The Eastern Mediterranean International Tourism and Travel (EMITT) fair opened on 14 February with a ceremony that included Minister of Culture and Tourism as well as representatives from many neighboring countries. The fair featured many special events and promotions including performances, free holiday and flight giveaways. The organizers claimed that the occasion is the ‘’greatest tourism exhibition in the Mediterranean Region, the Middle East, Asia and South-Eastern Europe.’’
Countries neighboring Turkey all had stands, except Armenia, which is sad and a missed opportunity for the Armenian youth of Istanbul and Armenia. Armenian publishers have participated in Book Fairs before, but not in this fair. Georgia was represented at a stand, ABSOLUTE, where vodka and wine were offered both as refreshment and for sale. Iran had one of the largest stands. It was a pleasant surprise to see Palestine exhibiting the treasures of their small country, hoping to join the nations of the world, perhaps soon, following the independence of Kosova set for February 17, 2008 (In fact the declaration was made today.)
Syria had one of the largest stands where performances were presented almost continously (Photo 1). During one of the shows, I saw a young reporter with turban taking photographs of dancers at the Syrian Stand, both men and women, and could not resist asking the lady, ‘’Isn’t taking photographs of people, especially dancing ladies, against Islam?’’. She looked at me and, with a smile, commented, ‘’Guzele bakmak sevaptir – looking at beauty is a good deed.’’ The response surprised me. ‘’You are right’’, I said and congratulated her by shaking her hand. ‘’You see, you shook my hand, isn’t that also against the islamic tradition, and you are wearing a turban’’, I said. She smiled aga,n and said, ‘’I can not say that you are wrong.’’ She told me that she works for a magazi published in Eyup, called Gokturk Magazine.
One of 9 sites on UNESCO’s World Culture List in Turkey, Safranbolu Municipality had a very large stand, surrounded by stands of Safranbolu hotels and Karabuk (Photo 2). Eflani, another small province of Karabuk with a population of perhaps 2,500 (10,000 with its villages), also had a stand hosted by the Mayor. Another town with a stand was Bartin, a historical town with 3,000 year history not too far from Safranbolu. Among the many brochures distributed was one announcing a ‘’Food fair’’ to be held in Safranbolu on May 23/27, 2008, dully noted on the agenda.
The historical district of Mersin, Tarsus has more population then half the 81 provinces of Turkey and is home to the Museum of St Paul. Tarsus will be celebrating the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul who was born in Tarsus, together with other cities where St Paul preached Christanity. Adana also had a stand.
Kemaliye, known as Egin until it was named after Ataturk following his visit there, is one of the most beautiful towns along the shores of Firat (Euphrates) near Erzincan
Izmir, Bursa, Urfa, Samsun, just to name a few other cities, had stands and exhibitons with local nwspapers from each city, such as Ordu Haber, Dutagaci of Kemaliye, Anayurt.
Most of the cities were represented by their Mayors or representatives of the Governor, including Diyarbakir which attracted visitors with food prepared at their stand. Many visitors participated in the local dances at theDiyarbakir stand, icluding Mayor Osman Baydemir.
Trabzon stand also featured local dances and by the time I reached Edirne stand, the famous ‘badem ezmesi’
was all gone.
For the interested traveler, there are many historical spots, including the ancient city of Bergama, or Pergamum, founded on the Aegean coast as a city state in this fertile, raised spot, able to feed its people and provide health services at a spa named Allianoi, soon to be submerged under water. Perhaps other fascinating places include a monastry carved high up in the hills near Fethiye (a town named after the pilot Fethi, one of the earliest pioneers in aviation) facing the Mediterrenean Sea and Gerga, near Alabayir, a monument set amidst wild scenery, whose significance remains a mystery to historians – the word GERGAS is carved in Greek lettering on the monument, and scattered remains of monumental sculptures including a mighty lion’s paw, one metre wide, strew the site.
A great number of hotels had large stands, including many tour operators and airlines. Many publishers also had stands, including Todays Zaman, which not only gave away newspapers but also a carry-on made of cardboard which came in handy for collectors of brochures. Turkish Daily News, Referans, Cumhuriyet, Vatan, Sabah also had stands.
According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, Turkey was one of the ten most popular international tourist destinations in 2007 and the number of tourists visiting Turkey last year increased by 25% compared to the year before. This number is expected to increase much more in the coming years.
The fair was very well organized and a large attendance was expected. The first 2 days were devoted to the professionals and tour operators and the next 2 days for the public and others. Unfortunately, a snow storm hit Istanbul on Saturday which is expected to continue through the weekend which may keep some of the fair goers away, which is a pity.
Other countries that were absent from the fair was Iraq, Israel and the United States. Americans love to travel and the number of visitors to Turkey from America have been steadily increasing over the years.
It is worth remembering that, among the many prominent Americans, Martin Luther King whose Nobel Peace Medal is displayed at the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, believed in travel as raising people’s cultural awareness and, in so doing, reducing their stereotypes and prejudice.
Yuksel Oktay, PE
17 February 2008