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DENİZ

A town called Sea

den1Deniz, more or less a beach suburb of Samandağ, is not the sort of seaside resort that sees a lot of foreign visitors.

In the first place it’s too far away, tucked up in the Hatay where Turkey turns the corner and starts heading down south to Syria, and in the second it’s not a place of any great beauty - - nothing to cause the hoteliers at Ölüdeniz any loss of sleep, for example.

On the other hand Deniz is home to an extraordinary shrine that looks like a giant flying saucer. Watch carefully and you will see cars slow down and then drive round it three times in an anti-clockwise direction. This, the drivers believe, will bring them luck.

The shrine is dedicated to Hızır, a holy man who had been a guide to the Prophet Moses, and inside it a curious whitewashed rock apparently marks the spot where they met. Pilgrims walk slowly around it, praying and pausing to burn strong-smelling yellow stones in the furnaces.den2

Both Muslims and Christians come here to pray, as do the sick, the disabled, and the infertile. The most important dates in the shrine’s calendar are 5-6 May when Hızır is believed to have met up with the Prophet İlyas (Elijah) and when the Hıdırellez festival announces the arrival of summer.

Hıdırellez is particularly important to the Alevis, and the Hatay has a large population of Alawites who are closely related to the Anatolian Alevis, differing from them mainly in that they see no need for cemevis in which to pray.

As for the beach, it's a long (14.5km) stretch of greyish sand overlooked at the southern end by Kel Dağı (Bald Mountain, 1740m), the ancient Mt Cassius. Signs warn about a riptide so you should swim with the greatest of care. Endangered Caretta carreta turtles lay their eggs on the sand in summer. 

Sleeping

It's unlikely that you would want to stay in Deniz although there are a couple of hotels (Anadolu Palace, Riva Hotel) should the fancy take you. 

Transport info

You can get to Deniz by frequent dolmuş from Antakya via Samandağ. They leave from the road more or less in front of Antakya's local bus terminal.

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