A Culinary Adventure in Gaziantep, Turkey

It is a very uncomfortable bus ride through the night and we are relieved to reach Gaziantep Otogar. There is no free shuttle by Vangölü (the bus that we have taken from Van to Gaziantep). Even the free wifi in the bus was switched off just before we reach the Otogar and that means we hardly have any idea of where to go next in Gaziantep (called Antep by the locals).

The bus for the forgettable bus ride from Van to Gaziantep.

It is very cold and cloudy, and the sun is not out yet. Remember that we have not taken any local sim on this winter trip in Turkey and have no internet. We have reached Gaziantep in the dark at about 6 am. Gaziantep is old as a city and has a long and illustrious history that dates to 4000 BC. In 2015, Gaziantep has been added to the list : UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network as a creative city of gastronomy.

Chilly winds of Gaziantep and the first view of the Castle – Gaziantep Kalesi.

Check the previous posts from this Turkey trip :

All in a Day – Delhi to Istanbul to Trabzon

On the Black Sea Coast of Turkey – 2 Days in Trabzon

Of Breakfasts and Mountains : Van, Turkey

Istanbul – Top Backpacking Hacks for a Shoestring Budget

Typical interiors at a café in Gaziantep.

Thankfully, we have taken screenshots of the possible stay options based on the research and try showing them to the Vangölü staff guys. They are unhelpful (or maybe don’t know). We walk out of Gaziantep Otogar and someone asks us to show the address to the local city bus called ‘Halk Bus’. There is a bus stop just as we exit Gaziantep Otogar and there are multiple Yellow Halk Buses going on different routes. Our challenge is to figure out which bus to sit in!

The simple yet cosy and warm room at Efe Bey Konagi.

We keep asking and a local guy on the street understands English and tells us to show the screenshot of the hotel address to the driver of the Halk Bus. Finally after 30 odd minutes, one of the Halk Bus drivers puts the location in his google maps and makes us sit in the bus!

Autumn/winter scenes visible on the leaves.
As a tourist, I highly recommend staying in a Konagi in the heritage area of Sahinbey, Antep.

Our destination is Sahinbey area in Gaziantep and it will take around 25 minutes. We don’t have a AntepKart but a local helps us and we pay 3 TL each for the ride to Sahinbey.

Spotted on the street : Copper utensils being made in Sahinbey, Gaziantep.

The ancient city of Gaziantep is waking up in the darkness and the baking of breads in old tandoors is visible as the bus passes through residential lanes. We seem to be the cynosure for curious eyes in the bus and the mention of Hindistan brings smiles of welcome! Everybody loves Indians in Turkey and is well aware of Bollywood movies and Indian television dramas.

Autumn in a leaf : A memorable frame.

The locals and the bus driver ask us to get down at a bus stop and even though we have no idea of where we are, we get down at the intersection of a street. We get lucky after asking multiple people, someone understands our predicament and asks us to cross the road and keep walking straight.

Street Art can be easily spotted in Gaziantep, at least in the heritage area.

The daylight is finally improving and we are overjoyed to spot the Gaziantep Kalesi (Castle) on a hillock, lit up in warm light! A rustling wind blows carrying leaves with it, we are in a heritage area of Gaziantep and there are wide avenues for walking with benches conveniently placed to sit. After walking for 5 minutes, we come across an avenue with lanes going in different directions.

Gaziantep Kalesi towering over the heritage city.

Our shortlisted heritage hotel – Ali Bey Konagi is quite close but it is only 7-730 am and the weather feels so cold that we want to wait. I spot a small coffeehouse, Kir Kahvesi to our right. It has a nice outdoor seating and closed space with a view of Gaziantep Castle and we request the owner to open the doors for us. Kir Kahvesi is a popular place for youngsters to smoke Nargile (sheesha) and we would later learn that Gaziantep is big on Nargile!

One of the many ancient mosques in Sahinbey, Gaziantep.

We just ask for two Turkish çay (tea) so that we can sit for some time in the warm and cozy interiors. We thank the old guy and pay the overpriced çay bill for 2.5 TL each! It is much brighter at about 8 am and we haul our backpacks and daypacks and begin the most important task of finding a place to stay.

