The most popular sites and attractions
By Roxanne James

Faith Tourism Booms in Turkey

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Turkey is a fascinating country that is home to a mesmerising blend of East and West. Ancient civilisations have come and gone in the country over generations in time, each leaving behind an incredible heritage that resonates with followers of many different faiths.

Consequently, millions of people from all over the world visit the spiritual attractions. Turkey is home to and faith tourism has become an important part of the country's growing tourism sector.

Here we take a look at the most popular sites and attractions for religious visitors to Turkey:

Konya: Shrine of Rumi and Museum

Konya was the final home of Rumi (Mevlana), Anatolian mystic, poet and the father of the Mevlevi Order. He is known as Mevlana in the East and as Rumi in the West and his tomb is in the city. In 1273, his followers in Konya established the Mevlevi Sufi order of Islam and became known as the Whirling Dervishes. Konya has the reputation of being one of the more religiously conservative metropolitan centres in Turkey. It was once known as the "citadel of Islam" and its inhabitants are still comparatively more devout than those from other cities.

Izmir: Virgin Mary's House

The house was discovered in the 19th century by following the descriptions in the reported visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, a Roman Catholic nun and visionary which were published as a book by Clemens Brentano after her death. The Catholic Church has never pronounced in favour or against the authenticity of the house, but nevertheless maintains a steady flow of pilgrimage since its discovery.

Catholic pilgrims visit the house based on the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken to this stone house by Saint John and lived there until her Assumption, according to Catholic doctrine. The shrine has merited several papal visits from several popes, the earliest pilgrimage coming from Pope Leo XIII in 1896.

Trabzon: Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery is a commonly-visited attraction of faith tourism in Turkey, as well as pleasure trips. The ancient monastery and buildings surrounding it were built in the 19th century, with the Roman Orthodox community permitted to perform the religious ceremony of the ascension of the Virgin Mary since 2010. The area, already rich in natural beauty draws significant numbers of faith tourists in Turkey.

Nevşehir: Cave Churches and Haji Bektash

Nevşehir is the capital of the Cappadocia region where the first settlements date back to 3000 BC; the oldest name of the city was "Nyssa". The city also has some interesting remains from the Seljuk period, such as the castle which stands at the highest point of the city.

The Kursunlu Mosque has an impressive complex of buildings and a medresse surrounding it which dates back to 1726. They were built by carving the soft rock surface located in what is now the Göreme Open Air Museum, attracting thousands of visitors as well as faith tourists every year.

Sanliurfa: Legendary Pool of Sacred Fish- Standing Place of Abraham

According to Jewish and Muslim tradition, Urfa is Ur Kasdim, the hometown of Abraham and is also one of several cities that have traditions associated with Job. For Armenians, Urfa is considered a holy place since it is believed that the Armenian alphabet was invented there.

Urfa, town of Prophets, still cherishes the memory of the Prophets Abraham, Eyup, and Suayb, today. The Pool of Sacred Fish which is one of the most beautiful places in Urfa and the Halilürrahman Mosque right next to it constitute an island of spirituality. The pool of Sacred Fish and its surroundings where Prophet Abraham was born, thrown into the fire, and saw the most significant moments of his life include attraction spots for local and foreign visitors.

Istanbul: Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia

The Blue Mosque ranks 20th among most commonly visited historical buildings in the world. Its very construction was marked by the desire to compete with Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine architectural masterpiece. Undoubtedly, both of them play a great role in making Istanbul, which is already the centre of culture, business and entertainment, an outstanding destination for faith tourism as well.

Hagia Sophia is a former Christian church, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople and in 1261, it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

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