Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Discover Anatolia 1 : Eskisehir

Anatolia is known as Asia Minor or Asian Turkey. It's a peninsula bounded by the Mediterranean sea to the south, Black sea to the North and the Aegean sea to the west.
Black and Aegean seas are connected by the sea of Marmara through two straits, Bosphorus and Dardanelles.

After 5 day trip in Anatolia, I evoked Ibn Batuta, a Moroccan traveler of the 14th century: 

"This country called Bilad-al-Rum(Bilad=country, AlRum Romans and their heirs the Byzantine) is one of the finest regions in the world; in it God has brought together the good things dispersed through an other land. Its inhabitants are the comeliest of men in form, the cleanest in dress, the most delicious food, and the kindliest of God's creatures."

Briefly, nothing had been changed after 7 centuries.     

Eskisehir is one of the most picturesque city of Anatolia. It is 330 km southeast of Istanbul and in the intersection of all rail lines of Turkey. Vacationers in Istanbul, Izmir or any seaside resort can purchase a 25$ train ticket and head to Eskisehir.    


Gondola Tour

Since the city is bisected by a river "porsuk", visitors can enjoy a gondola tour. And then having a good lunch in its restaurant scattered all over the river bank. Some of this restaurants offer meals based on fresh fish from the river.  

Wax museum:

 Accommodates more than 150 wax statues of personalities that left their marks on Turkish and world history. 
It is remarkable that celebrities from Eskisehir, like sport figures and TV stars, are presented.

Sazova park:

 From Osman Ghazi campus, a fairy-tale castle is visible. It is Sazova park, one of the city attractions. To get there, catch the tram until its terminus Osman Ghazi university and then walk to the other exit of the campus.
Inside the campus a huge mosque was raised. I was told later that the dean is a member of AKP, the Islamist party that rules Turkey. While the dean of the other university, Anadoulu, is secular from CHP, Ataturk party.    

The park is equipped with an open train, bouncy castles, an artificial lake and a pirate vessel. There are also coffee shops and fast food restaurants. 
The fairy tale stylish castle is completed with items in medieval costumes.

Inside the castle : Pinocchio 

Inside the castle

The pirate vessel

The pirate vessel

Inside wax museum

Inside wax museum 

Porsuk river 

Street art

Naceruddin Hoca statues

Sazova park, Eski┼čehir attraction

Naceruddin Hoca statue Sazova park

Inside fairy tale castle

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Batu Caves

Lord Murgan tallest statue at the entrance of the caves. 42m high statue is made of concrete, steels and painted with gold
Batu Caves is the main attraction of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. It would seem that it's one of the Hindu shrines situated outside India. The site is dedicated to lord Murugan, the god of war and victory in Hindu religion.

Batu Caves is a limestone hill that an Indian trader called K. Thamboosamy Pillai promoted it as a shrine in 1890. The spear-shaped entrance inspired the trader to dedicate a shrine to Murugan. As a god of war and victory, Murugan is holding a holy spear known as Vel. The wood steps were added in 1920.

A museum and an art gallery are open for visitors. They are full of statues and paintings related to Hindu beliefs.

Photos taken around Batu Caves 
Entrance of Hanuman Temple, on the left of Batu Caves main entrance

15m tall state of Hanuman, noble and sacred monkey in Hind belief

With the sponsorship of  Qatar airways

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Discover El-Kef

El-Kef is a town located in northwestern Tunisia, approximately 170km west of Tunis and some 35km from the Tunisian-Algerian border. It's situated at an elevation of 780 m on the slope of a hill.
El-Kef occupies the site of an old city founded in the fourth century BC, and became a Roman colony in the second century AD. However, this region has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and was mentioned in ancient historical accounts of the first Punic War (264-247BC) by writers including Pliny and Diodorus. They recount the Carthaginian army's request for support from the locals of El-Kef during the war, but were unable to pay their mercenaries after losing to Rome. The mercenaries eventually rose up against the Carthaginians, but were suppressed by the army led by Amilcar, the chief of the Carthaginian army and the father of the legendary Hannibal.

