Alanya is a seaside resort 120 km (74.6 miles) from the city of Antalya. The district has close to 400,000 inhabitants.
Alanya has been a local stronghold for many Mediterranean based empires. Alanya’s greatest political importance came in the Middle Ages with the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm under the rule of `Ala’ ad-Din Kay-Qubad.
Though first fortified in the Hellenistic period following the area’s conquest by Alexander the Great, the castle rock was inhabited before that by the Hittites and the Persian Empire, and artifacts as far back as the Paleolithic era (20,000 B.C.) have been found in the area. Ptolemy’s dynasty (4th century B.C. )maintained loose control over the mainly Isaurian population, and the area became a popular spot for Mediterranean pirates.
The city was incorporated into the Pamphylia province of the Roman Republic by Pompei in 67 BC. After the Empire’s collapse, the city remained under Byzantine influence, becoming a suffragan of Side. Muslims began arriving in the 7th century, and 681 marked the end of a bishopric in Alanya. The area fell from Byzantine control after the Battle of Manzikert to tribes of Seljuk Turks, only to be returned in 1097 by Alexios I Komnenos and forces of the First Crusade.
Following the Crusades, the Christian Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia periodically held the port, and it was from an Armenian, Kir Fard, that Muslims took lasting control in 1221 when the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan `Ala’ ad-Din Kay-Qubad exchanged the city of Aksehir for it. Seljuk rule saw the golden age of the city. Building projects, including the twin citadel, city walls, arsenal, and Red Tower made it an important seaport for trade, particularly with Ayyubid Egypt and the Italian city-states. Kay-Qubad also constructed gardens and pavilions outside the walls, and many of his works can still be found in the city.
At the Battle of Köse Dag, the Mongols broke the Seljuk hegemony in Anatolia, and Alanya was then repeatedly invaded by Anatolian Turkish Beyliks, and from Lusignans from the Cyprus, who overturned the Hamidoglu Beylik. The city was sold by the Karamanoılu dynasty in 1427 to the Mamluks of Egypt before the general Gedik Ahmed Pasha incorporated it into the growing Ottoman Empire. In 1571 the city became part of the province of Cyprus, then later under Konya, and in 1868 under Antalya, as it is today.
After World War I Alanya was partitioned in the Agreement of St.-Jean-de-Maurienne to Italy
. Like most in this region, the city suffered heavily in the war and the population exchanges of 1923.
Alanya occupyies 43.5 miles (70 km) of coastline. The plain is an example of Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests. The town is divided by a rocky peninsula. The harbor and Keykubat beach are on the east side of the peninsula, and Damlataş beach, named for the famous "dripping caves," and Cleopatra beach are to the west. Legend and locals claim the name Cleopatra Beach in Alanya derives from either the Ptolemaic princess’ visit here or the area’s inclusion in her dowry from Mark Antony.
Atatürk Bulvarı (Boulevard), runs parallel to the sea, and divides the southern, more touristic side of Alanya from the northern, more native side, that extends north into the mountains. Çevre Yolu Caddesi circles the main town to the north.
Alanya has a relatively moderate continental Mediterranean climate. Most rain comes during the winter, leaving the summers long, hot, and dry. Storm cells sometime bring with them fair weather waterspouts when close to the shore. The presence of the Taurus Mountain in close proximity to the sea causes fog many mornings, in turn creating visible rainbows many days. The height of the mountains creates an interesting effect as snow can often be seen on them even on hot days in the city below.
On the peninsula stands Alanya Kale (Castle), a Seljuk era citadel dating from 1226. Most major landmarks in the city are found inside and around the castle. The current castle was built over existing fortifications and served the double purpose of a palace of local government and as a defensive structure in case of attack. Inside the castle is the Süleymaniye mosque and caravanserai, built by Suleiman the Magnificent.
The old city walls surround much of the eastern peninsula, and can be walked. Inside the walls are numerous historic villas, well preserved examples of the classical period of Ottoman architecture, most built in the early 19th century.
The Kızıl Kule (Red Tower) is another well-known building in Alanya. The 33 meter high brick building stands at the harbor below the castle, and contains the municipal ethnographic museum. Sultan Ala ad-Din Kay Qubadh I brought the accomplished architect Ebu Ali from Aleppo, Syria to Alanya to design the building. The last of Alanya Castle’s 83 towers, the octagonal structure specifically protected the Tersane (arsenal), it remains one of the finest examples of medieval military architecture.
The Tersane, a medieval drydock built by the Seljuk Turks in 1221, 187 by 131 feet, is divided into five vaulted bays with equilateral pointed arches. Atatürk’s House and Museum, from his short stay in the city on February 18, 1935 is preserved in its historic state and is a good example of the interior of a traditional Ottoman villa, with artifacts from the 1930s. The house was built between 1880 and 1885 in the "karniyarik" (stuffed eggplant) style. Bright colors and red roofs are often mandated by neighborhood councils, and give the modern town a pastel glow. Housed in a more Republican era building, an archaeology museum is inland from Damlataşh beach, and home to classical pieces found in and around the city as well as historic copies of the Qur’an.
