Turkey, the Cradle of Civilization

Turkey, the cradle of the world's oldest civilizations, was also the home of the earliest Jewish communities. The Bible tells us that it was in Haran, in southern Turkey that Abraham and his family began their journey to Canaan (Genesis) and that Noah's Ark came to rest on Mount Arat, in eastern Turkey.

When I visited the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus with a history that dates back to the middle of the seventh century B.C., the Celsius Library completed in 125 A.D. had a clearly defined picture of a menorah scratched into one of its columns.

The Temple of Artemis which was considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World by the writers of the antique world can also been seen at Ephesus, although only a few pieces of marble and a single column remain.

Ephesus | Larger

The Turkish city of Istanbul, located between the continents of Europe and Asia has a population of 50 million and was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. The city was discovered in 1326 and amidst natural surroundings you can see the first examples of typical Ottoman architectural style. The Topkapi Palace overlooking the Marmara Sea is a maze of buildings that once was the palace of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace | Larger

It was here where the famous jewels of the imperial treasury are housed along with vast collections of china, crystal and silver. Visitors are taken on a guided tour of the Sultan's Harem, the secluded quarters of the wives and concubines of the sultan. There are many interesting palaces to visit in Turkey, with magnificent treasures and furnishings of centuries ago. Visitors can also take a picturesque boat ride on the Bosphorus where the waters of the Black Sea mingle with those of the Sea of Marmara.

Istanbul from the Bosphorus River
Istanbul from the Bosphorus River

Istanbul is a magnificent city that is fascinating and vividly alive. Beneath the unchanging skyline of her domes and minarets there is the continual bustle and movement of crowds, the rumbling of vehicles, hundreds of them, along cobblestone streets and the cries of street seller mingle with shipping sounds from the busy port.

There is also the grand bazaar with its thousands of shops offering bargains in leather goods, carpets and handicraft items, but be sure to bargain. The first price is apt to be double the cost of the item. Istanbul is known for their outstanding carpets and there are many factories where you can watch carpets being made and purchase them before you depart.

Woman making a carpet
Woman making a carpet

The city offers a wide variety of accommodations. I stayed at the five star, Mirmara Istanbul, overlooking the Bosphorus and the old city. The rooms were large and comfortable and they served a wonderful breakfast and luncheon buffet serving tasty Turkish cuisine.

Turkish buffet
Turkish buffet | Larger

I also visited Anakara, the modern capital of Turkey. The city has a history that dates back to the Bronze Age. Ankara, with a population of three million, offers visitors a number of fascinating historical sites, excellent museums and superb accommodations. I stayed at the Ankara Hilton which featured a restaurant that served gourmet Turkish cuisine which I would highly recommend for visitors.

The city is dotted with picturesque round domed mosques which are houses of prayer for the mainly Muslin population. Five times a day I heard ear-piercing calls to prayer and had an opportunity to visit one of the large mosques in Ankara. It was at the end of the afternoon prayers and hundreds of worshippers attended the services. There were no chairs. Worshippers sat on the floor kneeling on Turkish carpets which cover the floors of the mosque. Anyone who enters a mosque is required to remove their shoes.

Throughout the country there are opportunities to ride a camel especially at tourist attractions.

Phyllis on a camel
Phyllis on a camel | Larger

Cappadocia, also famous for its carpet weaving, is an interesting city to visit. Here, I put on my sneakers and climbed through an underground city that housed ancient Christians who carved underground homes out of rock formations to hide from invaders. There are also cone-shaped formations of rocks which the tour guides refer to as “fairy chimneys.” These formations have developed through weather conditions and other natural processes and are fascinating to view. It was here in Cappadocia that I saw people living on the mountainside in cave homes.

Cappadocia rock formations
Cappadocia rock formations | Larger

The grand finale of my trip to Turkey was a visit to a Turkish nightclub, housed in a cave, where diners sat at long tables on cushions, drank Turkish wine and enjoyed the wild antics of a belly dancer who invited members of the audience onto the cave floor to dance with her.

For more information about Turkey, go to www.tourismturkey.org