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Especially today, it is essential to remember Gaziantep in its unique beauty so that when it gets back on its feet everyone can pay homage to it for its history and magnificence and not for its suffering
At the origins of Gaziantep
The first settlement near Gaziantep is today’s Dülük, a village located today just 10 km from the center of today’s city. This place even dates back to the Neolithic, but will be the Hittites the first to make it into history; in fact, below them it became a fundamental point in the communication routes that connected the Mediterranean world to the Anatolian hinterland, so much so that a large temple was also built here to Teshup, the Hurrian god of the sky and the storm. In today’s Gaziantep they will instead build the foundations of Gaziantep Castle, then used as a simple observation point.
With the collapse of the Hittites it then passed into the hands of the Egyptians, Medes, Assyrians and Persians, obtaining new glory in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. In that period it was called “Antiochia ad Taurum and under Rome it stood out for being one of the greatest centers for the diffusion of Christianity, so much so that, according to some traditions, even some of the main apostles would have passed through it. With the collapse of the Roman Empire such territory will pass into the hands of the Byzantines who, under Justinian, will renew and expand its castle.
Arabs, Armenians and Turks
In 636 it was conquered by the Arab troops of Umar ibn al Khattab who brought Islam to the region for the first time; also by virtue of the various political upheavals, the new religion achieved extraordinary success, so much so that in a short time a good part of the population of the provinces of Gaziantep and Hatay converted to the new faith.
Given its strategic position, it became an extremely coveted prey by various empires, so much so that it experienced several centuries of particular political tension, to the point of being conquered by various powers, including: Abbasids, Tulunids, Ikhshidids, Hamdanids, Seljuks, Crusaders, Armenians , Ayyubids, Ilkhanids, Mamluks and finally the Dulqadirids.
The latter were the last dynasty to reign over Gaziantep before the arrival of the Ottomans, with whom they immediately formed a deep friendship, also testified by the fact that many of the consorts of the Ottoman sultans were originally from this potentate, including the first official wife of Mehmed the Conqueror, Sittişah Hatun. The fortunes of the city changed definitively in 1516 when, following ever-increasing tensions between the Ottomans and the Mamluks, the former invaded the latter, clashing in the battle of Marji Dabiq; the latter will prove to be a real watershed within the Middle East as it allowed the Sublime Porte to annex all of Syria and, just a year later, also Egypt and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
After these conquests, the Dulqadirid Beylicate was officially incorporated into the Empire, becoming, from 1522 to 1864, a real province with its own administrative centers in Maraş, today’s Kahramanmaraş. While increasingly losing its centrality at a political level, Gaziantep remained an important economic centre, so much so that the Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi claims that there were as many as 3900 shops and two bedestans, particular covered markets typical of the Ottoman Empire. From 1818 to 1908 it passed into the province of Aleppo, becoming a second-level administrative centre.
From the War of Independence to today
Due to its position within the province of Aleppo, following the Ottoman defeat in World War I it passed briefly to the British and then to the French, who defended it during the attempted liberation of Turkey by the Kuva-yi Milliye militias; the latter lost the siege but, following the Treaty of Ankara of 1921, the city became part of the newly formed Turkish state.
Today the city of Gaziantep is considered one of the centers of Turkish-Ottoman culture due to the large number of museums, such as the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, the largest in the world entirely dedicated to mosaics, bazaars, mosques and, above all, for its incredible contribution to Turkish-Ottoman cuisine. In fact, many dishes originate from this city, the most famous of which is certainly baklava, an inevitable dessert of the Ottoman tradition. In addition to this, the city is known for its very ancient castle, which unfortunately was practically destroyed following the terrible earthquake of 2023, and for having given birth to various cultural and entertainment figures such as the writers Nedim Gürsel and Ahmet Ümit.
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