Besides the beach and the sea there are a number of caves of interest to visitors. The Pirates Cave, the underwater Lovers’ cave and the Phosphorus cave can be visited by boat from Alanya.
From only 87,080 in 1985, the district now holds a population of 384,949. The city has a population of 134,396, of which 9,789 are European, about half of them from Germany and Denmark. The European population tends to be over 50 years old. During the summer the population with tourists; about 1.1 million each year. Tourism provides income for much of the population. The city has many migrants from the Southeastern Anatolia Region, people of Kurdish, Turkish, and Armenian heritages. In the 2000s, the town has seen a surge in illegal foreign immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia, both to stay and to enter European Union countries. Currently 1,217 migrants claim residence in Alanya while working abroad.
The town is near 99% Muslim, and although many ancient churches can be found in the city, there are no regular Christian services. In 2006, a German language protestant church with seasonal service openened. Israeli tourists, often from cruise ships, constitute the Jewish population. They are sometime the targets of discrimination, such as during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, when a shopkeeper denied Israelis entry.
The city has 95% literacy, with public, private, and Imam Hatip schools, and a roughly 1:24 student-teacher ratio. There remains however a limited number of secondary schools outside of the city center to serve the rural villages. In 2005, Akdeniz University of Antalya launched the Alanya Faculty of Business as a satellite campus which focuses on the tourism industry. Georgetown University operates an annual study abroad program for American students known as the McGhee Center, named for the United States Ambassador to Turkey from 1952-1953 George C. McGhee, and based in his villa.
Alanya was set up as a municipality in 1872, electing its first mayor in 1901. Today, Alanya is governed by a mayor and a municipality council made up of twenty-five members.
Just as the province is divided up into districts, the Alanya District is divided up into 17 municipalities, including the city center, and 92 villages. Alanya is greatly influenced by the provincial government in Antalya, and the federal government in Ankara, which appoints a governor for the district. Though Alanya has been part of Antalya Province since the Ottoman Empire, an Alanya Province has been a goal of many local politicians.
The tourist industry here is worth just under 1.1 billion euros, and is therefore the principal industry. The area is further known for its many fruit farms, particularly lemons and oranges, and large harvests of tomatoes, bananas and cucumbers. Despite the location, few residents make their living on the sea, and fishing is not a major industry.
Tourism in the region started among Turks who came to Alanya in the 1960s for the alleged healing properties of Damlataş cave, and later the access provided by Antalya Airport allowed the town to grow into an international resort. Strong population growth through the 1990s was a result of immigration to the city, and has driven a rapid modernization of the infrastructure.
Since the first modern motel was built in 1958, hotels have raced to accommodate the influx of tourists, and the city now claims 133,361 hotel beds. Damlataş cave, which originally sparked the arrival of outsiders because of the cave’s microclimate, with an average temperature of 72 °F (22 °C) and 95% humidity, is accessible on the west side of the peninsula with trails from Damlataş beach. Many tourists, especially Scandinavians, Germans, Russians, and Dutch, now regularly vacation in Alanya during the warmer months. Activities include wind surfing, parasailing, banana boating and Turkey’s largest go-kart track.
Beginning in 2003, with the elimination of restrictions on land purchases by non-nationals, the housing industry has become highly profitable, with many new private homes and condominiums being built for European and Asian part-time residents. This in turn has put pressure on the city’s many gecekondu houses and establishments as property values rise. A height restriction in the city keeps high rise hotels to the east and west of the city, preserving the central skyline. The fringes of the city however have seen uncontrolled expansion.
Alanya has ten local daily newspapers. The most prominent of these is Yeni Alanya, which also delivers the news and lifestyles magazine Orange as a subset which they provide in both English and German as well as the regular Turkish edition. Two native German language newspapers are published in Alanya, the Aktuelle Türkei Rundschau and Alanya Bote for the community of German speaking residents and visitors. A monthly magazine Hello Alanya published in Alanya for foreigners, appearing in English and Dutch language.
The D400 Turkish Highway connects Alanya from the east and west, and runs through the city center as Atatürk Bulvarı. Antalya Airport is 75 miles (120 km) away. There are bus and dolmuş systems out of Alanya’s two bus depots, but buses are usually limited to the major roads, and inside the city transportation is by car, taxi, or foot, as many roads in the old town are closed to traffic. The harbor includes cruise ship piers, and also seasonal ferries and hydrofoils depart for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Alanya is home to a woman’s basketball team, Alanya Belediye, and a second-level soccer team, Alanyaspor, though soccer fans in the city are mostly divided between the three major Istanbul teams.
Alanya holds an annual triathlon every October. and hosts the Turkish Open (part of the Nestea European Beach Volleyball championship tour) in May. The city has also hosted national events, such as the annual Beach Handball Tournament, and the finish of the seven day Presidency Cycling Tour of Turkey.