Cappadocia, a land of fairy chimneys and underground cities

Enjoy incredible sights in this Turkish tourist paradise. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 August 2017
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Cappadocia, a land of fairy chimneys and underground cities

CAPPADOCIA: The shopping bazaars of Istanbul, turquoise beaches of Antalya and fascinating thermal waters of Pamukkale make Turkey a true tourist paradise.
Cappadocia, in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey, is another tourist draw — albeit one that is lesser known.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cappadocia is located among volcanic mountains. Several years of volcanic eruptions — resulting volcanic ash, floods and strong winds — have created unique, porous rock formations called fairy chimneys. These geological formations were used by fleeing refugees as hideouts, monasteries and to house entire cities. If you are a history aficionado, these rock formations are sure to have you captivated.
How to get there: Only an hour’s flight away from Istanbul, the easiest way to get to Cappadocia is to take a direct flight from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to the nearest airport in Kayseri and make the hour’s journey to Cappadocia by car. To get a true experience of the Byzantine era (albeit with some luxuries), check in to one of the many cave hotels in Cappadocia. Restored to some degree, these caves were once used as retreats by monks and now serve as hotels for tourists, with modern amenities like hot tubs and Roman Baths — an experience that is totally worth it!
Things to do: The next morning, check off one more item on your travel bucket list as you head out to your early-morning hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s valleys. As the sun rises, be prepared to be stunned by a valley of fairy chimneys and a sky filled with color as other hot air balloons float through the air. After spending a luxurious morning savoring the sights of Cappadocia, head back to your hotel for a lavish Turkish breakfast that will keep you fueled up for the day ahead.
Apart from the traditional Turkish spread, try Cappadocia’s testi kebap — meat sealed in dough and cooked in a clay pot. An entertaining show is made out of breaking down the pot and serving its tender contents.
With intricate designs and rich colors, the silk carpets of Kayseri are some of the best in the world. Visit a carpet-making factory to watch the local women spin beautiful silk carpets and perhaps buy some to take home. You can also visit the renowned Chez Galip pottery factory and see how traditional Turkish ceramics are made.
Places to visit: Visit the Derinkuyu underground city in the province of Nevşehir, making your way in and out of secret tunnels and passageways while you try to decipher Greek inscriptions on the walls. While there, you can try to fathom the daily life of the nearly 20,000 people who used to reside in the Derinkuyu underground city and the neighboring underground city of Kaymakli.
The Göreme Open Air Museum is an archaeological delight. You can wander around for hours and marvel at 11th century frescos, paintings, communal eating areas and monasteries.
To experience the wonders of nature, take a trek through the Rose Valley, named after the red and pink hues of its rock formations, or the Pigeon Valley, named after its rock formations that look like bird houses, in Göreme.
To revive your inner child, visit the Devrent Valley and try to spot the hidden creatures in the rock formations. If you look closely, you can see horses, camels and whatever else your imagination can cook up.
A three or four-day trip should suffice to see everything in the Nevşehir, Ürgüp, Göreme, Uçhisar and Ihlara areas of Cappadocia — pack a camera for the incredible sights and enjoy your trip!


Mariam’s journey to North Pole ‘an inspiration for Saudi women’

Crossing the unwelcoming terrain of the North Pole is not for the faint-hearted. Mariam Hamidaddin’s brave and inspirational journey to the top of the earth was ended by the threat of frostbite. Reuters
Updated 20 May 2018
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Mariam’s journey to North Pole ‘an inspiration for Saudi women’

  • Mariam Hamidaddin was one of 11 women from Europe and the Middle East taking part in the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian Polar Expedition, an initiative aimed to foster greater dialogue and inspire women to push their limits and fulfill their ambitions.
  • Two weeks later and Hamidaddin still could not feel her fingertips. She struggles to cut a steak and needs help to tie her shoelaces. Medics say it could be months or even years before she fully recovers.

