Colorful hot air balloons took off on Monday at the famous ancient site of Göbeklitepe in southeastern Turkey's Şanlıurfa province, kicking off the 2021 season.
The balloon rides in the province had seen a long break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Visitors riding in three balloons enjoyed beautiful aerial views of Göbeklitepe, Harran Plain and Şanlıurfa's city center.
Speaking about the tourism potential of the area, Şanlıurfa Mayor Zeynel Abidin Beyazgül told reporters they aimed to make Şanlıurfa the second largest hot air balloon center after Cappadocia, which is home to the fabled fairy chimneys and stunning balloon rides.
"Tourists will find traces of every civilization here, see traces of the first Indigenous people and the places where the prophets lived, and taste traditional gastronomy and enjoy the music of the region,” Beyazgül said.
The outstanding 12,000-year-old Göbeklitepe complex, located 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) from Turkey’s southeastern city of Şanlıurfa, is the oldest known temple and one of the most important discoveries of Neolithic research. It was discovered in 1963 when researchers from the universities in Istanbul and Chicago were working in the area.
Crowned as the world's first temple, the prehistoric site of Göbeklitepe stands out among other archaeological sites with its impressive megalithic architecture. In joint work at the site since 1995, the German Archaeological Institute and Şanlıurfa Museum have found T-shaped obelisks from the Neolithic era towering 3 to 6 meters (10 to 20 feet) high and weighing 40 to 60 tons. During the excavations, diverse 12,000-year-old artifacts such as human statuettes 65 centimeters (26 inches) tall were also unearthed. In a more recent discovery, new mounds were located by researchers near the ancient site in June this year.
The site has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List since 2011. According to UNESCO, Göbeklitepe was the meeting place of the last hunter-gatherers before humans switched to a lifestyle based on agriculture.
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