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Antalya (Turkish pronunciation: [anˈtalja]) is the eighth-most populous city in Turkey and the capital of Antalya Province. Located on Anatolia‘s southwest coast bordered by the Taurus Mountains, Antalya is the largest Turkish city on the Mediterranean coast with over one million people in its metropolitan area.
The city that is now Antalya was first settled around 200 BC by the Attalid dynasty of Pergamon, which was soon subdued by the Romans. Roman rule saw Antalya thrive, including the construction of several new monuments, such as Hadrian’s Gate, and the proliferation of neighboring cities. The city has changed hands several times, including to the Seljuk Sultanate in 1207 and an expanding Ottoman Empire in 1391. Ottoman rule brought relative peace and stability for the next five hundred years. The city was transferred to Italian suzerainty in the aftermath of World War I, but was recaptured by a newly independent Turkey in the War of Independence.
Antalya is Turkey’s biggest international sea resort, located on the Turkish Riviera. Large-scale development and governmental funding has promoted tourism. A record 12.5 million tourists passed through the city in 2014.
The city was founded as “Attaleia” (Ancient Greek: Ἀττάλεια), named after its founder Attalos II, king of Pergamon. This name, still in use in Greek, was later evolved in Turkish as Adalia and then Antalya. Attaleia was also the name of a festival at Delphi and Attalis (Greek: Ἀτταλίς) was the name of an old Greek tribe at Athens. Despite the close similarity, there is no connection with the name Anatolia.
King Attalus II of Pergamon is looked on as founder of the city in about 150 BC, during the Hellenistic period. It was named Attaleia or Attalia (Ancient Greek: Ἀττάλεια) in his honour. The city served as a naval base for Attalus’s powerful fleet. Excavations in 2008, in the Doğu Garajı plot, uncovered remains dating to the 3rd century BC, suggesting that Attalea was a rebuilding and expansion of an earlier town.
Attalea became part of the Roman Republic in 133 BC when Attalus III, a nephew of Attalus II bequeathed his kingdom to Rome at his death in 133 BC. The city grew and prospered during the Ancient Roman period and was part of the Roman province of Pamphylia Secunda, whose capital was Perga.
Christianity started to spread to the region even in the 1st century: Antalya was visited by Paul of Tarsus and Barnabas, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: “Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch“. Some of the bishops attributed to the episcopal see of Attalea in Pamphylia may instead have been bishops of Attalea in Lydia (Yanantepe), since Lequien lists them under both sees. No longer a residential bishopric, Attalea in Pamphylia is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.
The 13th-century Seljuk mosque at Attalea, now in ruins, had been a Christian Byzantine basilica from the 7th century. The Great Mosque had also been a Christian basilica and the Kesik Minare Mosque had been the 5th-century Christian Church of the Panaghia or Virgin and was decorated with finely carved marble. The archaeological museum at Attalia houses some sarcophagi and mosaics from nearby Perga and a casket of bones reputed to be those of St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, further down the Turquoise coast.
Antalya was a major city in the Byzantine Empire. It was the capital of the Byzantine Theme of the Cibyrrhaeots, which occupied the southern coasts of Anatolia. According to the research of Speros Vryonis, it was the major naval station on the southern Anatolian coast, a major commercial center, and the most convenient harbor between the Aegean Sea and Cyprus and points further east. Besides the local merchants, “one could expect to see Armenians, Saracens, Jews, and Italians.”
At the time of the accession of John II Comnenus in 1118 Antalya was an isolated outpost surrounded by Turkish beyliks, accessible only by sea. Following the fall of Constantinople in 1204, Niketas Choniates records that one Aldebrandus, “an Italian by birth who was strictly raised according to Roman tradition” controlled Antalya as his own fief. When Kaykhusraw, sultan of the Seljuk Turks attempted to capture the city in 1206, Aldebrandus sent to Cyprus for help and received 200 Latin infantry who defeated the attackers after a siege of less than 16 days. Kaykhusraw would take Antalya the following year and build its first mosque.
