Before Summer’s End: Marmaris

Melih Uslu Erkan Tabakoğlu October 2013

ORIGINATOR OF THE BLUE CRUISE, MARMARIS IS POISED TO AGAIN BECOME THE SHINING STAR OF TURKEY’S COASTS WITH ITS GOLDEN SAND BEACHES, SPANKING NEW HOTELS, HEALTH CENTERS AND MUSEUMS.

Yaz Bitmeden: Marmaris
Yaz Bitmeden: Marmaris

Pearl of the Aegean, Marmaris is making a comeback.  Local administrators and spokesmen for the town’s future are engaged in a feverish round of activity these days together with the townspeople. They say it’s high time Marmaris made a difference by recreating itself as the world’s star. To this end they have put together a project for Marmaris they call “Five in One”, which includes some exciting services to showcase the city in a novel way. Reclaiming the ancient İçmeler Hot Springs for health tourism is just one of them. Also among the targets are transitioning to sustainable tourism by conducting historical, cultural and strategic surveys of the city. One of those targets aims to trademark Marmaris pine honey by working with the Osmaniye Marmaris Honey House and to promote world awareness of the region’s cultural treasures. The island of Kameriye, known for its Blue Jesus fresco, is being turned into a key destination for faith tourism. But perhaps the most exciting project of all is the ancient city of Amos - known as the Knidos (the famous ancient city south of Datça) of Marmaris for its location atop a forested hill - which has been reclaimed for tourism with the addition of walking paths and signs.

The New Marmaris
The beauty of Marmaris, which boasts an uninterrupted 16 kilometers of coastline from the city center to the town of İçmeler, knows no end. The restored Marmaris Castle has become an archaeology museum, and the area inside the castle turned into one of the Aegean’s most beautiful districts with its orderly streets and new venues. The restaurants that line the harbor offer an appetizing presentation of the local tastes and seafood. A major port city in the Ottoman period, Marmaris boasts a large number of historical monuments besides the castle. The 16th century Taşhan, the Arched Bridge, Hafize Sultan Caravanserai and the 1789 Ibrahim Ağa Mosque are some of them.
There is also a legend that circulates in the town. When Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent came here on his Rhodes campaign, he apparently saw an old woman distributing water to his troops. He asked this woman, who was called Sarı Ana (Pale Mother), if he would succeed in taking the island or not. To which she replied: “The conquest will be yours as long as your soldiers don’t pick the fruit in the place where they are quartered.” Seeing the next morning that not a single piece of fruit had been plucked from the trees, Suleiman crossed to Rhodes and conquered it. The tomb of Sarı Ana, who is still honored in the region, lies in the garden of the mosque that bears her name.

A Thousand Shades Of Blue
If you decide to take a blue cruise and sail the white-capped sea on a comfortable yacht, Marmaris is just the place for you. Blue cruises, which got under way in the Bay of Gökova in the 1950’s, mean whole days devoted to nature, history and the sea. Depending on your preference, you may join up for a day, a weekend or an entire week. Awaiting you here are opportunities like swimming and sunbathing in the bay of your choice or following the ancient trails. And spending lots of time in the waterside restaurants and tasting the freshly caught fish is the icing on the cake… Those who prefer can also make a blue cruise over land in Marmaris. The route, which links the coasts of the Bozburnun Peninsula that extends to the south of the town, promises spectacular landscapes.

In The Quiet Coves
The turnoff to Bozburun is marked 21 kilometers along the Marmaris-Datça highway. A few kilometers ahead, Orhaniye Cove is a haven for gaily painted yachts. Kızkumu on the shore of this cove, which gleams like a blue bead between the mountains, is one of the peninsula’s most popular beaches. Reminiscent of a tongue of sand poking into the water, it dazzles the eye with its tile-red hue. Our next stop is Selimiye. Venues to vie with the quality of Alaçatı are opening one after the other in this village, which was accessible only by sea until just 20 years ago. The restaurants that serve rare Mediterranean fish cooked by special methods are a favorite with blue cruise tourists. Viewing pleasure is high on the exciting road that runs from Selimiye along the edge of a precipice. Finally, a breathtaking sunset awaits us at Bozburun Bay at the end of our route. As the sun sinks slowly in the sea, we promise to come back to Marmaris soon.

Marmaris Guide

Horseback Riding Lessons
What would you say to riding lessons at one of the stud farms in the forest near Gökova Bay? You can also make a horse safari on trails through the trees at these establishments, which offer first-class accommodation to boot. H. Gökhan Çilingir, a national equestrian who serves in the region, says lessons start at TL 45 an hour.

Cleopatra’s Island
The hidden treasure of Gökova Bay, Sedir Island is even more beautiful with its newly built wooden walking platform. Legend has it that the tiny beach on this island studded with the ruins of the ancient city of Kadrae was a favorite with the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.

The Marmaris Markets
There is nothing that can’t be found at the Marmaris markets, which stand out for their abundant fresh fruits and vegetables: ‘kırma’ olives (large, juicy olives slit and marinated in olive oil and lemon juice), fresh farm cheeses, bergamot jam, medicinal herbs, herbal teas and much, much more. Neighborhood markets are set up at Siteler on Tuesdays, at İçmeler on Wednesdays, in Marmaris itself on Thursdays and Sundays, and at Armutalan on Saturdays.

Dancing With The Wind
Akçapınar Beach near Akyaka, a Cittaslow or “Slow City”, is one of Anatolia’s best spots for kite surfing. The water at this beach, where kite surfing buffs from around the world congregate, is shallow and the wind is high.

Storax Soap
The oil and soap sold at Marmaris bazaar are produced from the sap of the storax or sweetgum tree (Liquidambar orientalis) that grows in the region. This oil, which was used in antiquity as an elixir of health and beauty, is known as a remedy for everything from hair loss to gastric complaints.