Southeastern Turkey Following the February 2023 Earthquakes: Updates and Reflections

Posted by on Feb 15, 2023 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Thanks to the many of you who have sent well wishes, donations, and prayers for our beloved Türkiye and those impacted by the recent disaster. We are beyond sad about the unfathomable loss of life and destruction in this amazing region of vast historical and cultural significance.

We wanted to provide you with an initial update you on these major earthquakes that hit 10 provinces in Southeastern Turkey on February 6, 2023. There is a lot of information on TV and social media about this terrible tragedy – in this post and the video below, we want to highlight why this region is so important and provide an update* on some of the most significant historic sites! *updates as of February 13, 2023.

While most people are familiar with places like Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the Aegean Coast – 1,000 kilometers away, the Southeastern corner of Turkey is also a treasure for our global heritage that has given rise to human civilization, modern religion, and more. We, at Turkey At Its Best, have been promoting travel to this area for many years. Bringing more tourism to this area and supporting the people in Southeastern Turkey, the area which we describe as “Where It All Began”, is part of our philosophy of sharing the history and the sites of Turkey with the whole world and trying to preserve the millennia-old traditions of this ancient land. Religion, agriculture, and the domestication of farm animals first began here around 10,000 years ago. Einkorn wheat, a precursor of modern wheat, still grows wild in this region.

Some of these amazing places in this area include:

Göbeklitepe, in the Şanlıurfa (Urfa) province, is the first temple built by humans dating back 12,000 years ago! Status: Göbeklitepe seems to be not damaged; the 12,000-year-old columns are still standing!

Şanlıurfa is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world; Urfa is known as the “City of Prophets” and “Ur of Chaldees”, the birthplace of Abraham, according to some. Status: There is a lot of damage in the city

Gaziantep, the culinary capital of Turkey where you find over 150 recipes of eggplant dishes alone! It’s also home to the Zeugma Museum, home to one of the world’s best mosaic collections. Status: The 2,200-year-old Gaziantep castle has been destroyed – we hope they will be able to restore it. But fortunately the Zeugma Museum has not suffered much damage

Adiyaman, where one can see Mt. Nemrut with its colossal statues, and the 2,300-year-old bridge that are still in use! Status: The statues are said to be OK, but the Karakuş Tumulus monument has fallen down.

Mardin, a city with houses that look as if they were made with lace, is the center of Jacobites, a community of Assyrian Orthodox Christians who still speak Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, as well as the Mithraeum in Zersevan Castle, one of the best-preserved temples of the Mithras cult in the world, a mystery religion that originated in ancient Persia. Status: Based on limited information, there appears to be extensive damage to some buildings. We are hopeful that some of the monasteries, temples, and mosques have remained in good shape.

Antioch (Antakya and Hatay Province) – What can we say about what Antioch offers: The first church in the world! The place where the name “Christian” was first used! Where synagogues, churches and mosques all coexist around each other and where the diverse worshippers have been living together as one community, in peace, brotherhood and tolerance, all these years. Considered to be the oldest mosque in Turkey, Habib-in Naccar, was built over the grave of, and named after, one of the first disciples of Christ! The story of these first disciples of Jesus is also mentioned in one of the most well-known chapters of the Koran, called “Yasin”. Status: This is one of the most damaged provinces, where many buildings have collapsed, resulting in perhaps the greatest per capital loss of life in the earthquake zone. Antakya has been home to one of Southern Turkey’s oldest Jewish communities; its main synagogue has been heavily damaged, and the local Jewish community leader and his wife unfortunately lost their lives. We are also pained to report that the Orthodox Church and the Habib-in Naccar mosque were also heavily damaged. On a positive note, however, the unique Museum Hotel in Antakya, built over ancient ruins on huge steel columns, has survived – they estimate reopening in 3 to 6 months once water, electricity, and heating systems have been restored.

Final Thoughts
The reason we are sharing the news and our thoughts about this region is to encourage all who read this to follow the compassion in their hearts and visit these places after all returns to normal. Southeastern Turkey is important to our common heritage, and we have a duty to protect and preserve it so that it can be left to future generations. Turkey should invite archaeologists, engineers, historians, architects and geologists to restore the structures and sites that have been damaged for all of us to enjoy.

While most of the rest of Turkey – Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Bodrum, and more – was not impacted by these quakes and therefore remains safe and open for travel – we will continue our tours to the Southeastern region as soon as it is possible to safely do so. Turkey is a beautiful country which has so much to offer – experiencing its beautiful cities, beaches, historic sites and foods is the best support one can provide!

How Else You Can Support
For those interested in supporting the relief efforts, you may wish to consider making a donation through one of these organizations:

🔗 Turkish Philanthropy Funds
🔗 Ahbap
🔗 Akut
🔗 ATA-SC – American Turkish Association of Southern California

For more information about Turkey, please feel free to contact us. Thank you!

Video: Engin’s Updates and Reflections on the Southeastern Turkey