Antakya

Antakya was known as Antioch in ancient times, as it was the place where the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians for the first time. The city and its massive walls also played an important role during the Crusades.

Antioch is a historic city on the left bank of the Orontes River, 30 km from the Mediterranean coast in Iskenderun. It is of the most important cities in the history of Syria, where it was the capital of Syria before the Arab conquest in the seventh century and yet still the capital of the Syrian  Christian Churches.

Antiquity

According to Wikipedia, Antioch has been occupied by humans since the Calcolithic era (6th millennium BC),  Subsequent rulers of the area include King of Macedonia Alexander the Great who, after defeating the Persians in 333 BC, followed the Orontes south into Syria. The city of Antioch was founded in 300 BC, after the death of Alexander, by the Seleucid King Seleucus I Nicator. It had an important role as one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire and Byzantium, and was a key location of the early years of Christianity, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the rise of Islam, and the Crusades.

The Crusaders' Siege of Antioch conquered the city and caused significant damage during the First Crusade. Although the city had a large Christian population, it was betrayed by Islamic allies of Bohemund, prince of Taranto. Following the defeat of the Turkish garrison, he became its overlord. It remained the capital of the Latin Principality of Antioch for nearly two centuries.

In 1268 it fell to the Egyptian Mamluk Sultan Baibars after another siege. Baibars proceeded to massacre the Christian population. In addition to suffering the ravages of war, the city lost its commercial importance because trade routes to the Far East moved north following the thirteenth-century Mongol conquests. Antioch never recovered as a major city, with much of its former role falling to the port city of Alexandretta (Iskenderun). An account of both cities as they were in 1675 appears in the diary of the English naval chaplain Henry Teonge.

In 1822 (and again in 1872), Antakya was hit by an earthquake and damaged. When Egyptian general Ibrahim Pasha established his headquarters in the city in 1835, it had only some 5,000 inhabitants. Supporters hoped the city might develop thanks to the Euphrates Valley Railway, which was supposed to link it to the port of Sueida (now Samandağı). However, such plans were doomed to come to naught. The city suffered repeated outbreaks of cholera due to inadequate infrastructure for sanitation. Later the city developed and rapidly resumed much of its old importance when a railway was built along the lower Orontes Valley.

Densely-built Antakya in 1912: the traditional Muslim city shows no trace of its Hellenistic planning. To the east, orchards (green) fill the plain.

Geography

Antakya is located on the banks of the Orontes River approximately 22 km (14 mi) inland from the Mediterranean coast. The city is in a valley surrounded by mountains, the Nur Mountains (ancient Amanos) to the north and Mount Keldağ (Jebel Akra to the south, with the 440 m high Mount Habib Neccar (ancient Silpius) forming its eastern limits. The mountains are a source of a green marble. Antakya is at the northern edge of the Dead Sea Rift and vulnerable to earthquakes.

Climate

The city enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers, and mild and wet winters; however due to its higher altitude, Antakya has slightly cooler temperatures than the coast.

 

M. Wassouf

Sulaiman al‑Issa,the poet who Fought the French Mandate

 Sulaiman al‑Issa was born 1921 in the village of Noayriyeh ‑ Oronte orchards, situated 20 Km to the west of the historical Syrian  city of Antakya .

- He received his first education under the mulberry tree shadowing the house yard . He learned the Holy Qoran, the famous preislamic poems ( Mu’allaqat ) which were hung in the Holy Ka'ba , the famous Mutanabbi collection of poetry, and a great many other Arabic poems. The village had no other school but the traditional Kuttab , which was also the poet’s home . His father lived and taught there.

- He started writing poetry at the age of ten and his first collection described the misery and weariness of the peasants .

-  His primary education took place in Antakya. When he started school he was so advanced that he was placed immediately into the fourth class . By that time the district of Al ‑Liwa , which included Antakya, was in a stage of revolution due to the Arab inhabitants discovering the plan of the French (who had a mandate in Syria at this time) to separate the area from Syria and offer it to Turkey .

- During his fifth and sixth grades in Primary school his poetry contributed to the demonstrations  and national fight of his fellow ‑ citizens of Liwa Iskenderun.