The weather was very cold and gloomy.

Ali Bey Konagi is our first choice and we ring the bell. As it is too early, the original owner is not there and his friend shows us the cheapest priced room. The open air courtyard is a gorgeous space with a tree in autumn colours. Ali Bey Konagi is a heritage structure converted into a boutique homestay-hotel and it looks very pleasing to the eye.

Imam Çagdas is the most popular restaurant in Gaziantep.

The price for the room is quoted at 230 TL and that does not include kahvalti (breakfast). We tell him that we might stay for 2 days and quote 200 TL as our final price. The guy indicates that he can’t give us a price lower than the owner has told him to give and asks us to go elsewhere. He isn’t very helpful when we ask him to recommend us a cheaper place nearby.

Different varieties of mouth watering Baklava.
Ohh, how I would love to gobble some Gaziantep fistikli baklava right now!

We go back to the earlier lane where I had spotted a few ‘Konagi’ signboards. The literal definition of Konagi means mansion and it is a no-brainer for us to choose a heritage homestay rather than a multi storey hotel. We go to one Efe Bey Konagi Butik Otel which is a family run place and the owner’s young son shows us the room and offers us a 170 TL price.

Yesemek Restaurant is the best place for traditional vegetarian cuisine of Gaziantep.

We make it 170TL including Kahvalti and he is overjoyed to have tourists from Hindistan staying at his home! Efe Bey Konagi is a nice old property and our room is a heated wooden room. The bathroom is spacious as well and the towels are nice and clean. We congratulate ourselves on a job well done and decide to relax and sleep for a bit.

The breads and salad at Yesemek were a class apart and stood out as a homely place in Gaziantep.
Excellent variety of traditional dishes with recipes collected over many centuries.

It is freezing cold in Gaziantep and we are already feeling under the pump in the morning. We have a hot water shower and lie down. Now that there is wifi available, we research about the heritage of Gaziantep and realise that we are indeed staying in the right place in old Gaziantep heritage city.

The interiors of Yesemek Restaurant are very welcoming and the staff is very cheerful too.

We get up and are ready to leave at about 1130 am after having munched on dried mulberries and chivda (savoury from India). For starters, we take our daypacks and dress well for a cold day as there is no sign of sun. We are strolling and taking in the sights of the old and historically important parts of Gaziantep and come across Imam Çagdas restaurant.

Colourful bags for sale at 10TL.

Imam Çagdas

Highly recommended eatery, it is super crowded and is teeming with people even though it is off-season for travel in Turkey. I give in to popular opinion and step inside the world of Imam Çagdas. There are trays and stacks filled with varieties of freshly made baklava.

Hand-made leather shoes are a traditional art of Gaziantep.

The menu at Imam Çagdas is very limited and the Adana Kebap is recommended even though it is priced at a very expensive 37TL. It is served with a complimentary salad and lavash bread. There is no vegetarian dish on the menu and that results in a very awkward situation.

Copper sets for coffee and dry fruits are another speciality of Gaziantep.

Yesemek Restaurant

Thankfully, Yesemek Vegetarian foods is adjacent and is an award winning restaurant for serving traditional vegetarian foods of this region. The staff is very helpful and charming and recommends us the Çorba that looks delicious. It is a lentil soup and is priced at 12 TL. There are 2 varieties of bread that come complimentary in a basket, along-with salad. Yesemek has super cosy interiors and has a very nice and relaxed vibe for a restaurant.

We bought a set on our last trip to Turkey.

There are little kids on the street trying to sell water bottles for prices cheaper than in shops. It is the first time we are seeing this in Turkey and later realise that these might be Syrian refugees as the Syrian border is not too far away from Gaziantep.

Football is a religion in Turkey and every other city has a football club.

Gulluoglu Baklava

We make a short visit to Gulluoglu Baklava after our tummies are full. It is the most recommended place in Gaziantep for the best baklava. We get lucky and the staff decides to give us 3 pieces (instead of 2) of Fistikli Baklava (pistachio baklava) for the 10 Turkish Lira that we give them.

New age perfumes, keeping in mind the pistachio legacy of Gaziantep.

