Four open-air museums in southeastern Turkey’s Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Adıyaman and Mardin provinces offer visitors an opportunity to embark on a rich historical journey through the millennia. The sites include the ancient wonder Göbeklitepe, Mount Nemrut, Yesemek Open-Air Museum and the ancient city of Dara.
Göbeklitepe, known as the world's oldest temple and dubbed “point zero of history,” has been on UNESCO's World Heritage Tentative List since 2011. It was discovered in 1963 when researchers from Istanbul and Chicago universities were working at the site.
The site hosted more than 400,000 visitors in 2019. Although its numbers dwindled last year due to the coronavirus, Göbeklitepe was the most-visited site in Turkey's virtual museum program, with 1.7 million visits.
Since work began at the site in 1995, the German Archaeological Institute and Şanlıurfa Museum have found T-shaped obelisks from the Neolithic era measuring three to six meters (10-20 feet) high and weighing 40-60 tons. During the excavations, 12,000-year-old diverse artifacts, including human figurines measuring 65 centimeters (26 inches), were also discovered.
Pleased about the rising interest in the region, Müslüm Çoban, head of a regional chamber of tourist guides, said that Turkey's southeast is the least risky region during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Many people who want to join a tour and travel are planning to come to the region," he added.
Also known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, it is known for its summit, where several larger-than-life statues of Greek and Persian gods have been erected around what is assumed to be a royal tomb from the first century B.C. Protected as a national park, the region attracts thousands of domestic and foreign tourists every year.
After climbing Mount Nemrut, an 800-meter walk that takes about 40 minutes, visitors have the opportunity to admire the spectacular sunset. Local and foreign tourists generally take pictures of the breathtaking view from the summit before sundown.
In addition to its rich history, Mardin is unique due to the harmony within the city where people of various faiths coexist peacefully.
The ruins of the ancient city of Dara, featuring ancient rock tombs dating back to the fifth century A.D., are hailed as the "Ephesus of Mesopotamia." Dara was an important settlement along the famed Silk Road.
The Roman-era ancient city, just 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Mardin city center, boasts a popular necropolis where religious ceremonies were held and hundreds of people were laid to rest.
Ahmet Alanlı, the secretary-general of the Dicle Development Agency (DIKA), told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Dara has one of the most important city wall structures in the world. "We're planning to get Dara onto the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. Our aim is to bring tourism to this place and ensure the development of the region," he added.
The archeological site, which features 518 statues on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, is visited by some 15,000 people every year.
"8,683 people visited the museum in 2020. This number is of course very low for us but it decreased due to COVID-19. I believe that with normalization, the number of visitors will rise again," said Ali Çiçek, who has been working as a museum guide for nearly 20 years.
The unique site was a quarry in the Hittite period and occupies an area of 100,000 square meters, making it the largest known stonemasonry workshop in the ancient Near East.
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