anat1The burial place of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of Turkey, is known as the Anıtkabir (Monumental Tomb).

Not only is it an important site of pilgrimage for all Turks as well as many tourists but it is also the setting for many annual celebrations, particularly on Zafer Bayramı (Victory Day, 30 August), Cumhuriyet Bayramı (Independence Day, 29 October) and the anniversary of Atatürk's death (10 November).

After Atatürk died in the Dolmabahçe Palace in İstanbul in 1938, his body was brought to Ankara to lie in state in what is now the impressive Ethnography Museum. Later, it was buried beneath an immense 40-ton cenotaph in a vast memorial site surrounded by memorabilia.

The memorial site was designed by architects Emin Onat and Orhan Arda who won an international competition to come up with ideas for it. It was built in stages between 1944 and 1953. 

To come here is to gain some insight into just how important the “Father of the Turks” remains to the country more than 75 years after his death.

The site is open daily from 8.30am to 5pm.

Around the site

Atatürk is buried in a very simple tomb inside a vast porticoed hall whose Modernist design will look very Soviet to some. There is nothing else inside the hall, just a fine sweep of polished marble hall. Golden mosaics decorate the high ceilings offering a link back to the distant world of Byzantium. anat2

The tomb is at the top of a flight of steps from a large parade ground ringed with porticoes offering fine views out over Ankara. İsmet İnönü (1884-1973), Turkey's second president, is buried in a very simple tomb looking across to his more illustrious predecessor's last resting place. The square can accommodate up to 15,000 visitors. 

The catafalque that carried Atatürk's body from Dolmabahçe Palace and cars and boats used by him are displayed in rooms incorporated into the portico. 

There is also sizeable museum devoted to Atatürk's life and to the events of the Turkish War of Independence that runs right under the room containing his tomb. Dioramas complete with sound effects and paintings of inidvidual episodes take up much of the space but there are also many photographs, as well as a fairly predictable collection of items that used to belong to Atatürk.

For those interested in the Republic of Turkey's early history this will be very interesting; for those not interested in the details of war it might seem rather overwhelming especially when many groups are visiting at the same time. 

The path to the tomb from Tandoğan is lined with imitation Hittite lions in pairs, a reminder of Atatürk's interest in the Hittites as possible proto-Turks. At the start of the path are two small rooms, one containing a model of the site layout, the other containing details about the men behind its design and about the materials used in buidling it. 

Tip: There is little shade at Anıtkabir and the sun shining on the marble can be dazzling. Bring a hat and sunglasses. There is water on sale at the site. 

anat3Transport info

Anıtkabir is within walking distance of Ulus. Alternatively, you can get there via Tandoğan station on the Metro. The entrance to the site is just a short walk from the station and free minibuses wait to run people from there to the central part of the site. 


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