We have realised that it is a better idea to always give the money first and ask the staff to serve us accordingly because otherwise the portion sizes are huge sometimes. The smiles and mention of Hindistan is the reason they ask if we want more complimentary pistachios as well!

One of the many shops in Bakircilar Carsisi.

After that, we decide to walk around the heritage parts of Gaziantep and enter the Bakircilar Carsisi.

Saw first hand, the process of the engraving done on a copper plate.

Bakircilar Carsisi – Coppersmith Bazaar

Bakircilar Carsisi translates to the Coppersmith Bazaar and is a truly local delight in Gaziantep. It is a covered bazaar and is full of shops selling exquisitely made metal crafts of copper. We like the Turkish coffee maker Cezve but can’t agree on the 35TL price. There is an engraved tray with a perfume sprinkler that I buy for 10+20 TL. We decide to come back later to Bakircilar Carsisi for a closer perusal.

This gentleman had a small shop and his copper stuff was exquisite.

We have a heartening connection in one of the shops at Bakircilar Carsisi. Our curious eyes follow 2 old gentlemen in a shop who are eating pistachios and sipping chai. They invite us in and welcome us with gusto hearing that we are from Hindistan. We thank them and tell them we don’t want to buy anything as of now.

We wondered about buying a cezve (Turkish coffee maker) and the price quoted was 35 TL.

They offer us tea and give us the super quality pistachios to eat (fistikli). The pistachios are out of the world and we ask them for help for buying the same. They are glad to assist us in the same and we buy 1/2 kg fistikli for 45 TL that was originally quoted at 55 TL. The region around Gaziantep produces a sizeable portion of the world’s pistachios!

A variety of spices and herbs for sale at Elmaci Pazari in Gaziantep.

On the way out, we come across a number of shops selling brightly coloured bags for about 10-15 TL each. One of the shops has an excellent collection and variety of bags in different colours. The price ranges from 10 TL to 30 TL and even though we want to take 1 each of all the sizes we don’t because there are still 9-10 more days for us in Turkey and we can’t carry all the weight around.

Menengic coffee is quite popular in Gaziantep – it is pistachio coffee and has a unique taste.
There are a number of spice shops near each other and the prices are quite competitive.

Gaziantep also has a rich history of migrants from Yemen crafting handmade leather shoes and I see and try some of them. The shoes are hand-stitched and are excellent and seem reasonably priced at about 90 TL.

A different and exotic looking variety of oranges – Portakal.
This looks like a factory made set, with the unbelievably perfect finish.

Spices in Gaziantep

Unlike other parts of Turkey, Gaziantep seems to have a different flavour in food and the food here is actually spicy (sometimes). In fact, the Adana kebap and other dishes in and around this region are known for being hot! There is saffron, cumin, dried pepper, black pepper corns, sumac and ihlamur among other spices and herbs. Some of the shops also have exotic looking fruits like portakal. I spot orange sellers on carts, gorgeous orange colour with leaves intact, selling oranges for around 1.5 to 2 TL per kilo.

This kind salesman making us taste Antep pistachios (or fistikli), which we ultimately ended up buying!

Tahmis Kahvesi

We had a taster of Gaziantep’s happening coffee houses early in the morning even when the place was empty. While strolling around after exiting Bakircilar Carsisi, we come across the oriental music coming from Tahmis Kahvesi while a signboard indicates that it was established in 1635 AD. A coffee house that is almost 400 years old!

The shop owner gave us this sweet dish from Gaziantep to try; we didnt like it much though.

We enter the hallowed interiors of Tahmis Kahvesi and are taken in by the bohemian vibe here. Men and women of all ages and ethnicities are mingling on tables and are sipping tiny cups of Turk Kahvesi (Turkish Coffee) and smoking Nargile (hookah or sheesha).

The famous Gulluoglu Baklava shop in Gaziantep.

We order a Turkish coffee and one menangic coffee (pistachio coffee) that is a sort of a Gaziantep speciality. It is served with a small bowl of munchies in the form of nuts. The crowd is very fashionable and happening and perhaps it is the new age Turkey that we are seeing!

The markets of Gaziantep are a veritable delight of colours.