The city and the surrounding region were conquered by the Seljuk Turks in the early 13th century. Antalya was the capital of the Turkish beylik of Teke (1321–1423) until its conquest by the Ottomans, except for a period of Cypriot rule between 1361 and 1373. The Arabic traveler Ibn Battuta, who visited the city in 1335–1340, noted:
From Alanya I went to Antaliya [Adalia], a most beautiful city. It covers an immense area, and though of vast bulk is one of the most attractive towns to be seen anywhere, besides being exceedingly populous and well laid out. Each section of the inhabitants lives in a separate quarter. The Christian merchants live in a quarter of the town known as the Mina [the Port], and are surrounded by a wall, the gates of which are shut upon them from without at night and during the Friday service. The Greeks, who were its former inhabitants, live by themselves in another quarter, the Jews in another, and the king and his court and Mamluks in another, each of these quarters being walled off likewise. The rest of the Muslims live in the main city. Round the whole town and all the quarters mentioned there is another great wall. The town contains orchards and produces fine fruits, including an admirable kind of apricot, called by them Qamar ad-Din, which has a sweet almond in its kernel. This fruit is dried and exported to Egypt, where it is regarded as a great luxury.
In the second half of the 17th century Evliya Çelebi wrote of a city of narrow streets containing 3,000 houses in 20 Turkish and four Greek neighborhoods. The town had grown beyond the city walls and the port was reported to hold up to 200 boats.
In the 19th century, in common with most of Anatolia, its sovereign was a “dere bey” (landlord or landowner). The family of Tekke Oğlu, domiciled near Perge had been reduced to submission in 1812 by Mahmud II, but continued to be a rival power to the Ottoman governor until the early 20th century, surviving by many years the fall of the other great beys of Anatolia. The records of the Levant (Turkey) Company, which maintained an agency in Antalya until 1825, documented the local dere beys.
In the early 20th century, Antalya had two factories spinning and weaving cotton. As of 1920, the factories had 15,000 spindles and over 200 looms. A German-owned mill baled cotton. There were gin mills.
In the 20th century the population of Antalya increased as Turks from the Caucasus and the Balkans moved into Anatolia. The economy was centered on its port that served the inland areas, particularly Konya. Antalya (then Adalia) was picturesque rather than modern. The chief attraction for visitors was the city wall, and outside a promenade, a portion of which survives. The government offices and the houses of the higher classes were outside the walls.
As of 1920, Antalya was reported as having a population of approximately 30,000. The harbor was described as small, and unsafe for vessels to visit in the winter. Antalya was exporting wheat, flour, sesame seeds, livestock, timber and charcoal. The latter two were often exported to Egypt and other goods to Italy or other Greek islands, who received mainly flour. In 1920, the city had seven flour mills. Wheat was imported, and then processed in town before exportation. Antalya imported manufactured items, mainly from the United Kingdom.
The city was occupied by the Italians from the end of the First World War until the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Large-scale development beginning in the 1970s transformed Antalya from a pastoral town into one of Turkey’s largest metropolitan areas. Much of this has been due to tourism, which expanded in the 21st century. In the 1985 singing diva Dalida held her last concert in Antalya.
The area is shielded from the northerly winds by the Taurus Mountains. Antalya has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen: Csa) with hot and dry summers and mild and rainy winters. Around 300 days of the year are sunny, with nearly 3,000 hours of sunlight per year. The mean sea temperature ranges between 16 °C (61 °F) in winter and 27 °C (81 °F) in summer. The highest record air temperature reached 45.4 °C (113.7 °F) on 1 July 2017 which normally averages as high as 34.4 °C (93.9 °F) and the lowest record dropped to −4.6 °C (23.7 °F) in February, when the low average is as low as 6.1 °C (43 °F).
Despite having architectural heritage dating back up to Hellenistic times, most historical architecture in Antalya date to the medieval Ottoman period, with a number of mosques, madrasahs, masjids, caravanserais, Turkish baths and tombs giving the city a Turkish-Islamic character. Historical architecture is concentrated in the walled city, Kaleiçi; ancient structures are not well-preserved in the rest of the city of Antalya as the modern city was built on the ancient city. Kaleiçi, with its narrow cobbled streets of historic Ottoman era houses, is the old center of Antalya. With its hotels, bars, clubs, restaurants, and shopping, it has been restored to retain much of its historical character. It is surrounded by two walls in the shape of a horsenail, one of which is along the seafront, built in a continuous process from Hellenistic to Ottoman times. The historical harbour is located in this part of the city; narrow streets extend from the harbour and branch off into the old city, surrounded by wooden historical houses. Cumhuriyet Square, the main square of the city and a spot very popular for tourists and locals, is surrounded by shopping and business centres and public buildings. There are sites with traces of Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Seljuk architecture and cultures. There are also examples of the local Greek architecture in the city, with five Greek Orthodox churches in the old city.
The walled city is surrounded by a large metropolitan area. With high rates of immigration since the 1970s, this area contains large gecekondu neighborhoods that are not well-integrated into the fabric of the city and suffer from poor economic conditions and insufficient education. Gecekondu areas are concentrated in the Kepez district, where an estimated 70% of the houses were gecekondus in 2008. In 2011, it was estimated that there were 50-60,000 gecekondus in Antalya, housing around 250,000 people.
