Muğla showing a different face to the outside world these days

Muğla showing a different face to the outside world these days

PHOTOS: TODAY ZAMAN

July 04, 2012, Wednesday/ 16:58:00

The Muğla Governor’s Office, which is in charge of cities such as Bodrum, Marmaris and Fethiye -- all of which are among the leading cities for local and foreign tourists to visit in Turkey -- has started a souvenir gift initiative.

Within its framework, the Governor’s Office has ordered special gifts that reflect the natural and cultural characteristics unique to these spots, at the same time avoiding using items made in China, the likes of which can be found almost anywhere you go in the world.

With an annual 3 million foreign tourists -- along with 3 million Turkish tourists --visiting it every year, the province of Muğla is full of all sorts of good developments these days. And Muğla Governor Fatih Şahin is taking steps and making investments set to change the profile of the region.

Places such as Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye, Köyceğiz and Datça are all in the province of Muğla, and all are among the first spots in Turkey to come to mind when one hears the word “holiday.” As for the city center of Muğla itself, it has characteristics that distinguish it from many other Anatolian cities. For one, it is not dominated at all by some of the many-storey concrete buildings you might see in other places. It has protected its traditional architectural style over the years. And in recent years, older buildings that have undergone restoration have always been done in the style in which they were originally built. As for the shops located in these buildings, they tend to carry on the merchant culture of old, despite the fact that many of them are modern and chic stores.

Touring around the shopping area with some local journalists, I was struck by the fact that everyone seemed to be greeting one another here. (I also could not help but notice merchants sorting beans, preparing their own lunch.) The new project being signed off on by the Muğla Governor’s Office is the reason for so many journalists coming here from İstanbul. Two years ago, when Governor Şahin came to office, he became aware of the lack of souvenir items that actually reflected the genuine region and its characteristics. Yes, one could purchase fabrics from the region, or baby dolls wearing local clothing, and of course, the same sorts of magnets and T-shirts made in China that you could find anywhere in the world. But these did not really fit the bill in terms of reflecting the magnitude of local natural and cultural treasures. And so, Governor Şahin set out to research what could be done to fix the situation.

The solution wound up coming when Governor Şahin’s wife read an article in the Zaman daily. The article was about former actor Murat Başoğlu and how he was producing specially designed souvenirs for İstanbul under the brand name Takkunya. Like Şahin, Başoğlu had apparently perceived the need İstanbul had for genuinely chic and modern objects that actually reflected the culture and nature of İstanbul. In any case, a request went out from Muğla to Başoğlu, and the latter says he was very happy to receive such a request. As it turns out, he had been thinking of working Muğla into his agenda anyway. “After all, Bodrum, Marmaris and Fethiye are some of the places in Turkey which attract the greatest number of tourists. And I myself really don’t want to visit those places and come away with some statuette of an elephant as a memory. Anyway, we worked with great enthusiasm and came up with a collection in just a short while,” he said. Together with Governor Şahin, Başoğlu worked to promote these souvenir items, which include things such as images of the Öludeniz and Bodrum, dolls wearing local outfits, and of course, the Caretta caretta turtles known to the region, butterflies and pomegranates. Notes Şahin: “There were just so many natural and historical aspects to Muğla that could be worked with. This is just the first and very limited dimension to this particular project. It all started with T-shirts, trays, plates, magnets, books and coffee cups, but the range of items is set to widen over time.”

Profits made from these new souvenir items, which are to be sold at Muğla Handicrafts (MELSA) stores, will go to city renovation and social responsibility projects. The items will also be available at airports, hotels and stores that make special orders.

An investment in the Ölüdeniz

Fethiye’s Ölüdeniz (Dead Sea), which was reported to be in fact dying just a few years ago, has been chosen as Europe’s best beach by TripAdvisor.com. And in fact, the village of Belcekız and shoreline of the Ölüdeniz are now like paradise. You reach the sands of the beach by walking down a road bordered on both sides by trees. After you take a dip in the sparkling and crystal clear waters of the sea, you can head for a café that is run by the Muğla handicrafts connected to the Governor’s Office (MELSA) and order up a cold drink as you listen to the sounds of the various wild birds in the air around you. As you sip your cold drink, have some fun counting the number of parachutes sailing by in the air, the parachuters having leapt from Babadağ above you. As Governor Şahin’s wife, Ayşe Şahin, says, her husband’s efforts from the very beginning have been aimed at making the public beaches here as clean and comfortable as possible, winning over the citizens who use these beaches in the process.

Sakartepe lookout point

Muğla is a city full of surprises for its visitors. Every corner possesses different cultural and natural wonders. And just as you can take them all in by parachute, you can also look down on it all from Sakartepe, as the governor’s office has built a special viewing road here, complete with binoculars, benches and terraces. From this peak, you can take in the Aegean Sea, Fethiye and the incredible forest vista. Says Governor Şahin: “There are also historic roads within the forest areas. We are improving them now, putting up signs and making walking paths complete with benches these days. Another spot we are working on is the historic stone homes of Kayaköy, which are under restoration and will be opened later. With these investments, we are hoping that many more tourists will in fact spend more time in this province.”