The interiors are kept warm with heaters and there are small open spaces on the upper part close to the roof for fresh air to come in and the smoke to go out. We sit and also pen down the highlights of our Turkey trip in the diary.

Yummm!! Baklava is an everlasting memory of Gaziantep.

We think of ordering a 30TL Nargile later. It is around 4 pm and we meet a police guy who is overjoyed to take a photograph with Indians!

Fresh oranges being sold on a cart.

On the street, it is cold as usual and we realise the tiredness in our bodies. We walk back to Efe Bey Konagi and come across a Tekel shop (alcohol shop). On the way we see antique carpets and bags in the market; I am fascinated but keep my curiosity for another time.

Tahmis Kahvesi – A coffee shop since 1635! Yes.

At the Tekel shop, we have our eyes set on a Terra Kalecik Karasi 2016 Rose wine and get it for 40 TL. The wines in Turkey seem to have become costlier and I remember buying the same wine on an earlier trip for 25TL earlier.

A very bohemian and cosmopolitan vibe at Tahmis Kahvesi.

Our boutique heritage homestay has 2 tables set in the open courtyard and wine glasses are kept on tables. We sit outside and sip wine, a stray leaf comes and falls around us. A slight drizzle begins, and we begin feeling Christmassy! After all, it is 25th December!

Turk Kahvesi and menengic coffee served with complimentary nuts.

We sit in the room for a while and enjoy the warmth of the wood and the heating. It is a welcome bit of relaxation for us especially because we were really not feeling well in the morning.

Tahmis Kahvesi is an institution in itself.

We step out for an early dinner and decide to find a local lokantasi (cheap home cooked food place) for dinner; to balance for the especially costly food we had for lunch! Since we have already explored the heritage side of the street, we decide to go to the other side which has more chances of catering to the locals.

There was another building across the street.

As if on cue; we are able to quickly locate a local eatery and are welcomed wholeheartedly by the staff. Our mention of Hindistanis makes them even more endearing towards us!

One of the ancient mosque minarets in the heritage area of Sahinbey, Gaziantep.

The staff is really helpful and help us in ordering a çorba and tavuk sis kebab which comes with complimentary tasty salad and breads. The food turns out to be very tasty and they also keep filling our cups with more Turkish çay. The warmth of the tandoor and the kindness in their hearts makes it a wonderful experience. We quickly remember to give them 2 masala chai sachet’s that we are carrying and thank them for a wonderful dinner!

Ohh, the shopper in me is drooling at the sight of these…

Since our bottle of the rosé wine is already over, we go to a nearby tekel shop and buy a red wine bottle for 25 TL. This tekel shop doesn’t have much variety and we buy whatever the seller recommends.

A Syrian refugee uncle posing with me outside a carpet shop.

On the walk, we come across another fancy looking boutique Hotel or Konagi and see a room that is quoted at 200 TL. We feel temptation in our heart and step into Imam Çagdas restaurant and ask for a cevizli baklava (walnut-filling baklava). It is cheaply priced at 14 TL and is okay-ish at best.

One of the copper souvenir shops in the heritage area.

When we are walking in the old city of Gaziantep, it looks surreal when it is lit up in the night. The markets are already closed at about 8 pm and the streets are deserted. We sit on one of the benches and appreciate the cold breeze and the chill in the air. It is time to head back to our mansion, Efe Bey Konagi. The Gaziantep Kalesi looks beautiful in the night in warm lights.

Walking through Gaziantep’s heritage area near the Kalesi was pure delight.

The room is quite cold and we have to put the heating on after multiple tries of somehow making it work! We have not taken a decision yet on staying in Gaziantep or when to leave for Konya or Antalya. We do a lot of research and it ultimately feels like a waste of time when no solution is found. We decide to start watching a Christmas movie to change the mood but are very tired and our bodies are telling us to stay in Gaziantep for 1 more day.

Obelisk spotted on one of the avenues.

We check the nearby hotels in Gaziantep one last time and come across one Rahmi Bey Konagi Butik Otel shown on some website for INR 1150 for a loft room. It is well past 10 pm as we hear the sound of pitter patter and go off to sleep in the cosy blanket.

