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Antalya by Buket Aşçı

Photo: Turkishtime
 Untitled Document

The following article was published in May 2003 issue of Turkishtime.

Not just the sun and the sea: Though Antalya brings to mind the sun and the sea, more acquaintance with the city reveals that there's more to Antalya than meets the eye.
by Buket Aşçı

A song once went, "Imagine a happy Dutchman in Antalya". In those years when Turkey was opening up abroad and the "local produce week" (to encourage consumption of goods made in Turkey) was still being celebrated, those who carried passports, especially those who went abroad were seen as "millionaires". But if it was Antalya at issue, everyone believed that this city was one of the tourism paradises on earth. Such that, during broadcasting interceptions due to so called technical faults, the image of the Antalya Düden Waterfalls covered the TV screen. The videos for the Eurovision song contest were always shot in Antalya's most beautiful places. Maybe for this reason, when "tourism boom" became a catchphrase what came first to everyone's mind was images of Antalya teeming with people.

We may now find this picture of the '80s rather naïve. However, the point that Antalya has reached in tourism is in a way the proof that this isn't a naïve, but a progressive and realist perspective.

The command of Attalos
Anyway, how else could the fate of a city founded upon the command of Attalos, the King of Pergamon in the 2nd century B.C. be cast? With its vast beaches stretching at the foot of the Toros Mountains, hot climate, pre-historic past, caves and waterfalls, Antalya is an ideal paradise for tourism both for culture, mass tourism and nature sports. When we see that 4,730,000 tourists visited it in 2002, we understand that these words are not exaggerated.

Now, even when many touristic venues are empty, Antalya swarms with tourists. Certainly, it isn't possible to only attribute this to the beauty of Antalya. Above all, transportation to the city is very easy. Especially in summer there are constant flights from everywhere to the airport, which is at a reasonable distance to 21 tourism centers of the city (Kaş, Kale, Kemer, Serik, Manavgat, Alanya, Gazipaşa and Antalya central district). In addition, land and sea transportation is also comfortable. Another characteristic that renders Antalya Turkey's tourism capital is its tourism facilities. Some of the best hotels in Turkey give this city a bed capacity of 232,000.

Nevertheless, Antalya cannot reap this potential. Since Turkey pinned down all hopes after the economic crisis on export and tourism, many hotels had to provide services much below their quality. This engendered the concept of "cheap tourists". Particularly because of the 'all inclusive' policy of tour operators and hotels, tourists do not step outside the hotel and do not shop.

Therefore, tourism suffers major profit losses. Ahmet Sığlacı from the Antalya Chamber of Industry and Trade evaluates the outcome: "In compliance with this practice, low income tourists who don't spend money come to Antalya. Because they satisfy all their needs at the hotel, most of them don't even step outside it and can't see the natural beauties and history of the city. So there is both, a shortfall in profits and an impairment of Antalya's promotion". He adds that the city undergoes loss of gains in tax as well again predicated on tourism: "Although many large companies procure their proceeds from here, they pay their taxes in other cities. This is a significant deficit of income for the city". Sığlacı points out that a similar problem concerns the share that the city receives from the state in relation to its population. He says: "Antalya's population more than doubles in summer, but in receiving a share from the state only its native population is considered. So the city is given a stake at a rate that wouldn't measure up to the real population. This reins in investments, chiefly infrastructure." Residents of Antalya have conveyed their problems to politicians and claim that provided the necessary precautions are taken, the tourism potential of the city will increase by 40%.

Antalya's principal problem or question today is how the US-Iraq war will affect tourism. The city has seen a 71% rise in tourists in January compared to last year and again a 38% rise in February, but stood at a loss of 11% in the month of March when the war broke out. Ahmet Sığlacı says: "On the contrary, in tourism this year a major upturn is expected because the world's been quick to slip out of the war psychology. Investments made in the past years now bear more fruits. Operators expect a boom".

Not just tourism…
If in a city, it is possible to ski on the mountains and swim in the sea; if it's surrounded by historical works and museums, tourism would come to mind logically. But this is not the only secret to Antalya's bustling economy. Though paled by tourism, agriculture is also a mainstay in Antalya. Such that according to data of 1998, 57% of employment in Antalya is in agriculture. Because Antalya enjoys its dual advantage in skiing and sea tourism, in agriculture, too. Its climate is generally Mediterranean, but hardens towards the Toros Mountains so products of both hot and cold climates can be grown. On coastal areas, there are products like bananas, citrus, etc. and greenhouse agriculture; on highlands fruits such as apples, pears, quinces bloom. This advantage is visible in figures. Antalya is among Turkey's most important citrus growing cities. It has 30% of orange production, 80% of glass greenhouse area and 50% of plastic greenhouse area. Another crucial agricultural product of Antalya is production of cut flowers. The city covers 90% of Turkey's production of cut flowers, with an annual production of over 376,000.

