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!


Al-Jouf: Saudi Arabia’s food basket and renewable energy hub

Each city and province in Al-Jouf has a distinct character, and abundant archaeological, civilizational and heritage sites. (SPA)
Updated 22 September 2019

Al-Jouf: Saudi Arabia’s food basket and renewable energy hub

  • Each city and province in Al-Jouf has a distinct character, and abundant archaeological, civilizational and heritage sites

SAKAKA: Al-Jouf in Saudi Arabia, known as the land of olives, is an area deep-rooted in history and biodiversity. Due to its moderate climate and fertile land, it has become known as “The Kingdom’s food basket.” Al-Jouf is an area steeped in civilizational, cultural and archaeological heritage and historical diversity. Signs of stability in the region in the prehistory era can be found at the most ancient archaeological site, Al-Shouwehtiya, which dates back as far 1.3 million to 1 million years BC, during the Old Stone Age.
Al-Rajajil, meanwhile, is a collection of about 50 groups of man-made stone columns near the ancient oasis town of Sakakah, which date back to the Copper Age, about 4000 BC.
A visit to ancient castles and relics that date back to ancient times provide a memorable and unique experience, while you savor the hospitality, nature and history of the region.
Al-Jouf is characterized by its location near the entrance to Wadi Sirhan entry and the northern border, which meant it was an important location for the commercial traffic that thrived in the pre-Islamic era. The area is mentioned in documents from the Assyrian period; there are detailed texts dating back to the eighth and seventh centuries BC that provide a picture of political relations between the region and other parts of the ancient world.
Each city and province in Al-Jouf has a distinct character, and abundant archaeological, civilizational and heritage sites.
The most prominent archaeological sites in Al-Jouf, include Zaabal Castle, Sisra Well and Rajajil in Sakaka, which is also home to Mouwaysin Castle and petroglyphs, Marid Castle, Umar bin Al-Khattab Mosque and Al-Dar’i Quarter in Dummat Al-Jandal, Ka’af Castle and Al-Saeedi Mountain in Al-Qurayyat.

FASTFACT

• The area is mentioned in documents from the Assyrian period; there are detailed texts dating back to the eighth and seventh centuries BC.

• There is also a huge green area containing more than 18 million trees.

The Nafud Desert extends to Iraq in one direction and Jordan in the other, where it meets the Syrian desert. It contains fossils of extinct animals and dry lake sediments, presenting an incredible opportunity for desert explorers and adventurers.
It is not all sand, however; there is also a huge green area containing more than 18 million trees, including 15 million olive trees that produce 20,000 tons of olives each year, a million date palms that produce 40,000 tons of dates, and a million fruit trees that produce 17,000 tons of fruit. An abundant variety of vegetables are also cultivated.
Al-Jouf also includes has what is said to be one of the largest artificial lakes in the Middle East, and the only lake in the Arabian Peninsula: Dummat Al-Jandal, a 500,000 square meter body of water that collects excess water from agricultural irrigation. The water, which is clean but salty, reaches a depth of 15 meters and is surrounded by a park for locals and visitors. Flanked by mountains, it is located near Umar bin Al-Khattab Mosque and Marid Castle. Geologists have confirmed it is one of the richest areas in water in the world.
In addition to being an incredible reminder of the Kingdom’s past, Al-Jouf is also at the heart of the country’s future, in terms of energy production. A solar-power project in Sakaka includes seven photoelectric solar sites with a capacity of 1.52 gigawatts, an investment estimated to be worth SR6 billion ($1.51billion), while Dummat Al-Jandal Wind Energy project has a 400 gigawatts capacity. Together they are helping Al-Jouf earn its title as the nation’s “capital of renewable energy.”