An obelisk in Japanese; seems like a recent gift or something.

With no onward plan in mind, we wake up to a rainy morning. It is a gloomy day, and even at 9 am it feels dark. We are still in two minds whether to stay in Gaziantep or leave for Konya. Ideally we would love to stay in Gaziantep because we have hardly seen anything here but the fact is that the weather is too cloudy and cold to properly enjoy it at this time.

Rosé wine in this supremely serene setting of our homestay.

At first, we go to the tiny breakfast room for the kahvalti. It is drizzling intermittently and is very cold with a strong breeze blowing. There’s a couple from Istanbul on the next table and for them Gaziantep is like a weekend vacation. The breakfast is excellent and we have multiple helpings of Turkish çay to make us feel warm. We get back to the room, finish our packing and leave the bags in the hotel.

Kahvalti (breakfast) table arranged in the dining room of Efe Bey Konagi.

We start walking in rainy Antep and decide to ask the locals for a bus ticket booking office of Metro Turizm or one of the known bus companies so that we can figure out our plans. The streets and roads are all washed in the rain and look new. Thankfully we have carried an umbrella from India and have it handy. We keep shivering and walking in the rain. It is unrelenting and cold on the streets of Gaziantep.

Stumbled upon a guitar shop purely meant for the locals; and the prices were very very reasonable.
Typical serving tray for çay / Turk Kahvesi across Turkey.

On the way we come across a Princess Hotel in one of the lanes. The manager is kind and shows us a room; it is very nice and warm and he quotes 140 TL for a room. Even though we like it very much, we still don’t finalise a deal and want to walk somewhere and find a bus booking office.

Chestnuts are widely sold across Turkey and are roasted before eating.

Upon asking the locals for the bus booking office, there are contradictory directions given by multiple people. Someone says that the Metro Turizm office is nearby while others say the only bus offices are at Gaziantep Otogar. After getting wet in the non-stop drizzle, we align our mind to give up the search for Metro Turizm and start looking for other bus booking offices.

A simit seller on the street.

There is one Ben Turizm office with a 2+2 bus; since we are clear about only taking a 2+1 bus we don’t give it a thought. We are extremely tired now and decide to pick our bags and go directly to Gaziantep Otogar at about 5:30 pm. We have checked the different mobile applications and are already aware of the bus timings of all the bus services that run from the Otogar.

The name is an institution in itself – Katmerci Zekeriya Usta just makes 2 dishes!

We finally stop looking for a bus office and start our search for one of Gaziantep’s most famous creations called Katmer to be eaten at Katmerci Zekeriya Usta. Thankfully, the drizzle stops and a local guy walks with us and shows us to Katmerci Zekeriya Usta. It is a very cute 4 table restaurant that only serves katmer, çay and one more dish.

Delicious Katmer that just melts in the mouth – the staff called it the local viagra!
The only 2 dishes that are made at Katmerci Zekeriya Usta.

We sit and ask for 1 portion of Katmer that is priced at 28 TL. The waitress is very happy to meet tourists from Hindistan and tells us that usually everyone orders one Katmer each. We notice that the people ordering an entire Katmer for themselves are struggling to finish it.

Entrance to one of the Hali’s – on one of the rainy days in Gaziantep.

Katmer is a sort of a filo pastry with a filling of pistachios with cream. It is extremely rich in taste, the staff winks at me and says it is a natural viagra. I go to see the kitchen and am astonished with the fine making of the katmer and the round dish with the pistachio filling.

Kutnu weaving is a fine art in the regions around Antep and is expensive too.

It is around 2 pm and we go around Bakircilar Carsisi and an old market at Bedesten. We come across a boutique hotel Rahmi Bey Konagi on the walk and decide to check it out. It is a beautiful heritage boutique hotel and has cave-like rooms that remind us of Cappadocia.

At one of the exclusive and expensive Hali’s showcasing exquisite stuff.

The lady at the hotel is very sweet and shows us a beautiful big room and quotes 140TL, it has 2 big beds! We really like the place and request her to give it to us for 100 TL. She says yes! The decision has been made; because the bus tickets have not been bought we can stay in Gaziantep for another day!