- After the Turkish aggression on  his native district he emigrated  to other parts of Syria to continue with his friends, the fight against the French Mandate . He continued his education in secondary schools  at Hama ; Lattakia and Damascus . In that period of his life he experienced the bitterness of homelessness and began to realize the importance for him of fighting for Arab unity, independence and freedom .

- He shared in the foundation of the Ba'th party While  still at secondary school in Damascus

- After graduation he returned to Syria to take up a post as teacher of Arabic language and literature in a secondary school in Aleppo .

- He lived in Aleppo from 1947 to 1967 teaching, Writing and sharing in the national struggle

- In 1950 he married and had two sons and a daughter.

- In addition to Arabic and some Turkish ; he also speaks French and English .

- He has travelled extensively in the Arab world and has also visited many other countries .

 

In 1967 ,he started writing for children and made it his primary concern .

- His biography for children written in poetry and then in prose , was entitled ‘I am telling you my childhood , O small ones’ His second autobiography was ‘The child Waïl in his search for his homeland’.

- In October 1982 he received the Afro – Asian Writers’ Union Lotus Prize for poetry .

- In 1984, his poetical works for children received the price of the Arab League, Educatinal, cultural, and Scientific Organization.

- In 1990, he was elected as a member of the Arab Language Academy (Damascus).

- In 2000, he received The Babatin Prize for poetical creativity.

 

Books by the poet

-     The Poetical works (4 volumes), Beirut, al-Mu’assassa al ‘Arabiyya,   1995.

-      The path of a life time (Autobiographical Highlights, Beirut, al-Mu’assassa   al-Arabiyya, 1996.

-      Al-Thumâlât (5 volumes), General Institution for the Book, Sanaa, 1999,   2004, 2005.

      The Divan for children, Dar al-Fikr, Damascus, 1999.

-      The Divan of Yemen, General Institution for the Book, 1999.

-      The Divan of Palestine, Palestine’s House, Damascus, 1999.

-      The Divan of Algeria, Algiers, 1995.

-      The Divan of Lebanon, Ministry of culture, Damascus, 2006.

-      The Woman in my poetry, Abu Dhabbi, 1998.

-      Collections of Stories and tales for children, with his wife Malaka Abiad

 

M.D

Iskenderun,Syria's Beautiful Icon

İskenderun, sometimes called Scanderoon or Scandaroon, is a city and district on the Mediterranean. It was originally named Alexandretta (Greek: Ἀλεξανδρέττα) but its name was changed .

Names

At its founding, the city was named Alexandretta (Ἀλεξανδρέττα) in honour of Alexander the Great, a name which it retained during the Roman period. The city was later renamed al-ʼIskandarūn (Arabicالإسكندرون) during the Islamic Caliphate and then to İskenderun after the Ottoman conquest.

Geography

İskenderun is located on the eastern Mediterranean coast on the Gulf of İskenderun, at the foot of the Nur Mountains (Amanos Mountains).

İskenderun is a busy commercial centre and has an active, modern life with good hotels, restaurants and cafes along the palm-lined sea front, and there is a variety of accommodation for visitors.

Climate

The climate on this stretch of the Mediterranean is hot and humid in summer, when people escape to the countryside or to the beach. At certain times of the year the town is swept by a strong wind. The countryside contains large areas of fruit groves, important producers of oranges, tangerines and lemons, and even tropical fruits such as mangoes. Winters are mild and wet.

Distinctive İskenderun dishes include Künefe, a hot dessert with cheese, and also Antakya influenced cuisine including kibbeh, and sour pomegranate syrup used as a salad dressing. İskenderun in particular offers good quality fish and prawns.

Antiquity

İskenderun preserves the name, but probably not the exact site, of Alexandria ad Issum (İskender being the Arabic rendering of Alexander). The settlement was founded by Alexander the Great in 333 BC to supersede Myriandrus as the key to the Syrian Gates, about 37 km (23 miles) south of the scene of his victory at the Battle of Issus.

Alexander camped at the high-lands of İskenderun, around Esentepe, and then ordered the city to be established and named Alexandria. İskenderun is one of many cities founded by Alexander's orders, including Alexandria, Egypt.

Unjust Annexation

Turkey annexed Iskenderun in 1939 .the Syrians have never accepted  the Turkish annexation of Iskenderun and Syria has never formally  renounced its rights to it.

M.D