Antakya has a population of 213.581 inhabitants and is located at the banks of the river Orontes in the province of Hatay, surrounded on three sides by mountains which are a source for green marble. Today the river Orontes divides the town in the old and the new part. Antakya is a lively business and shopping centre with a cultural mixture of its own. The labyrinthine old part of the town is very oriental and one of the most scenic old town centres in Turkey while the rest of the city is modern and international. Since Antakya is a bit off the beaten track for western tourists you might not find English spoken service everywhere but people in Antakya are very friendly and helpful. Despite having modern shopping malls and hotels you need to remember to dress accordingly – i.e. no miniskirts and tops should have at least short sleeves. Due to political instability in neighbouring countries please make sure that there is no travel warning issued. Check with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
History of Antakya
Founded in 300 BC, about everybody left a footnote for history here. It was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire and Byzantium; it played a key role in the early years of Christian and Orthodox Church and the rise of Islam. During the first crusade the town was conquered and nearly destroyed – it never recovered. Several earthquakes and the out break of cholera diminished the population severely. Only when the railway was built it resumed some of its former glory. The old town of Antioch (as it was called in former times) was one of the most famous and important cities of ancient history and the orient, with a history that gave everything but took it all away. Being occupied since the 6th millennium BC it had been a focal point for many conquerors, crusaders and emperors. Being destroyed and rebuild many times had it been exposed to raids and lethal epidemics in ancient times which adds to the ups and downs not only in number of buildings but as well in the number of inhabitants.