Impeccable setting.
Ceramic, porcelain and other fine arts.

I am relieved more than anything else and now we can go to Efe Bey Konagi and get our bags. At Rahmi Bey Konagi, it is still drizzling and the lady gives us 2 cups of Turkish çay.

A remarkable frame of Rumi.

We meet a couple from Tekirdag who are just leaving. They recommend to us baklava at Celebiogullari and Koçak as the two best places in Gaziantep. They are also carrying a big bag of Baclavaci Celebiogullari and we remember the name to go to the exact place among the plethora of baklava sellers in Antep. We thank them and give them masala chai from India!

Turkish cotton is admired the world over and one can buy great stuff at reasonable prices.

We bring our bags and sit in the courtyard. In the meanwhile, the manager of Rahmi Bey Konagi, Yahya uncle comes and greets us! He is a chatty man and invites us inside their house that is located in the same building. We keep our bags inside the room and realise it is nice and warm because it is an old construction. Inside Yahya uncle’s home, it is cosy and we sit and click pictures with their cat, pakeezah.

It is a great cultural exchange and we have to use google translator to continue our conversations. We are plied with plenty of Turkish çay and in exchange make Indian masala chai for them which they didn’t like. Yahya uncle said that he was just the caretaker and that he lived in a small village 20 kms out of Gaziantep.

The ancient stone room at Rahmi Bey Konagi.

We take glasses for wine and go back to the room. It is good to be finally able to relax and sit and sip wine and eat the snacks that we had carried from India. We also write the diary and congratulated ourselves on the small victory even on a difficult day. It is an amazing room with lots of space and we are able to even dry our clothes that have got wet while walking in the rain.

Surely the best baklava in all of Gaziantep and Turkey, or was it Koçak!!

Mosques in Gaziantep

There are many mosques in the heritage area of Sahinbey, Gaziantep. We see most of them from the outside and some of them from the inside : Sirvani Mosque, Boyaci Mosque, Omeriye Camii, Independence Mosque.

I wish to come back to Antep again and the weather to be sunny!

Carpets in Gaziantep

We step outside at around 5 pm and go around Bedesten old market to see the traditional market under lights; and meet Syrian refugees in a carpet shop. It is surprising to notice that they speak better english than Turkish people.

Kids selling water bottles under Gaziantep Kalesi, even on a rainy day.

We go to Yesemek restaurant again for an early dinner and share a veg soup dish with veggies and chickpeas with pilaf rice. The staff has become like friends since we have visited many times and served us multiple cups of bergamot çay. We like it so much that we end up buying the bergamot tea leaves before going back to India. It is Earl Gray Lipton Bergamot çay.

The cobblestone streets leading to Rahmi Bey Konagi.

We are happy and content with the simple dinner and walk to Baklavaci Celebiogullari for baklava. There are so many varieties that we get confused between deciding which one to eat. The staff is excited to see Hindistanis and give us 2 pieces to taste.

Boutique hotel entrance as it should be!

We are in awe with the taste, and announce it the best baklava in all of Gaziantep and Turkey. We ask for the same baklava for 10 TL. The serving boy is very kind and gives us 4 pieces! There are complimentary pistachios on the table and we sit and savour every bite of the baklava as a piece of heaven!

Delightful frame at Rahmi Bey Konagi Otel.

We thank the staff with all our heart, give them a masala chai and start walking back to our stay – Rahmi Bey Konagi. Yahya uncle shows us other rooms that are better but expensive and also the old painted ceiling of the building that is more than 100 years old.

One of the outdoor seating spaces there.

We thank him for showing us these artistic parts and he treats us to one more çay before we say goodbye to him as he is driving to his village. We sit back in the room to decide our course of action for the next day and our next destination too – Konya or Antalya!

The underground market selling souvenirs for tourists – Zincirli Bedesten.

As we have met many locals travelling during the Christmas and New Year Holidays, we become slightly concerned with our lack of plans and ultimately arrive at a decision. We choose to drop Pamukkale from our plans; look at the bus schedules and agree to head to Antalya from Gaziantep. Konya shall be visited after Antalya and we look at 2-3 possible options of stay in Antalya.

We ended up buying the tray and one of the sprinklers.

