World’s oldest temple in Turkey becomes major tourist attraction

Gobeklitepe, crowned the world’s oldest temple, has become a favorite destination of tourists in Turkey’s southeastern city of Sanliurfa.

Gobeklitepe has been on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Tentative List since 2011. It was discovered in 1963 when researchers from the universities of Istanbul and Chicago were working at the site.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the mayor of Sanliurfa metropolitan municipality, Zeynel Abidin Beyazgul, said: “Sanliurfa is a city of history, archeology and tourism. Gobeklitepe’s being on the UNESCO World Heritage List has contributed to Sanliurfa being one of the most well-known places in the world.”

He said Gobeklitepe is one of the destinations in Sanliurfa that domestic and foreign tourists want to explore the most.

“Sanliurfa will set new records in the coming period in terms of hosting domestic and foreign tourists,” he said.

Noting that the archeological site attracted more attention after it was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List three years ago, Beyazgul said the number of visitors from abroad is increasing every year due to the mystery and secrets waiting to be solved at Gobeklitepe, which is described as a “zero point in time.”

“Sanliurfa, which is almost an open-air museum, continues to be the attraction center for domestic and foreign tourists with its cuisine, cultural values and music as well as its ancient history,” he added.

Muslum Coban, the head of the Regional Tourist Guides Chamber in Sanliurfa, told Anadolu Agency that approximately 500,000 people visited Sanliurfa in the first nine months of this year.

“We predict that the number of visitors will reach millions very quickly after the [coronavirus] pandemic,” he said.

He added that after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared 2019 the “Year of Gobeklitepe,” the number of visitors to the site increased significantly.

Coban underlined that although Sanliurfa and Gobeklitepe did not host the expected number of visitors in 2020 due to the pandemic, with normalization efforts, Gobeklitepe is attracting tourists’ attention.

Rahime Yasar, the deputy head of the Sanliurfa Tourism Development Association, said “Gobeklitepe, particularly during the pandemic, is one of the rare places that can give visitors a breath of fresh air with its nature and history.”

“We have three places on the UNESCO World Heritage List from our region, including Gobeklitepe. Moreover, seven other places are on the tentative list,” she said.

She said Gobeklitepe is always at the forefront as the most important destination for tourists.

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