In the past, the baths in Gaziantep were the subject of a number of folksongs, but today, the city has become a popular spot because of its museums. A multitude of museums with different content and concepts are scattered around the city: the Panorama Museum, the War Museum, the City Museum, etc. Regardless of why you come to the city, your road ends at a museum. There are so many of them that you have to set aside one full day if you want to see them all. The artifacts removed from the excavation of the ancient city of Zeugma, the weapons used in the defense of the city, ethnographic objects and kitchen utensils are on display at these museums. Each day, the city discovers one of its hidden treasures. This is also what city officials say.
Famous for its industrial facilities and cuisine, Gaziantep now seeks to host visitors who want to view its museums as well. Before you enter the Panorama Museum located within the Gaziantep Castle, you encounter the statues of three local heroes Karayılan, Şehitkamil and Şahinbey at the entrance. As you enter the museum, you hear the echoes: “I am from Antep. I am a hawk (Şahin). I don’t carry any gun as I will fight with my fists.” In an atmosphere that is cool in summer and warm in winter, you experience the unforgettable days of the defense of Gaziantep. As you leave, you commemorate all the heroic souls who protected this city and step into another museum.
There are two museums in the vicinity of the castle: the Glassware Museum and the Emine Göğüş Cuisine Museum. In the Glassware Museum, beautiful objects are on display. The Emine Göğüş Cuisine Museum showcases Gaziantep’s cuisine. As you tour around this museum, you can get the recipes of dishes you like.
You drop by the Gaziantep Mosaic Museum before you visit the Bayazhan City Museum. The museum that has the artifacts from the Zeugma excavation site has been visited by many statesmen. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gül and former International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission Chief for Turkey Lorenzo Giorgianni are among the recent visitors to the museum. After learning about the Zeugma mosaics, visitors tend to go to the Bayazhan City Museum. Here, the traditions, customs and handicrafts of the city are depicted.
Then, you can visit the Hasan Süzer Ethnography Museum. The Gaziantep War Museum, opened two years ago after a 45-year wait, is about life in the city during the occupation. Every visitor is shown “taktakıs,” which defeated the French army. This tool is a product of the city’s intelligence. The inhabitants of Antep could not find weapons to use against the strong French army, which occupied the city, so they developed a wooden tool that produces a sound similar to a machine gun and called it “taktakı.” The enemy soldiers were perplexed when they heard the machine gun sounds produced by these wooden tools. In addition to the museums in the city center, there are also the Yesemek Open-Air Museum and the Zeugma excavation site, which are popular destinations.
Protecting the culture
Gaziantep Mayor Asım Güzelbey, who sponsored the establishment of numerous museums in the city, says their management approach pays special attention to culture. “As is known, Gaziantep is a major industrial city. The city’s investors have taken advantage of investment opportunities and built four organized industrial zones without government support. The city earns $3 billion from exports and employs 65,000 people,” he says. Güzelbey also underlines that Gaziantep had seen a number of civilizations in the past. “After it was conquered by Caliph Umar, Gaziantep became the cradle of Turkish-Islamic civilizations. It has always been a city of industry, commerce, peace, culture and tourism. Industry has gained an upper hand with the introduction of industrial culture. Until recently, no one has concentrated on the cultural values of the city. Now, it is an important city of culture and arts,” he says.
Mayor Güzelbey stresses that they protect the cultural heritage of the city and at the same time have the mission of looking forward. “Recently, five big museums have been established in the city. The Gaziantep Castle has been made a center, and the historic relics near the castle have been renovated. Currently, there are not many foreign tourists visiting the city. But, for the last two years, the city has had many domestic tourists. Museums, the castle, historic relics and the city’s cuisine attract people to this city,” he explains.
Noting that they expect a second mosaic museum to be completed soon, Güzelbey said: “With this museum, we expect an increase in the number of foreign visitors. In the past, many foreign tourists visited Gaziantep. It was a major destination for foreign tourists. They would first visit this city and then cities nearby. However, the problems the country has suffered and terror have prevented them from visiting the region. Our plan is to ensure that Gaziantep is known for its museums.”