Kef Basilica

Sicca, the old name of El-Kef, was punished by Julius Caesar following the civil war in Rome (46BC), during which Sicca supported Pompey, the opponent of Caesar. Following his triumph, Caesar annexed the town, and it became a part of a province known as Africa Proconsularis. The town was subsequently renamed Sicca Veneria.
At the end of the seventh century, Arabs called the town Chakbanaria and in the seventeenth century it became El-Kef: the Rock.
The Deys, the monarchy of the Husseinite Beys, were in conflict with the regency of Alger and the French occupation, and El-Kef played an important role due to its position between the Tunisian hinterland and the Algerian border.
Despite its rich attractions, El-Kef is little-frequented by tourists and, like other towns and cities in the interior, has been somewhat neglected by the national government in recent decades. The main attraction of El-Kef is its medina. The old city is very rich in monuments from several eras.
The kasbah of El-Kef, the city's castle, has been witness to several conflicts that occurred between the Regency of Tunis and the Regency of Alger in the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. The kasbah was built by Ottoman rulers in the seventeenth century and has been renovated more than once. The stones date back to Roman times and it is possible to observe Latin inscriptions in the blocks. Excavations have discovered a number of Turkish clay pipes made in Izmir.
The current design of the kasbah dates to the beginning of the nineteenth century and the current gate was built during the French occupation (1881-1956). The kasbah was used as a base for the French army during World War II.
The Sidi Boumakhlouf Zaouiya is a shrine built in the seventeenth century. It houses the tomb of Sidi Abdullah Boumakhlouf, the patron saint of the city. An octagonal minaret with glazed ceramic panels rises above the shrine's three domes, each of which have different dimensions.
El-Kef is also a symbol of the religious tolerance that has helped shape Tunisian society. The city's architecture bears witness to Jewish and Christian communities which lived in the city until recently.
The Dar Kouss church was built in the fifth century. At 30 meters in length and 14 meters in width, it is one of the biggest churches, built in the early-Christian era. The church was used by French settlers in the first half of the 20th century, although it is no longer in use as a place of worship.
The synagogue of El-Kef is known as the Ghriba "the mysterious." Although the actual age of the building is not known, the current design dates back to the seventeenth century. The Jewish community came to Tunisia in several waves from the Arab conquest in the seventh century until the arrival of the Moorish in the seventeenth century. As the community dwindled in the second half of the 20th century, the synagogue fell into ruin until it was fully restored in 1994. Nowadays one room of the building is open and contains photos and several items that belong to the Jewish community, including a torah parchment.
El-Kef is easily reached from Tunis by the A3 highway. It's surrounding countryside is rich in monuments and archaeological sites. A good time to visit is in summer during the festival of music and theatre that is organized in the kasbah.
Ghriba Synagogue

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Museum Of Sousse At Historic Kasabah

Kasabah of Sousse

Sousse, the pearl of the Tunisian coast, has provided guests with a gateway to the past with the opening of the Archeological Museum of Sousse, located in its historic Kasbah, on the west fringe of the Medina.

Sousse is one of the oldest cities in Tunisia, and was a central point for the world’s largest ancient civilizations, starting with the Phoenicians who founded it as a base for their sea trade. They named the area “Hadramuete” in the ninth century BC.

Sousse museum plan

When Carthage, the Phoenician urban center encompassing Hadramuete, was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, the city was annexed to Rome, becoming Rome’s first African colony.For more than five centuries under the Roman empire, Hadramuete was a merchant metropolis due to the wealth the port brought the country. The wealthy Roman citizens built luxurious villas paved with mosaics, and the villages were dotted with public buildings,such as baths, basilicas and temples.

With the Arab conquest in the 7th century, the area currently known as Sousse became a military port. The city was marked by ribats and fortresses to protect the coast from Byzantine assaults.

Sousse and its surrounding area are home to literal layers of culture. Underneath the Arab institutions lies the ruins of both the Punic and Roman eras. The Arabs kept some cultural edifices from the previous inhabitants. The new Arab leaders used the Roman’s huge stone blocks and columns to build the Arab cities of Sousse and Kairouan.
Oceanus was widely worshiped in Roman Hadramuete

The museum, covering 2000 meters, offers the opportunity to see the development of each civilization.  The building itself is a historical monument that evokes the Arab-Byzantine style of the eighth and ninth century.

