The New Face of Maras

This town of at least three thousand years and many names has heard the roar of industrialization and is setting the standard for development in this region in the plains.

Kahramanmaras is a city on the southern slopes and valley of Ahir Dagi. In recent years industrialization has led to rapid development in Kahramanmaras. New factories are being built and the latest technology is used, especially in the textile world. The industrialization of the city has also attracted migration from the villages.

Twenty-six kilometers to the north-west of the city Menzelet Reservoir receives water from the Ceyhan, Tekir and Firniz. Kilavuzlu Ceyhan Bridge is thought to have been built in the fourteenth or sixteenth century and is located on the old road between Kahramanmaras and Göksun.

Cotton is one of Kahramanmaras' main agricultural products. Last year 13,500 hectares of cotton were sown yielding 35,000 tons. There are many yaylas in the province of Kahramanmaras located among the mountains linked to the south-eastern Taurus and covered over one third of its land by forest.

In the Blacksmiths Bazaar the air is filled with the different tones of hammer blows like an orchestra of instruments. The windows are decorated with the products of the toil of the masters. In the Kahramanmaras Copper Market copper containers are made by traditional methods to be sold to tourists. In the market the windows are decorated with copper cauldrons, cups with handles, pans, large dishes with lids and buckets.

One of the city's most important crafts is wood carving. The masters carve patterns handed down from generation to generation in walnut, hornbeam and oak. The Maras masters' skills are evident whether in their decorative work, trousseau chests or even more simple objects such as small three-legged stools. In Kahramanmaras raw hide and fleece is processed into leather in the tanneries using the same methods and implements as hundreds of years ago. In the M. Nafel Tannery the hides are first washed and then left in a lime pit for 10-20 days to remove the hair. The hides are then rewashed and smeared with dog or pigeon manure. Subsequently they are treated with regional herb and bonito salt. This process ensures that the leather does not lose its flexibility. Finally the leather is oiled to the desired color. All of these processes are carried out using manual labor.

Old Maras houses or mansions were generally two stories high and built of stone. The small garden courtyards were paved with marble. Because of the absence of a cellar the lower floor is used for stabling, wood, clay or hay storage and kitchen space.


Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) in the Emeki district and its associated Tas Medrese (Stone School) were built in 1502, the Dulkadirogullari era which lasted 200 years between Iran, the Ottomans and Egypt. The inscription on Ulu Cami states that the mosque was built in 1502 by Dulkadirli Alauddevle at the time of Sultan Kansu Gavri. The mimber (pulpit) is of rosewood inlaid with mother-of-pearl.







The ingredients of the famous Maras ice cream are the milk of goats reared on the pastures, top quality crystal sugar and orchid root gathered from the pine forests. They are blended in a cold churn but result in a product that does not melt until it is in your mouth (left) When making cauldrons the first stage is to heat copper plate on the stove (right).

One of the few remaining crafts in Kahramanmaras is the production of "külek". These are containers made from thin strips of willow bent into a circle. The containers are used for storage of butter and molasses.



In Maras it is not difficult to find customers for these very finely worked hand-made quilts.

In spite of its new coat of startlingly bright paint my hotel room seems to have assimilated the memories of Kahramanmaras' past years. The hotel room bears the traces of the earthquakes that shake the city and the swarms of mosquitoes like rain clouds that breed in the fields of the fertile plain below. Three thousand years ago, the Late Hittite era (B.C. 1100-700), the city's name was Gurgum. The Assyrians called it Margasi; the Romans Germenicia, the Byzantines Marasion and the Arabs Mer'as. It is said that the meaning of Maras is "Shaking Place." Maybe the shaking is because of the Red Sea-Gor Depression fault line that passes through the south and rocks the city like a cradle, or alternatively because of the malaria that spread over the rice paddies of the plains in days gone by and set people's teeth chattering. Now called Kahramanmaras (Brave Maras) for the bravery of its people in the war in 1920's, the area has prospered since the 1980's, becoming one of Turkey's fastest developing provinces.

...the city has head the roar of industrialization and has become of of Turkey's fastest developing countries...

Kahramanmaras is a city with a population of 300,000 founded on the southern slopes and valley of Ahir Dagi (Mountain.), rising to 2,300m (7,600 ft) and connected to the Taurus. Approximately 700m (2300ft) above sea level the plains extending before Maras are sown with cotton, wheat, rice, lentils, chick peas, pepper and sugar beet. In the Plain of Maras 35,000 tons of cotton are produced and processed into a quarter of Turkey's cotton yarn and make up a quarter of the nation's textile exports.