A free zone, too
Antalya has a brisk trade life. The free zone was established in 1987 on a 544,000 m_ area next to the port and it is Turkey's fourth largest free zone. It is a zone that is equipped at a level that can compete with advanced free zones, possesses a dock with all kinds of loading-unloading services since 1998 and has the capability of handling container trade for the last two years. Construction, maintenance and repair of yachts and ships and production/trade of cable harnessing, electronic devices, textile-apparel and dialysis machines are carried out. In the free zone, 82 firms actively trade and 4000 people are employed. The trade value for 2002 was $246 million.

GNP Above Turkey Average
This commotion in tourism, agriculture and trade reverberates on the makeup of the population; Antalya has been a city receiving migration from other cities. Today, more than half the population are those who came by internal migration. If we bear in mind that per capita income is above Turkey's average ($2,972), this is very normal. Plus, its social life is vibrant. Antalya is geared up to become a center of culture with Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival, 22 libraries, museums holding eminent works of world history, 6 large cultural centers, galleries and fair organizing companies. So (Pergamon King) Attalos's paradise on earth has managed to create happy residents of Antalya though not as much as the Dutchman in the song.

It is no easy job to drill down to the details of Antalya's history for the remains in Karain Cave, 20 km northwest of the city, signify that Antalya's past is as ancient as 220,000 B.C. Antalya was a settlement site without any break in time so it has hosted all civilizations which were born and demised on these lands. The city is a literal open air museum. There are 118 archeological sites, 26 natural sites and 17 archeological natural sites. At any step you take, you can bump into a trace of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman Empires. Its Kaleiçi complex won the "Tourism Oscar" Golden Apple in 1984. Some historical works: Evdir Han ("Han" is a type of inn) (1219), Kırkgöz Han (1247), Kargı Hanı (13th cent.), Alara Han (1231), İki Kapılı (With Two Gates) Han, Alanya Castle (Hellenistic period), Pazar Hamam-Turkish Bath (16th cent.) Gıyasettin Keyhüsrev Medresesi-theological school (1239) Seljuk Medrese, Mevlevihane-Dervish lodge (1255), Tombs from Seljuk and Ottoman periods, Yivli Minare-Fluted Minaret Mosque (1372), İskele Mosque (1903), Hıdırlık Castle (Hellenistic period), Ahi Yusuf Mosque (1249), Ömer Paşa Mosque (1610), Balıbey Mosque (16th cent.), Müsellim Mosque (1796), Muratpaşa Mosque (1570), Tekelioğlu Mehmet Paşa Mosque (16th cent.)

Antalya Museum
Recipient of the 1988 European Council Special Award, the Antalya Museum owns countless outstanding works such as toys that children played with throughout the ages, remains of the Karain Cave, cubic tomb found in Elmalı - Semahöyük excavations where a body lay in the fetal position with various gifts, golden, bronze, silver, ivory works of 7-8th centuries B.C., etc. In this museum, you can see statues from 2-3rd centuries B.C found in Perge excavations, two sarcophagi containing the twelve labors of Heracles (one sarcophagus was smuggled abroad and was brought back in 1983) and the "Mosaic of Philosophers" including the most famous historians, orators, philosophers and mathematicians of the ancient ages. Also what's been left of the Korydalla treasure, part of which was smuggled to the US. The museum has the most important mosaics, reliefs and even Santa Claus depictions in history since Antiquity. It's possible to see Turco-Islamic works from Seljuks to our day (hand written Quran, dresses, jewelry, etc.)

The thousand faces of tourism
Antalya is a place without parallel for alternative tourism activities: Hunting tourism (bear, wild goat, wild boar, lynx, wolf, jackal and fox hunting is permitted), winter tourism on Toros Mountains, hot springs, Turkish baths, health tourism in hotels, botany tourism because of the rich fauna, congress tourism because of spacious halls, bird watching (450 species of birds), cave tourism (Karataş - Semahöyük, Beldibi, Karain, Damlataş and Altın Düdeni are famous caves). You can do golf, yachting, aviation sports, mountain climbing, rafting, and scuba diving and visit the Düden, Kurşunlu and Manavgat waterfalls.

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