as Magnesia ad Sipylum, to distinguish from Magnesia on the Maeander at a relatively short distance to the south. Traditional view held that the name “Magnesia” derived from the tribe of Magnetes who would have immigrated here from Thessaly at the dawn of the region’s recorded history. A connection with native Anatolian languages has also been suggested of recent date, particularly on the basis of discoveries made in the Hittite archives treating the Luwian western Anatolia. The name is rendered as Μαγνησία in ancient and modern Greek language.

The name “Magnesia ad Sipylus” refers to Mount Sipylus (Mount Spil) that towers over the city and Magnesia became a city of importance starting with the Roman dominion, particularly after the 190 BC Battle of Magnesia. The names “Sipylus” or “Sipylum” in reference to a settlement here are also encountered in some sources, again in reference to the mountain and as abbreviated forms. Pliny the Elder, supported by other sources, mentions that formerly in the same place was a very celebrated city which was called “Tantalis”  or “the city of Tantalus” whose ruins were still visible around his time.

Under Turkish rule, the name attached to the Beys of “Saruhan”, who founded the Beylik which preceded the Ottomans in the region, has been officially used, along with the name Manisa, for the city and the region alternatively and this until the present period of the Republic of Turkey. The Ottoman Turkish form of the name “Manisa” (ماغنيسا) was usually as it is still used presently, but a spelling with a longer first syllable, transcribed to modern Turkish as “Mağnisa”, was also occasionally encountered. During the first centuries of the Ottoman Empire, many of the sons of sultans received their education in Manisa and the city is still commonly known in Turkey as “the city of shahzades” (Şehzadeler şehri), a distinctive title it shares only with Amasya and Trabzon.

The English language root word “magnesia”, from which the words “magnet” and “magnetism” and numerous other  derivations were coined, as well as their equivalents in many other languages, may derive from the city’s name.

Manisa and some of its depending district centers have succeeded in solidly clinching an industrial production base in recent decades, in this supported both initially and continuously by the century-old wide-scale agricultural processing and related activities (production of flour and olive oil, basic textiles, leather goods, agricultural tools and instruments, cotton ginning). Olive, walnut and almond cultivation are among the important agricultural activities of Manisa.

According to the figures published by the Governorship, 694 companies in Manisa Province out of the province’s total number of companies of 5,502 for 2007 are certified industrial enterprises and these employ a total of 44,449 people. Within the 694, Manisa center is in the lead with 238 enterprises engaged in industrial production, with the depending centers of Turgutlu (125 industrial enterprises), Akhisar (100), Salihli (78) closely contending, and Saruhanlı (33), Alaşehir (30), Kula (28), Demirci (20) and Soma (17) following.

Among leading industrial activities Manisa companies are engaged in are production of foodstuffs (196 companies), building materials (114), metal goods (85), as well as textile industry and clothing industry (46) and cotton ginning (43). The highest numbers of workforce are concentrated in electronics/electrical appliances, foodstuffs and construction industries.

The choice of Manisa as production base in the 1980s by the Turkish consumer electronics and white goods giant Vestel  was an important boost for the present-day level of sophistication. Today Manisa’s economic activities are far from being confined to a sole company. Manisa registered roughly 200m US dollars in FDI in 2004 and well-known businesses such as Italian white goods company Indesit, German electrical goods company Bosch, UK packaging  company Rexam and Imperial Tobacco of the UK have invested in Manisa.

In 2004/2005 Manisa was chosen among 200 contestants as the Most Cost-Effective European city by the FDi magazine’s yearly round of votes to determine European Cities and Regions of the Future, its extremely low office and industrial rents and competitive labor costs having been particularly noted. Again for 2006/2007, Manisa was named among 89 European cities as the winner of the category of the Best Economic Potential in Europe, as runner-up for the categories Southern-Europe’s City of the Future (winner for Turkey) and the Most Cost-Effective European city.

The city also has a football team, Manisaspor, which plays in the Süper Lig under the home colors of red and white and away colors of black and white. Manisaspor’s home ground is the Manisa 19 Mayis Stadi.

Manisa has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and short, cool but wet winters. Summers in Manisa are hotter than its western neighbour İzmir, while winters are colder due to its inland location. Snowfall, while fairly uncommon, does accumulate most winters, with a record snow depth of 44 cm in January 1945. Records began in 1930. The record high temperature was 45.5 °C in July 2007, while the record low temperature was -17.5 °C in January 1942.

The cuisine of Manisa is known for several types of kebabs. Manisa Kebab is a type of shish kebab prepared with a combination of minced beef and lamb. It is served on chopped up pita and with grilled tomato and peppers, and onion salad. Lastly, melted butter and sumac is added on top. It may also be served with yogurt.

The 16th century Sultan Mosque was built for Ayşe Hafsa Sultan, Süleyman the Magnificent’s mother. In her honor, Mesir Festival (featuring the “Mesir Paste” (Turkish: Mesir Macunu), a spiced paste in the form of candy, and claimed to restore health, youth and potency, is held every year in March, in the grounds of this mosque, and is an occasion for public gathering as well as attendance by personalities of fame and prominence at national scale.

The mosque is part of a large külliye – a religious complex – among whose buildings the hospital “darüşşifa” is particularly notable. Specialized in mental diseases, the medical center was in activity until the beginning of the 20th century when new buildings were built within the same compound. That Turkey’s only two institutions specialized on mental health were until recently located in İstanbul district of Bakırköy and in Manisa gave way in Turkey’s public lore to gentle innuendos on the challenging spirit of the natives – Manisalı.

One such likeable eccentric of the 20th century was Ahmet Bedevi, the Tarzan of Manisa or “Manisa Tarzanı”, a figure who became a symbol for the city by contributing to raising consciousness for protection of the environment across Turkey and a reference especially since the 1960s when an important reforestation effort covering thousands of hectares was made in and around Manisa.

The Muradiye Mosque of the 16th century was built by the great architect Mimar Sinan (and completed by Sedefkar Mehmed Agha), and the ‘Murad Bey Medresse now houses the Archaeological Museum of Manisa.

Manisa celebrates the Vintage Festival every September, when the fruits of the vineyards are celebrated. The vineyards surround the city and provide dry fruit for export from İzmir, and grapes for wine making.

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