It is a slightly difficult night as we are both feeling under the weather and cough and fever sets in. The cloudy weather of the day results in a steady drizzle all night. Thankfully there is a heater installed on the wall and that means we can dry our socks and other wet clothes.

Like a treasure – the shops in Gaziantep were truly special.

We wake up at around 5 am; I open a window slightly to see that it is raining and is dark and very cold outside. It is 8 am when we finally wake up, ready to leave the cosy and warm bed. The blanket is especially soft and warm. I get a jug of hot water from the kitchen and make some Girnar masala chai. Yahya uncle has gone to his village and there is a young guy at the homestay instead.

Pottery in Turkey is well renowned and the wall hanging plates are a class apart.

Kahvalti (breakfast) is not included in the price of the room and aunty comes at around 10 am to tell us that Kahvalti for both of us will cost 50 TL. We decline the offer and choose to give our stomachs a break.

At one of the spice shops in Almaci Pazari, Gaziantep.

It continues raining and we sit and relax since our bus to Antalya will only be in the late hours of the evening. We finish writing the diary entries for the earlier days of the trip.

Wood inlay souvenirs at a shop in one of the alleys.

The hot water shower in the big bathroom is very comfortable and I instantly feel much better after a bath. We pack and leave the room at 12 noon. Our bags are kept in the outdoor space and aunty tells us we can pick them up anytime. We thank her and she responds by giving us a fridge magnet she has made herself.

Another popular dessert in Gaziantep, topped with sugar syrup before serving.

Thankfully it is not raining anymore and we head directly to Yesemek Restaurant. We haven’t had breakfast today and it is time for brunch since we are quite hungry. We order 2 dishes and ask for kebap from the nearby shop. The food is excellent and is generously accompanied by salad, breads and tea. It costs 35TL + 14TL. The sky is overcast again and it begins drizzling as we buy the tickets to enter Gaziantep Castle.

Doorway to heaven : Celebiogullari.

Gaziantep Kalesi

Entry to Gaziantep Kalesi is 2TL. The drizzle is accompanied by cold winds. After the entrance there is a splendid museum inside which details the history of Gaziantep Castle.

Pakeezah the cat, outside the caretaker home in Rahmi Bey Konagi.

We somehow manage to explore the different parts of this historic castle in the chilly wind. The museum shop has an excellent collection of bags and other stuff but the prices of the woven stuff are quite high and we end up not buying anything.

‘If the world is a home, then Gaziantep is its kitchen!’

We finally decide to get a ticket to Antalya for the evening and began searching for a bus ticket office in the same region where we had explored the previous day. After a while we understand that there is no option of a 2×1 bus service.

The kind staff at Celebiogullari.

Ben Turizm has a 2×2 bus and there is another bus company for expensive 125TL tickets. It starts raining heavily again and since we are unable to find a solution to our ticketing dilemma, we enter the office of a travel agent.

Served 4 pieces of mouth-watering baklava for only 10 Turkish Lira.

It is a big tourism office but they only do booking for flights. Luckily for us, the guy there speaks english and recommends us Ben Turizm or Sec Turizm buses which are both 2×2 seating options. He helps by telling us not to take Ozlem Diyarbakir and Can Diyarbakir as those bus services are bad. We thanked him and went to another bus ticketing office who is an agent for the online portal biletall.

Can you believe that is a painted roof? At Rahmi Bey Konagi.

He turns out to be a very kind guy who also speaks good english and recommends us to take Star Diyarbakir bus from Gaziantep to Antalya. The bus will leave at 715 pm and reach Antalya at 830 am next morning. We pay 100TL per person as it is a 2+1 bus and don’t receive any indirim (discount). I am very relieved to have finally booked the bus tickets to end the uncertainty.

Rahmi Bey Konagi seen during the day – the higher category rooms were expensive.

It is around 2-230 pm and we stride back to Bakircilar Carsisi (Traditional Copper Market) and sit in Tahmis Kahvesi to write our diary entry. We ask for a Turkish coffee and zahter ( hot herbal drink). It only costs us 7TL+4 TL. Everyone is smoking nargile (hookah or sheesha).

