Gliding down over Eastern Anatolian’s vast mountain ranges, our plane that took off from Istanbul lands at Malatya. We greet the city in the early summer sun and lose ourselves in its streets. Let us first speak briefly of one of the things that makes Malatya a place like no other: Pearl of Anatolia, Malatya is actually a unique region with its architecture, its cuisine and its historic, traditional texture. An asset to Anatolia, this city reveals clues to another world at every step. Situated on the Anatolian-Mesopotamian trade routes, Malatya was the cynosure of the Near East in history. You can find here vestiges of all the great civilizations - Hittite, Assyrian, Mede, Persian, Roman, Arab, Byzantine and Turkish - to which these lands have been home. Foremost among the treasures of the continuous human settlement that has existed here since pre-history, Battal Gazi and Arslantepe Höyük have a special place. Arslantepe is a Hittite settlement dating back four thousand years, while Seyyid Battal Gazi was an Islamic hero who was born in Malatya and is the subject of legend.

As we tour Malatya, our attention is caught by the outstanding products the city has produced in every field. A diverse array of everything from handicrafts and costumes to gourmet treats and examples of civilian architecture whets our appetite to explore this city further. With its sackcloth textiles, traditional Seljuk and Ottoman copper workmanship, hundreds of varieties of meatballs and many stately mansions, Malatyat struts the stuff of its own unique world. The renovated Beşkonaklar on Sinema Avenue and the restored mansions in the townships of Arapgir and Yeşilyurt are just some of its prominent landmarks. Following a panoramic city tour, we head for the town of Battalgazi to penetrate the soul of Malatya. Also known as Old Malatya, this settlement dates far back in history. We visit the Silahtar Mustafa Pasha Caravanserai and the Great Mosque in this virtual outdoor museum of town. The town’s architectural masterpiece, the Great Mosque is known to be the sole example in Anatolia of the architectural tradition of the Great Seljuk State of Iran. A vaulted inner courtyard in front of an eiwan adjacent to a domed mihrab forms the plan of this temple built in the 13th century. Another of the town’s treasures, the Silahtar Mustafa Pasha Caravanserai is in the quarter of Alacakapı. This khan, construction of which was completed in 1637, has been restored and is open to the public.

Any mention of Malatya must include the apricot. The orchards where the world’s tastiest apricots are grown generate significant revenues for the local economy. Be sure to taste the dried apricots and “pestil” (dried fruit rollups) as well as the homemade apricot jam when you’re in the city. And if you get a chance to visit in spring or summer, be sure to indulge in some of Yeşilyurt’s Dalbastı cherries. We were lucky and got a chance to taste both, fresher than fresh and straight off the branch! After a brief “fruit break”, we continue our tour of Malatya, heading this time to the districts that harbor the city’s boundless cultural heritage. It’s no joke; early period mosques and mesjids, caravanserais and kumbets, baths and bridges stretch as far as the eye can see.  Besides this concrete heritage, the city also dazzles with examples of more abstract legacies like traditional horse-breeding. Each one of its districts is a treasure trove. If you’re tired of places that all look alike, Malatya is just for you, ready and waiting with its icy cold waters you can drink straight from the source and its as yet untasted flavors and unseen cultural riches. Most importantly of all, the warm hospitality of its people make all this beauty even more attractive and meaningful. You’re going to feel right at home here!

Malatya is on the rise in health tourism today. İnönü University’s Turgut Özal Medical Center is one of Turkey’s leading modern hospitals in the cardiac health field as well as being second in the world in terms of number of heart operations and kidney transplants. Patients come from all over the world to be treated at Malatya, which is at the same time a perfect center for health and renewal with its spas and potable spring waters.

Made with natural dyes and worked with ram’s head, dragon and floral motifs, Malatya carpets are high in value. These carpets, whose fame has even spread abroad, are produced at centers like Başören, Dirican, Parçikan, Ören and Kürecik.

With its rich natural landscape, Malatya offers enjoyable and eminently satisfying opportunities for all the nature sports, especially rafting and mountaineering. Among the region’s touristic activities that have been growing of late are regulated hunting as well as fishing in Karakaya Dam Reservoir.

While you’re in Malatya, Mount Nemrud is another historic site well within reach at just 94 kilometers from the city. Rated the eighth wonder of the world, these statues of the Commagene kings that have gazed out over Mesopotamia for centuries from their perch on the peaks are an impressive sight. Sunrise or sunset are the best times for visiting Nemrud.

Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Malatya-Istanbul flights every day of the week. Departure times are 6:25 a.m. and 9 p.m. from Istanbul and 8:55 a.m. and 11:35 p.m. from Malatya. For information:

Other Articles from This Issue

Skylife Archive