In the Kemeraltı bazaar in western Turkey’s Izmir province, one of the oldest known bazaars in the world, 34 historical buildings reflecting the historically multicultural identity of the city have been restored as part of studies aiming to add it to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Historical Port City of Izmir, which consists of the historical Kemeraltı bazaar, Basmane, Kadifekale quarters, Old Smyrna, Yeşilova and the Yassıtepe mounds, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2020. It is defined as a multilayered open-air museum that contains traces of the Hellenistic period, ancient Rome, Byzantines, Ottomans and modern Turkey.
The area houses important symbols of Izmir such as Konak Square, the clock tower and the Kemeraltı bazaar. Konak Square is a place where visitors can learn the history of Ottoman modernization by observing the bureaucratic structuring of the 19th Century in the area. The clock tower with four floors and an octagonal plan also adorns Konak Square. While it was built to mark the 25th anniversary of the enthronement of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II, the clock of the tower was gifted by German Emperor Wilhelm II, who sent such timely presents to many cities in Anatolia.
Kemeraltı bazaar, known as one of the largest and oldest open-air shopping centers in the world, has a very colorful cultural structure with its mosques, churches and synagogues. The historic bazaar Kemeraltı (meaning “under the arch” in English) looks like a labyrinth with its narrow pathways and streets, stretching through to the ancient Agora. Dating back to the 17th century, Kemeraltı is home to shops, eateries, artisan workshops, mosques, coffeehouses, tea gardens and synagogues.
Within the scope of the works carried out to include the Historical Port City of Izmir into the permanent UNESCO World Heritage List under the coordination of the Presidency of the Historical Port City of Izmir, a site management plan has gone into effect. As part of the plan, a file is being prepared to send to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and then to UNESCO to accelerate the inclusion of the area into the World Heritage List in August. And for the preparation of the file, various restoration, conversation and reviving works are underway in the city.
Within the scope of the studies, special attention was given to the Kemeraltı bazaar located in the center of the city. Thirty-four historical buildings reflecting the Muslim, Greek, Jewish and Levantine cultures of Izmir were restored by the governor's office with an investment of TL 140 million ($8.06 million) and added to the sightseeing routes.
Among the restored buildings are Naturzade Mansion, Mavi Kortejo (Blue Cortijo), the Alanyalı mansions, the historical government house, the Old Maternity Hospital building, the National Library, the Agora Turkish House and Akın Passage on Havra Street.
Izmir Governor Yavuz Selim Köşger told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they aim to restore the old identity of the city, which is one of the most important trade centers in the Mediterranean basin.
Noting that the ancient cities of Pergamon and Ephesus from Izmir were previously included in the World Heritage List, Köşge said that the works for the city center’s inclusion on the permanent list are now in the final stage. He added that being included on the UNESCO list will significantly increase the touristic value of the city.
Pointing out that tourism professionals take the UNESCO World Heritage List into consideration when determining their tour routes, Köşger said, "Few other Turkish cities other than Izmir have two sites on the UNESCO list. Having three sites on the list will add value to Izmir."
Köşger added that work aiming to add the Historical City of Birgi, Foça and Çandarlı castles, and Izmir Çeşme Castle, which are on the tentative list, to the permanent list is also ongoing.