Historic sites in the city center
- Ancient monuments include the City Walls, Hıdırlık Tower, Hadrian’s Gate (also known as Triple Gate), and the Clock Tower.
- Hadrian’s Gate: constructed in the 2nd century by the Romans in honor of the Emperor Hadrian.
- İskele Mosque: A 19th-century Mosque near the marina.
- Karatay Medrese: A Medrese (Islamic theological seminary) built in 1250 by Emir Celaleddin Karatay.
- Kesik Minare (Broken Minaret) Mosque: Once a Roman temple then converted to a Byzantine Panayia church and finally into a mosque.
- Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque: An 18th-century Mosque built in honor of Tekeli Mehmet Paşa.
- Yat Limanı: the harbour dating to Roman era.
- Yivli Minare (Fluted Minaret) Mosque: Built by the Seljuks and decorated with dark blue and turquoise tiles. This minaret eventually became the symbol of the city.
- Tünek Hill
- Karaalioglu Park
- Arapsu Bridge
- Olympos Aerial Tram
- Antalya Aquarium
- Aqualand Antalya
- Akdeniz Kent Parkı
- Hasan Subaşı Kültür Parkı
- Ataturk Culture Park (Turkish: Atatürk Kültür Parkı)
- Düden Parkı
- Snow World
- Wildpark Antalya
- Düden Waterfalls
- Kurşunlu Waterfalls
- The Land of Legends
- Kecili Park
Green areas, recreation places
There are urban parks and protected natural areas located outside the cities, allowing the people to have fun, rest and get closer to nature. Some of them are green areas around lake, pond and dam lakes, and some are highland and forest areas.
The prime urban green areas include Antalya City Forest, Atatürk Park, Kepez City Forest.
The largest amusement park in Antalya is the Aktur Park. Other modern recreational areas include 3 aquaparks in the city, Konyaaltı, Lara beaches, Beachpark especially for summer holidays, while Saklıkent also has facilities for skiing in the winter months.
The preserved nature areas include Güllük Mountain National Park in Antalya-Korkuteli highway, Mount Olympus National Park in Kemer and Düden and Kurşunlu Waterfalls. Other protected areas include the Damlataş and the Karain Cave and the Guver Cliff.
It offers picnic and recreation facilities in various parts of the city. Picnic areas, rafting facilities in Köprülü Kanyon in Manavgat. The part of Korkuteli-Antalya border in western part of Antalya is covered with forests. In these areas, picnic areas, playground, restaurant and similar facilities are provided. There are lake and forest views on the promenade at Feslikan Plateau to the west of the city center where visitors can also enjoy nature sports and nature walks. The oil wrestling competition festival organized in summer, what accompanied with concerts . The pond in Doyran town, located to the west of city is very suitable for picnic and fishing.
In addition to the open air recreation areas, the number of shopping centers, which have increased rapidly in recent years, can also be classified as a rest area with the facilities they offer. The shopping centers in the city are gathered in the center. Among the leading shopping centers in the city are Antalya 5M Migros, Antalya Kipa, Laura, Shemall, Deepo and Özdilekpark.
Antalya’s signature cuisine includes Piyaz (made with tahini, garlic, walnuts, and boiled beans), şiş köfte (spicy meatball which is cooked around a stick) spicy hibeş with mixed cumin and tahini, tandır kebap, domates civesi, şakşuka, and various cold Mediterranean dishes with olive oil. One local speciality is tirmis, boiled seeds of the lupin, eaten as a snack. “Grida” (also known as Lagos or Mediterranean white grouper) is a fish common in local dishes.
Festivals and events
- Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival: national film festival usually held in September / October.
- International Eurasia Film Festival: (2005–2008) annual international film festival, now part of the Golden Orange festival.
- Antalya Television Awards: awarded annually since 2009.
- Antalya Festival: September
- Mediterranean International Music Festival: October, 6 days
- Antalya International Folk Music and Dance Festival Competition: Last week of August
- Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival: June and July
- Sandland, sand art festival at Lara Beach
- Antalya Museum
- Kaleiçi Museum: Opened in 2007 by the Mediterranean Civilizations Research Center (Akdeniz Medeniyetleri Araştırma Merkezi)
- Atatürk’s House Museum
- Antalya Toy Museum. The Antalya Metropolitan Municipality opened the exhibition facility in 2011.
- Suna & İnan Kıraç Kaleiçi Museum : An ethnographic museum run by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation.