The northwestern Turkish province of Edirne attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists every year with its cultural treasures, some of which are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among the city's sights on the UNESCO list are Selimiye Mosque and Complex, Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling, the historical Uzunköprü bridge and the Sultan Bayezid II Complex.
Edirne’s Selimiye Mosque and Complex, which is a paragon of Turkish-Islamic artifacts, was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 2011. Built by Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan between 1569 and 1575 on the order of Sultan Selim II, the Selimiye Mosque and Complex stand out with unique architectural features. Mimar Sinan described the mosque as a masterpiece of his mastery period.
The four minarets and single great dome of the landmark structure dominate the skyline of the city. The mosque’s stone, marble, tile, wooden and mother-of-pearl decorations in its interior are the embodiment of spectacular Ottoman art. The complex around the mosque includes madrasas, a covered market, a clock house, an outer courtyard and a library. UNESCO's website says that it is considered one of the most harmonious expressions ever achieved in an Ottoman complex, a group of buildings constructed around a mosque and managed as a single institution.
Another marvel in Edirne is the Uzunköprü (The Long Bridge), which was built per the order of Sultan Murat II by Müslihiddin, the chief architect of the period, between 1426-1443. It connects Anatolia and the Balkans via the Ergene River. The 1,392-meter-long (4,567-foot-long) and 6.8-meter-wide bridge is also one of the most important historical legacies in the city.
Uzunköprü was placed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Tentative List in 2015. UNESCO's website says: “Uzunköprü is a masterpiece of the early period of Ottoman architecture.”
One year after Uzunköprü, the city’s Sultan Bayezid II Complex was also added to the same list. The complex was built during the time of Sultan Bayezid II as a structure housing a hospital, medical school and almshouse. Currently serving as a museum where its historical traces are told, it remains a tourist attraction with its UNESCO label.
Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling: Epic of valor
Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling comes to mind first when this sport is mentioned. It is considered the “legend of wrestling” with its unique rituals and was registered in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2010.
The historical Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival, which continues to preserve heritage and traditions for future generations, is one of the oldest sports events in Turkey. It stands out as a cultural element that attracts tourists to the city. Wrestling fans and tourists from around the world flock to the city during the festival, where shirtless wrestlers doused in olive oil and donning tight leather pants known as "kıspet" try to take down their opponents in a grass arena where Ottoman troops are once believed to have trained in the city. Unfortunately, the festival could not be held this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA), Mehmet Öcal Oğuz, president of the Turkish National Commission for UNESCO, said Edirne is one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey with its historical and cultural structure and visual and audial heritage. He stated that the city gained global recognition after the aforementioned sites were added to UNESCO lists.
Highlighting that visual heritage is important in terms of recognition of cities and their tourism potential, Oğuz continued: “Therefore, potential visitors to a city closely follow UNESCO lists – which is a great guide for tourism in countries. There may be tens of thousands of legacies of superior universal value in the world, but UNESCO does not undertake the task of preserving or restoring all of them. It supports and advises the country involved to preserve this heritage.”
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