According to figures from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Sümela hosted 141,726 tourists in the first seven months of 2009, but 256,055 tourists in the same period this year.
There are now preparations for another historic day of worship at an Armenian church in the east of the country, on Akdamar Island in the province of Van. The island has drawn almost as many tourists in the first seven months of this year as it did during the whole of 2009, when 20,407 tourists visited. This year, there have been already 17,349 visitors. Ministry sources said the visits started to increase as word spread that the sites would be opened to worship.
Although the religious service planned for both sites will only take place one day in a year, visitors’ interest in the sites has shown a big increase. The Greek Orthodox service was held at the Sümela Monastery on Aug. 15. The Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island will also open for a religious service, planned for Sept. 19 when at least 4,000 visitors are expected.
The services in Sümela and Akdamar are considered to be of important historic value since they are the first to be held there in the Turkish Republic’s history. Three-thousand Orthodox Christians, from Turkey and abroad, flocked to the ancient monastery in Sümela to attend the ceremony conducted by Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew, who is a Turkish citizen.