We go to Baklavaci Celebiogullari for one last round of Baklava and try the kuru fistikli baklava for 10 TL. The staff is the same as the previous day and gives us 4 big pieces! We thank them and give tea packets as a gift.

At the entry of Gaziantep Kalesi (Castle).

The rain continues and has hardly stopped for 5-10 minutes throughout the day. We walk around and explore different Hali’s – they are beautiful buildings that serve as a complex of coffee shops, antique shops selling kilim carpets, unique textiles and souvenirs.

Gaziantep Castle is said to have been built in the 2nd Century AD.

In one of the Hali shops, I come across stunning handmade carpets from Afghanistan, Iran and other countries being sold for a reasonable 200TL. I think about buying but realise that they are quite heavy in weight and we still have 10 more days for the return flight to India.

The indoor museum is full of information about Gaziantep’s recent history and was a respite from the cold outdoors that day due to the rain.

In a Syrian refugee shop, I notice a nicely designed carpet which is factory made. The gentleman at the shop quotes only 30TL for a huge 3×10 size runner. The small 2×3 size rugs are priced at 10TL. Some of the shops are selling locally designed bags for 10-20 TL each. If it was the last leg of our trip, it would have been a no-brainer to buy gifts for all and sundry back home.

The cute looking bags priced at a very affordable 10TL.
Kutnu weaves bags were highly priced; I really liked the blue one!

We go back to our homestay at about 5 pm to pick our bags. Aunty has her sister and cousins visiting her. She invites us home and gives us 2 glasses of chai! The family is overjoyed to meet us and click a lot of pictures with their ‘Hindistan’ family. We ask for their leave as we still have to go to Gaziantep Otogar which is a fair distance away from here.

Gaziantep is also home to a thriving soap industry (made with essential oils).

It starts drizzling again and thankfully the local bus stop is right on the road. A bus to the Otogar duly arrives and we jump on it. There are plenty of empty seats and even though we don’t have the AntepKart, a local lady helps us with the tickets and we pay her 6TL. The driver is less pleased but we somehow persuade him to keep calm since we have already paid the money.

Most of the spice shops are located in this area.

The rain is really coming down hard and we are pleased no end to reach the Otogar at 625 pm without getting wet. A local guy helps us find the Star Diyarbakir Office, we are pleased to see that it is a big office which most likely means that the bus will be good!

Antique stuff on the street; very highly priced though.

For the first time in Turkey, we see security at the entry and our bags are scanned. Star Diyarbakir bus office guys check the ticket and ask us to wait.

Walking through the by-lanes of the Old Town in Gaziantep is like a treasure hunt.

The bus has originated from elsewhere and will come at the exact time. They tell us to keep our bags in their office and we do the same. There are lots of eateries at the Otogar and we ask for Çorba and pilav (bread comes complimentary). It is a basic but satisfying meal and costs 16TL. Using the WC is an additional charge of 1.5TL.

The commercially produced stuff was available for very cheap prices.

The bus doesn’t come at 715 pm, so the bus office guys take us to pillar number 20 and we wait. It duly comes at 725 pm! The bus looks fancy and clean and is almost full. We thank the office guys and step in. The seats allotted to us are excellent and we are so happy it is a comfortable 2+1 seating bus.

Loved the copper water dispensers.

The Star Diyarbakir bus journey turns out to be an unexpected delight. On the road, I see a signboard for Syria and Aleppo is not very far away; I also spot directions for Damascus once in the dark. It all seems so exotic and I wonder if there were no visas, would we just travel anywhere we could?

Would have loved to custom designed a name plate for me as a memorable souvenir from Bakircilar Carsisi.

The service in the bus starts and we are given çay and snacks. I wish all buses exiting from Antep must serve baklava! We thank the service guy and he gives us more snacks to keep and eat for later! The bus doesn’t stop till 11 pm validating our decision of having an early dinner.

An outdoor coffee shop at one of the fancy Hali’s.

Star Diyarbakir, you beauty. We arrive in Antalya at 8 am the next day.

This café was set in an old space and had a fabulous collection of wall hanging carpets.

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4 thoughts on “A Culinary Adventure in Gaziantep, Turkey”

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