The museum is divided into thirteen departments, with an outside terrace offering a panoramic view of Sousse. Statues, mosaics and funeral objects exhumed from Sousse and other sites along the Tunisian coast, are exhibited.

Inside Museum

The mosaics are a central component of the musem, as Sousse is famous in the Mediteranean for its collection of art. Their importance to Sousse is reinforced every summer with the festival of Aoussou. This is one of the oldest traidtions of the Tunisian Sahel, the Tunsian desert area, which draws its origins from the Oceanus, one of the most popular gods from the Roman era. This god was worshiped in the first and second centuries, and was the most commonly represented deity in mosaics in the public baths and basins.

The mosaics depicted gods, goddesses and heroes from Greek and Roman mythology, many of which are available for exhibition at the museum.

The Punic and early Christian eras are also represented in the museum. The Punic department exhibits funeral items, with terracotta vases and funeral objects. Christian artificats are plentiful.

A beautiful baptistery, found accidentally  in the Bkalta quarry 40 km south of Sousse It is decorated with mosaics, depicting birds and chrism, or holy oil used in early churches. Other funeral mosaics and tombstones were discovered in the undergrounds catacombs, one km from the Sousse bus station of Souk Lahad.

This museum allows guests to witness the ancient civilizations that have shaped the Tunisian identity and have enriched Tunisia’s development into one shaped by a variety of cultures.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Remember The Timeless King Of France: Saint Louis

 Saint Louis in America, Canada..... and Tunisia 

On the peak of Byrsa, a hill in Carthage, a coastal suburb of Tunis, a cathedral is located among the Roman ruins scattered throughout the ancient city.
Now the structure - today known as the Acropolium - is no longer used as a place of worship, but as a venue for concerts. The cathedral now features a variety of Tunisian and international musical performances.
This building evokes memories of one of the most pivotal conflicts between Muslims and Christians - the Crusades.

The Cathedral 1890
In 1270, King of France Louis IX, or Saint Louis, left his kingdom and landed in Carthage - an event now referred to by historians as the beginning of the Eighth Crusade. However, the king was so sick and weak that he could barely hold his shield and sword. Three weeks later he died, and a small chapel was built. Today the site is still frequented by French and international tourists.
Saint Louis Statue Carthage Museum

In 1830, the ruling Bey of the Tunisian Monarchy Al-Hussein II ibn Mahmud, authorized the consul of France to erect a cathedral dedicated to the king few meters from the chapel marking his burial site. The French consul sent a letter to Tunisia's former monarch stating the following:
Praise to god, to whom all things return!
We cede in perpetuity to His Majesty the King of France a location in Malaga, sufficient to raise a religious monument in honor of King Louis IX at the place where the prince died.
We commit ourselves to respect and to make respected this monument consecrated by the king of France to the memory of one of his most illustrious ancestors. Greetings from the servant of God, Hussein Pasha Bey. May the Most High be propitious! Amen.
The 17th of Safar of the year 1246. Done at Bardo the 8th of August 1830. For the Consul-General Mathieu de Lesseps.
After several examinations, officials charged with determining the location of the cathedral's construction concluded that it would be built on the ruins of the Roman Carthage in Byrsa.
The layout of the structure is typical of a French 19th century Byzantine-Moorish cathedral. The construction style - resembling a Latin cross - spread throughout France in the 19th century. The building is 65 meters long by 30 meters wide, with a facade framed by two square towers. The center of the cathedral's cross-section lies beneath a large cupola surrounded by eight steeples, and a smaller cupola is located above the apse.
The church contains a nave and two aisles separated by arches passing above. The ceiling is adorned with beams featuring sculpted, painted, and gilt arabesques. The stained glass is also embellished with arabesques
Inside the Cathedral
. The cathedral also hosts a great bell, weighing six tons, in addition to a four-bell carillon.
Today, the cathedral is open for visitors. The entrance fee is four Tunisian dinars, and is paid separately from those tickets offering package deals of the other sites in Carthage.