İzmir (Smyrna), “the Pearl of the Aegean”, one of Turkey’s most strategic ports and as Turkey’s third largest city, is one of the oldest known settlements in history dating right back to the Neolithic Period. Located in one of the centres of the cradle of civilizations (Anatolia), the city continues to embrace a rich historical heritage that has witnessed the passage of countless civilizations from Hittites to Ionians, Lydians to Persians, Pergamonians to Romans, and Byzantines to Ottomans.
Izmir hosts its visitors with its archaeological and cultural heritage, museums, rare and precious examples of hand craftsmanship, festivals, and delicious Mediterranean cuisine.
Conference participants who wish to prolong their stay in town will be able to enjoy the weekend excursions to places around İzmir.
The history of Izmir stretches back to around 3000 BC when the Trojans founded the city in Tepekule in the northern suburb of Bayrakli. This was the birthplace of Homer, who was thought to have lived here around the 8th century BC. The Aeolians, the first settlers, were eventually taken over by the Ionians, and then the Lydians destroyed the city around 600BC before a brief recovery following Alexander the Great’s arrival in 334 BC.
After his death, Alexander’s generals followed his wishes and re-established Smyrna on Mount Pagos in Kadifekale, and the city then prospered under the Romans. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 178 AD but later reconstructed and became a major commercial port. After the Byzantines, the city had a turbulent time under the Arabs, Seljuks, Crusaders and Mongols, until Mehmet I incorporated it into the Ottoman Empire in 1415. Under Suleyman the Magnificent, Smyrna became a thriving and sophisticated city and a huge trading centre, despite its frequent earthquakes. It was cosmopolitan, with Greek Orthodox, Jews and Muslims, and many languages were spoken amongst locals and visiting traders.
Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, large parts of Anatolia were carved up with the Treaty of Sévres. On 15 May 1919 the Greek Army occupied İzmir and on 9 September 1922 the Turkish Army under the commandment of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, retook the possession of İzmir.
İzmir is characterized by long, hot summers and mild, rainy winters. The total precipitation for İzmir averages 706 mm (27.8 inches) per year; however, 77% of that falls during November through March.
The average maximum temperatures during the winter months vary between 12 and 14 °C. Although it’s rare, snow has been recorded in İzmir in January and February. The summer months — June through September — bring average daytime temperatures of 30°C or higher.
İzmir’s cuisine has largely been affected by its multicultural history, hence the large variety of food originating from the Aegean, Mediterranean and Anatolian regions. Another factor is the large area of land surrounding the region which grows a rich selection of vegetables. Some of the common dishes found here are tarhana soup (made from dried yoghurt and tomatoes), İzmir köfte, keşkek (boiled wheat with meat), zerde (sweetened rice with saffron) and mücver (made from zucchini and eggs).
İzmir International Fair is the oldest tradeshow in Turkey, considered the cradle of Turkey’s fairs and expositions industry, and is also notable for hosting a series of simultaneous festival activities in the heart of the city, in Kültürpark. The fair is held in the vast compound just outside the city centre during the first days of September. İzmir International Fair also presents social, cultural events and entertainment as a whole together with its industrial and commercial dimension. The musical and other cultural events that accompany the commercial fair and that had actually started out as an auxiliary activity to attract popular interest for the event have become, over the years, a school by themselves. The fair itself is not limited to a theme, the participants are generally simply required to expose products with export or import potential, although each year a specific field of activity, a country and a Turkish province is put in limelight. İzmir International Fair, welcoming almost 60 countries, 1000 companies and 1,5 million visitors every year, provides an environment which domestic and foreign exhibitors promote new technologies and exhibit new products and businessmen meet.
İzmir International Festival beginning in mid-June and continuing to mid-July, has been organized since 1987. During the annual festival, many world-class performers such as soloists and virtuosi, orchestras, dance companies, rock and jazz groups including Ray Charles, Paco de Lucia, Joan Baez, Martha Graham Dance Company, Tanita Tikaram, Jethro Tull, Leningrad Philarmonic Orchestra, Chris De Burgh, Sting, Moscow State Philarmony Orchestra, Jan Garbarek, Red Army Chorus, Academy of St. Martin in the Field, Kodo, Chick Corea and Origin, New York City Ballet, Nigel Kennedy, Bryan Adams, James Brown, Elton John, Kiri Te Kanawa, Mikhail Barishnikov and Josep Carreras have given recitals and performances at various venues in the city and surrounding areas, including the ancient theatres at Ephesus and Metropolis (an antique Ionian city situated near the town of Torbalı). This festival is the member of “European Festivals Association” since 2003.
İzmir European Jazz Festival is among the numerous events organized every year by İKSEV (The İzmir Foundation for Culture, Arts and Education) since 1994. The festival aims to bring together masters and lovers of jazz in the attempt to generate feelings of love, friendship and peace.
İzmir International Short Film Festival is organized since 1999 and the member of European Coordination of Film Festivals.
Standing on Mount Yamanlar, the tomb of Tantalus is an example of the tholos type monumental tombs. The grave room of Tantalus’ tumulus was in the plan of the fountain, displaying a style called isopata, meaning the construction has a rectangle plan, covered by vaults made with a corbel technique. This monumental work is thought to be the tomb of the Basileus or Tyrant who ruled ancient Smyrna in 580-520 BC.
One of the more pronounced elements of Izmir harbor is the Clock Tower, a beautiful marble tower that rests in the middle of the Konak district, standing 25 meters in height. It was designed by the Levantine French architect Raymond Charles Père in 1901 for the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the ascension of Abdülhamid II. The clock workings themselves were given as a gift to the then Ottoman Empire by Kaiser Wilhelm II. The tower features four fountains which are placed around the base in a circular pattern, and the columns are inspired by North African themes.
The Agora of Smyrna is well preserved, and is arranged into the Agora Open Air Museum of İzmir, although important parts buried under modern buildings, waiting to be brought to daylight. Serious consideration is also being given to uncovering the ancient theatre of Smyrna where St. Polycarp was martyred, buried under an urban zone on the slopes of Kadifekale. It was distinguishable until the 19th century, as evident by the sketchings done at the time. On top of the same hill soars an ancient castle which is one of the landmarks of İzmir.
The Kemeraltı Bazaar zone set up by the Ottomans, combined with the Agora, rests near the slopes of Kadifekale. İzmir has had three castles historically- Kadifekale the portuary Ok Kalesi (Neon Kastron, St. Peter), and Sancakkale, which remained vital to İzmir’s security for centuries. Sancakkale is situated in the present-day İnciraltı quarter between Balçova and Narlıdere districts, on the southern shore of the Gulf of İzmir. It is at a key point where the strait allows entry into the innermost tip of the Gulf at its narrowest, and due to shallow waters through a large part of this strait, ships have sailed close to the castle.
There are nine synagogues in İzmir, concentrated either in the traditional Jewish quarter of Karataş or in Havra Sokak (Synagogue street) in Kemeraltı, and they all bear the signature of the 19th century when they were built or re-constructed in depth on the basis of former buildings.
İzmir Birds Paradise in Çiğli, a bird sanctuary near Karşıyaka, contains 205 species of birds. There are 63 species of domestic birds, 54 species of summer migratory birds, 43 species of winter migratory birds, 30 species of transit birds. 56 species of birds have been breeding in the Park. İzmir Bird’s Paradise which covers 80 square kilometres was registered as “The protected area for water birds and for their breeding” by the Ministry of Forestry in 1982.