Since the 1980's the city has heard the roar of industrialization. Kahramanmaras has the world's most up to date technology for textile production. The newly established oil factory will not pollute the atmosphere for it has no chimneys and runs on butane gas. Perhaps in the near future Maras will be known as the city without factory chimneys. In spite of the locally applied epithet "Dead End Street of the South" because of the lack of road and air connections Maras' commercial and industrial development is striking. Last year its exports reached 20 million dollars and this year by September the figure had reached 126 million dollars. And in the words of one citizen of Maras whose acquaintance I made, with the start of business incentive schemes in 1983 and investment of credit the salvar (baggy pants; pronounced shal-vahr), veil and religious fanaticism have disappeared.

thirty-five hundred years ago Assryians plied their trades along this road in copper, gold, fabrics and tin.

The Ceyhan River, which rises in Elbistan, Kahramanmaras, traces a 220 km (140mi) route through the province and then flows a further 290 km (180 mi) to the Mediterranean. The Ceyhan, one of Turkey's important rivers, rises at Pinarbasi in Kahramanmaras' sub-province, Elbistan. It flows through the city of Elbistan along a 220 km course from north to south of the province. On the Ceyhan are the Menzelet and Sir dams providing irrigation and energy, and several bridges. One of these is Kilavuzlu Ceyhan Bridge which is thought to have been built in the fourteenth or sixteenth century and is located on the old road between Kahramanmaras and Göksun. After being bridled by the Menzelet Dam the Ceyhan pours into the Sir Dam. Kilavuzlu Ceyhan Bridge is at the point where the Sir reservoir has formed.

There are many in the province of Kahramanmaras located among the mountains linked to the south-eastern Taurus and covered over one third of its land by forest. The province of Kahramanmaras consists of mountains rising to 3,000m (10,000ft) linked to the south-eastern Taurus, its plains and plateaus. Two climates prevail within the province; in the south a Mediterranean climate and in the northern sections an Inner Anatolian climate. For this reason it is cooler than other southern provinces of Turkey. Of the many yaylas in Kahramanmaras the most well known are Baskonus, Yavsan and Tekir. BaskonusYaylasi is 55 km (35mi) from the Kahramanmaras-Andirin highway. In Baskonus Yaylasi at an altitude of 1,850 m (6,100ft) there is a deer raising farm and guest houses of the Forestry Commission.

On the Sir Reservoir Ceyhan River fish are farmed in cages.

Forty five kilometers (30mi) from the city on the Kahramanmaras-Kayseri motorway the ice cold pool at the entrance of Döngel Caves is a favorite diving spot for Maras children in summer (left). In the wheat exchange the cereal is sieved to get rid of impurities such as stones (middle). One of the sherbet sellers in the streets and Covered Bazaar of Maras (right).

Maras and Mount Ahir are inseparable. Flood waters and rivers flowing from this 2,300m (7,600ft) mountain have carved the valleys, ridges and peaks of the southern face. Seen from the west the city resembles a charming Anatolian town set in green, and from the north looks quite poetic, although industrialization has robbed the city of the majority of its old houses. In my search for old buildings I came across Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) with its highly decorative minaret worked as finely as embroidery and a little further on Tas Medrese (Stone School) with a pyramidal roof. Other buildings that have withstood the test of time remain from the 200 year period of the Dulkadirogullari lords who opposed the states of Iran, Egypt and the Ottomans around the beginning of the twelfth century when he Seljuks were starting to spread through Anatolia.

In Kahramanmaras raw hide and fleece is processed into leather in the tanneries using the same methods and implements as hundered of years ago.

The lion sculpted from volcanic andesite in the museum garden has hieroglyphics which identify Maras as a late Hittite city. Tucked between mosque and medrese is a mound dating to the Late Hittite era with a Roman castle. A Hittite road led from the capital, Hatusas, via Kayseri and Göksun to Maras and onwards to Samsat on the banks of the Euphrates and Mesopotamia. Thirty-five hundred years ago Assyrians plied their trade along this road in copper, gold, fabrics and tin. The city museum is a time tunnel displaying objects from stone flints and obsidian axes through to Seljuk coins and hand written books. The archaeological section contains the skeleton of a mammoth found in the Gavurgölü (Infidel's Lake) region. One theory about the cause of extinction of these creatures living a million years ago on the alpine pastures implicates a slight change in climate that upset the balance among the vegetation, the mammoths, and their human hunters.

Unfortunately the castle has been badly restored and the 2,000 year old walls have lost their mysterious charm. This negative fate is not only limited to the castle in Kahramanmaras. Only a handful of buildings have escaped demolition, fire, and replacement by concrete. Seen from the castle walls the city resembles an army of ants being driven down the slopes of Ahir Dagi. The general color is grey, but here and there orange colored roof tiles betray the presence of a historical building. In the past the houses had flat earth roofs where grains and vegetables were spread to dry.



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