ERBILErbil (Hawler City) is the oldest living city in the world, the capital of the Federal Kurdistan Region and about 350 km2 north of Baghdad. It lies on a rich fertile plain between two rivers, the Greater Zab and the Lesser Zab. Already in the 23rd century BC, the location was an important crossroads between East and West. Assyrians, Persians, Ottomans, and Arabs have all ruled he area at some point in time.
The name “Erbil” was mentioned in holy writings of the Sumerians (about 2,000 B.C.) as Orblum or Urbilum and in the Babylonian and Assyrian texts as Arba-Elu. The Kurdish name “Hawler” is found from the ancient time. It refers to the ancient Citadel and Minaret. Throughout the history, Hawler has been the center of culture and trade in the region.
The old Kurdish name for Erbil, Hawler, means a city where the sun still worshipped, and prosperity shone upon Erbil, perched on the Silk Road between Europe and the Chinese Empire. The sun still occupies a central spot on the Kurdish flag.
The Citadel in Erbil has been occupied for 5,000 years as a fortress and inner city, and has always been an important trading post and multicultural melting pot. It is currently restored with the help of UNESCO, and will become an open air museum.
Modern Erbil is the capital of Kurdistan. With more than a million inhabitants, it is the third largest city in Iraq, as well as its fastest growing city. Ankawa, the Christian part of the city, it is now nearing 20,000 inhabitants.
Istanbul is Turkey's most populous city as well as its cultural and financial hub. Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. Istanbul's population is estimated to be between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest cities in Europe and the world.Istanbul has a temperate oceanic climate which is influenced by a continental climate, with hot and humid summers and cold, wet and occasionally snowy winters.With its long history at the center of empires, Istanbul offers a wealth of historic and religious places to take in. Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), and Basilica Cistern are located around Sultan Ahmet Square, while some others are dispersed throughout the peninsula of old city, such as Church of St Savior in Chora (Kariye Müzesi), entire inside of which is covered by mind blowing frescoes and mosaics. An impressive section of mostly intact Theodosia walls, which mark the full length of western boundary of the peninsula, is right next to this particular church.North of Taksim Square is New Istanbul, main business district of the city. If venturing out to this direction, don't forget to check out Military Museum.Across the Bosphorus to east is Asian Side, centered around the historical districts of Kadıköy and Üsküdar, and perhaps best symbolized by Maiden’s Tower.When you visit Istanbul you have many choice of gifts to buy for your friends and family such as Turkish Tea, Rugs and kilims, Chalcedony and etc.
ANKARAAnkara is the capital of Turkey and the seat of its government, located centrally in the country. With nearly 5 million inhabitants, it is the second most populated city in Turkey after Istanbul. Much of Ankara is new and fashionable, while the old section of the city, Ulus, has an impressive, dignified ambiance, complete with crumbling structures from antiquity.
The city now called Ankara was built sometime during the Bronze Age by the Hattians. Since then, Ankara and the surrounding region have been possessed by the Lydians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and finally the Turks. After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1924, Ankara replaced Istanbul as the capital of Turkey and the seat of its government. This marked a significant change in the city; the population increased from 35,000 to its nearly 5 million current residents. Many new buildings arose to accommodate the upsurge in population, transforming a city of little importance into a bustling metropolis.
Esenboga International Airport is the major international airport in Ankara, receiving flights from London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and others; you will need to transfer from one of these cities to get to Ankara. If you want to rent a car in Ankara, resist the temptation. Signs are incomprehensible, and traffic is often unnavigable. Use the public transit system for a much less chaotic transportation experience. Buses and trams go to every part of town. The underground train system is also a good way to get around. There are two lines, the Ankaray and the Metro, going west to east and northwest to south, respectively.
BAGHDADModern Iraq was born from ancient Mesopotamia, nestled in the fertile valleys created by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The country's glorious history continued with the arrival of Islam, and Baghdad became one of the greatest capitals of the religion. Recent history, unfortunately, has been less kind to the country.
Although the National Museum of Iraq was extensively looted during the 2003 Iraq War, plans are underway to reopen it to the public soon.. The museum's collection is revered as one of the world's most important, featuring artifacts that detail Mesopotamia's 5,000 year history. Galleries are dedicated to the ancient Akkadian, Sumerian, Chaldean, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations, and the oldest pieces date back to 3000 BC.
The skyline of Baghdad is dotted with many richly ornamented minarets and domes, many of which belong to mosques and shrines. The most impressive is the Al Kadhimiya Mosque. Built in 1515, the mosque remains one of the most important institutions in Islam and is an architectural gem. The magnificent golden dome was re-gilded, the outer walls were restored to their original appearance and the interior was retouched to highlight its glimmering mirror mosaics, colorfully glazed tiles and marble floors. Since the war began, the mosque has been the site of suicide and car bombings, but the structure has remained intact and hopes to one day welcome visitors from around the world.
Other notable religious sights in Baghdad include the Mosque and Mausoleum of Al-Imam Al-Aadham, built in 1066, the finely ornamented Mausoleum of Omar Al-Sahrawardi and the Tomb of Sitt Zumurrud Khatun, topped with a glorious golden conical-shaped dome.
Having entered the scene in 150 BC as Attalia, named after its founder, Attalos II, king of Pergamon, Antalya has ever attracted a wide array of travelers, including Paul the Apostle, and Ibn Battuta among others. Antalya had replaced Phaselis—beautiful ruins of which now lie to south of the city, between Kemer and Olympos—as the main harbour of the surrounding region during the reign of Seljuks, in early 1200s, but the lack of a large hinterland (or, rather, lack of good connections with its mountainous hinterland) meant for much of its history ever since that it was a provincial coastal town, albeit with a multicultural community of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. As the center of a region with beautiful beaches, verdant mountains, and a mind blowing number of ancient ruins, the tourism investments started in 1970s, which changed the fate of the city considerably. However, as most of the visitors (make no mistake ,they are in the range of millions annually) to the region are actually on "all-inclusive" vacation packages nowadays, they are immediately taken from the airport to the huge resorts lining the coastline of hundreds of kilometers, where they stay until the end of their holidays except perhaps a raid or two to the nearest and the most popular attractions, so Antalya itself, especially the old town (Kaleiçi), is more of an independent traveler destination, where you will meet the other travelers of a similar mind, and the locals. Around April, when you can perfectly get a suntan and the weather is much more bearable than summer months, is one of the best times to visit the city.