ANTAKYA, Turkey — Yusuf Kocaoglu, knowledgeable information, leads us on a tour he by no means needed to offer.
The location of historical Antioch — a crossroads of civilizations and a contemporary vacationer and non secular pilgrimage vacation spot in southern Turkey — is likely one of the cities left most devastated by the Feb. 6 earthquake that killed tens of 1000’s in Turkey and Syria.
For 10 years, Kocaoglu, a local of town, led excursions of its historic core, guiding guests from around the globe. It has now suffered near-total destruction. The bazaar, the breakfast place he’d take vacationers, the native hangouts — all are decimated.
“There is no such thing as a place now I can take you as a result of all of them are destroyed,” he says. “Most people left town.”
Constructed round 300 BCE, town, now known as Antakya, has survived a number of earlier calamitous earthquakes. Now, Turkish army autos, on patrol to maintain the peace, roll previous complete streets decreased to rubble. Our bodies are nonetheless believed to be rotting underneath the particles.
The Feb. 6 earthquake and aftershocks worn out monuments of world heritage and faith within the metropolis, an early cradle of Christianity and vital within the Roman Empire. Historic websites all through the area suffered.
“The earthquakes broken buildings spanning centuries and cultures, from Roman forts to historic mosques to church buildings holy to plenty of Christian denominations,” Bénédicte de Montlaur, president and CEO of the World Monuments Fund, tells NPR. “We’ve little doubt that the heritage misplaced in these tragic occasions will take years to restore and that we are going to want a big worldwide mobilization to assist the native efforts.”
Town’s centuries-old kaleidoscope of peoples — Alawites, Alevis, Armenians, Christians, Jews, and lately Syrian battle refugees — has now scattered. There have been greater than 200,000 folks residing within the metropolis earlier than the quake, however now survivors who’ve remained within the surrounding district reside in tents, Kocaoglu included.
“Antakya and the encircling area has a deep, various historical past and has lengthy been residence to folks talking totally different languages and working towards totally different religions,” says Jennifer Stager, a researcher of historical Antioch at Johns Hopkins College. “It’s critical that our focus stay on the residing folks in want, whereas recognizing that these monuments are a big a part of the area’s historical past and modern life.”
The mosque that Turkey claims is the oldest within the Anatolia area has caved in. Habib-i Najjar Mosque was constructed as a church in 638 CE and transformed backwards and forwards over the centuries from a church to a mosque. It was destroyed in an 1853 earthquake and rebuilt throughout the Ottoman interval, however its seventeenth century minaret remained. After this month’s earthquake, the minaret and the mosque’s domed roof are gone.
The Sermaye Mosque, constructed within the early 1700s, was distinctive in mosque structure for its entrance constructed by way of the minaret. Now the minaret is a stump. Different mosques in Antakya are full piles of rubble, just like the Ottoman-era New Mosque, often called Yeni Camii.
The Ulu Mosque, constructed within the 18th century, used to broadcast the decision to prayer 5 instances a day within the middle of town. Now it’s utterly gone. Loudspeakers connected to avenue poles now carry the prayer name — a logo, Kocaoglu says, that life in Antakya clings on.
Church buildings in destroy
The Apostle Peter introduced Christianity to historical Antioch within the first few many years after Jesus’ dying. The New Testomony says this metropolis is the place Christians have been first known as Christian.
The Orthodox Church in Antakya, the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate till the 14th century, was decimated within the quake — its façade now a jumble of iron and cement particles.
A more moderen Protestant church, housed in a constructing in-built 1860 and beforehand the location of a French consulate, was additionally crushed. Run by a Korean Methodist group, its South Korean pastor, Yakup Chang, led Sunday worship providers on the street exterior the church. One in every of his congregants was lacking within the quake.
“It’s totally onerous,” the pastor sighs. “Can I do one thing? No. We simply lean on one another. Stick collectively. That is what I ought to do.”
A Jewish neighborhood grieves
Historic Antioch was additionally a significant hub of Judaism exterior the Holy Land. The Jewish neighborhood remained within the metropolis for two,300 years. By the point of February’s earthquake, it numbered solely a dozen or so members.
The Antakya synagogue continues to be standing, having sustained minor harm. Its historical Torah scroll, written on antelope vellum, was taken out of town for safekeeping after the earthquake.
After the quake, the neighborhood’s surviving members moved to Istanbul. Antakya’s Jewish neighborhood president, Saul Cenudioglu, and his spouse Fortuna, have been killed when their condominium constructing collapsed.
“He was actually hospitable,” says Kocaoglu, our information. “He used to love serving to folks.”
It is unclear if town’s few surviving Jews will return to dwell there after the earthquake.
Beer among the many ruins
The Lonely Planet information to Turkey summarizes Antakya’s attraction in a sentence: “Atmospheric old-town fragments cling on amid the trendy hubbub.” Immediately, a slender avenue of bars and eating places lies in waste.
For the primary time on the tour, Kocaoglu turns away to cry.
“That is the guts of Antakya,” he says. “We had a lot of reminiscences right here with my mates, with my company from totally different nations. I bear in mind them.”
A bulldozer has paved a hilly path by way of the wreckage. Amid rubble stands one in every of his favourite outdated haunts, the Pasha Restaurant, sliced down the center. Proprietor Orhan Uyanik, salvaging crates of beer from the ruins, wonders concerning the destiny of a pair who bought engaged right here not too long ago.
Regardless of the cataclysmic loss, Kocaoglu, and all these we meet alongside the best way, cling to the Turkish authorities’s promise to rebuild Antakya and its historic websites – and take solace in how town has rebounded by way of the ages.
Town “was ruined by the earthquakes six or seven instances. Possibly that is the eighth. It does not matter,” says Kocaoglu. “We are going to attempt to do one thing for our metropolis time and again.”
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