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İSKENDERUN

The port of the Hatay                    Population: 250,000

iskend1Old name: Alexandretta

Too readily written off as “industrial”, İskenderun, in the Hatay, is actually a very pleasant and liveable city once you get away from the busy Antakya-Adana highway and down to the seashore.

The main road into town is Şehit Pamir Caddesi. Take this to arrive in Cumhuriyet Meydanı, the main square. It’s a 10-minute walk although there are dolmuşes to "Çarşı" as well.

Around town

On the shore road, the Deniz Müzesi (Museum of the Sea) is a state-of-the-art museum containing all sorts of pictures, models and artefacts to do with Turkey’s naval history. There’s lots of local information, especially about the history of the region and Atatürk’s part in it. A big effort has also been able to make it fun for children.

  • The palm-lined and landscaped promenade makes a great place for a stroll, especially towards sunset, and there are several inviting places to stop for a tea. At the northern end a picturesque harbour is full of fishing boats and men mending their nets or working on the hulls of pleasure cruisers.iskend3

İskenderun hosts a trio of early 20th-century buildings with fine tile decoration, all of them along the waterfront.

Finest is the Adliye Sarayı (Palace of Justice), right on the main square overlooking a small park. Built between 1925 and 1936, it boasts a conspicuous clocktower. Sadly, on my most recent visit (May, 2014) I found the building standing derelict with foliage obscuring one face of the clock. 

Also facing the park is the Merkez Bankası (Central Bank), obviously built at the same time to judge from the matching tiles. You’ll see the tiles for the third time on the İskenderun İlçe Milli Eğitim Müdürlügü (Provincial Education Management) on the waterfront near the Museum of the Sea.

The back streets also conceal five churches, survivors from more multicultural days in the early 20th century. One of the largest is a Catholic church that dates back to c.1600 but was completely rebuilt in 1888. Nearby are a much smaller Greek Catholic church, and a domed Armenian church concealed behind a high wall. The large Greek Orthodox church is on Şehit Pamir Caddesi. Most recently restored is the old Suryani Church.

A single stripy minaret of the Kaptan Mehmet Paşa Cami (Ulu Cami) survives from the original mosque of 1864.

iskend2The waterfront has been extensively landscaped and equipped with sports facilities, children's play areas and keep fit equipment. On the inland side of the road a string of chi-chi stores have opened their doors although I was a little surprised to find that a planned five-star hotel complex has still not got off the drawing-board four years after the hoardings went up around the site. 

Eating and drinking

It's worth dropping in on the Petek Patisserie, originally opened in 1942, which gently suggests the French flavour of the İskenderun of those days. It's on M Fevzi Çakmak Caddesi. 

Sleeping

Rather oddly, none of İskenderun's hotels faces the water although the planned Hilton in the Park Forbes complex will remedy this deficiency. If you want a seaside hotel you might prefer to head on to Arsuz. 

If you're just passing through there are a couple of hotels (Ontur, Sun) on the main road to Antakya which would let you stop the night right near the bus stops. 

Arsuz Otel

Grand Akçalı Hotel

İmrenay Hotel

iskend4Dome of Armenian churchDay trip destinations

Antakya

Arsuz

Bagras Kalesi

Belen

İssus (Erzin)

Payas

Transport info

Most buses heading from Adana to Antakya will be able to drop you in İskenderun. Otherwise regular dolmuşes from Adana to Dörtyol leave from the Yüreğir bus terminal; you can swap there for onward transport to İskenderun. 

There are also very frequent minibuses to İskenderun from Osmaniye.

In Antakya you can pick İskenderun dolmuşes up at the junction of İstiklal Caddesi and Yavuz Sultan Selim Caddesi.

Minibuses to Arsuz leave from just round the corner from the Şemsettin Mursaoğlu Anadolu Lisesi (High School) on Kanatlı Caddesi. iskend5

 

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