LONDON: Mariam Hamidaddin was skiing toward the North Pole in temperatures as low as minus 38 C when she was advised by her team leader to give up on her dream and take a helicopter back to base camp.
She did so reluctantly. Frostbite had taken its toll on the Jeddah-born entrepreneur’s hands, but with no previous experience of such climates, Hamidaddin was unaware of the severity. Only when she was assessed by a Russian medic who spoke pidgin English did she appreciate how close she was to losing her fingers.
“The words he told me were: ‘No chop’ ... which was scary but also a great relief to hear,” said Hamidaddin, one of 11 women from Europe and the Middle East taking part in the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian Polar Expedition, an initiative aimed to foster greater dialogue and inspire women to push their limits and fulfill their ambitions. Team leader Felicity Aston deliberately chose women with no athletic or Arctic experience with the intention of demonstrating that anybody can achieve their goals with determination.
As Hamidaddin discovered, however, having an expert on hand helps. The transition from frostnip to frostbite can be a matter of five or 10 minutes, so it is essential for people in extreme weather to pay attention to their body. The tiniest sign can help avoid severe consequences.
The 32-year-old had followed all the instructions learned during training camps in Iceland and Oman: She kept moving to circulate her blood and had not removed her gloves even once in the Arctic. She felt pain, yes, but the entire team had frostnip, so why should she consider quitting?
Fortunately for her future — and her fingers — the decision was taken for her.

Mariam Hamidaddin was an inspirational member of the North Pole expedition before a doctor’s verdict cut her journey short.


“There was no proper moment where I realized I had frostbite,” Hamidaddin told Arab News after returning to the heat of Saudi Arabia. “If it was up to me, I would have wanted to continue, so I am extremely thankful that I was asked to evacuate because the frostbite gradually got worse and worse.
Basically, the team leader saved my fingers.”
Two weeks later and Hamidaddin still could not feel her fingertips. She struggles to cut a steak and needs help to tie her shoelaces. Medics say it could be months or even years before she fully recovers.
This month on her Instagram feed @InTuneToTheSound, she is posting photos of her journey in non-chronological order. The intention is to be “open and vulnerable and hopefully inspire people.” In a post, a video shows her typing at a computer using only her right pinky finger.
“There is a negative media perception of what a Saudi woman looks like and what she can and can’t do,” said Hamidaddin. “For this reason, it’s important for us to show that what you see in the media isn’t necessary a true reflection of who we truly are.
“It is also important to share our failures as well because when I see success upon success, I cannot connect with that. I am human, I have weakness and I fall, and I need to know that when I fall, I can rise again. Those stories are the ones that will connect most with people.”
With Saudi Arabia women now competing at the Olympic Games, being allowed to attend football matches at certain stadiums and the imminent lifting of a ban on driving, opportunities for women in the Kingdom are blossoming.
Hamidaddin, founder of the Humming Tree, a co-working space and community center that focuses on creativity and wellbeing, said she sees examples of strong, athletic and confident women every day.
“You can see them everywhere — women running, biking, climbing mountains,” she said.
“So we are already there. It’s just a matter of sharing these stories more. We are strong women; we know what we want and we find a way around it. We do what we need to do and we get it done. The fact that driving now is going to be open for us, just makes all that easier.”
Although Hamidaddin’s journey to the North Pole was cut short, the team’s doctor said she could wait out the expedition in the warmth of base camp and celebrate with her team when they reached their destination.
It was an opportunity that, even with frostbite, she was never going to turn down. What she found at the top of the world was a beautiful, dreamlike landscape — and, perhaps fittingly, a perpetual chase to reach her goal.
“Unlike the South Pole, which is a landmass, the North Pole is a constantly drifting landscape. It’s sea ice on top of the Arctic Ocean and it’s always moving, so you are constantly trying to catch it,” she said.
“One minute you’re on top of the world taking a photo and by the time you’re done taking it, well, the North Pole is a few miles away. You have to keep trying to catch it.”