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Hatay (Antakya) is a province in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast, with Syria to the south and east and the Turkish provinces of Adana and Osmaniye to the north. The province is part of Çukurova, a geographical, economical and cultural region that covers the provinces of Mersin, Adana, Osmaniye, and Hatay.
Antakya is the seat of the Hatay Province in southern Turkey, near the border with Syria. In ancient times the city was known as Antioch and has historical significance for Christianity, being the place where the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians for the very first time. The city and its massive walls also played an important role during the Crusades.
Antioch history dates back to the Calcolithic era (6th millennium BC), as revealed by excavations of the mound of Tell-Açana among others.
Subsequent rulers of the area include Alexander the Great, who after defeating the Persians in 333 BC followed the Orontes south into Syria. The city of Antioch was founded in 300 BC, after the death of Alexander, by the Seleucid King Seleucus I Nicator, and went on to play an important part in the history as one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire and Byzantium, a key location of the early years of Christianity, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the rise of Islam and The Crusades.
In 1822 (and again in 1872), Antakya was hit by an earthquake; when Ottoman general Ibrahim Pasha established his headquarters in the city in 1835, it had only some 5,000 inhabitants. It was hoped that the city might develop thanks to the Euphrates valley railway, which was supposed to link it to the port of Suedia (now Samandağı). But such plans were doomed to come to naught. Instead, the city was struck by repeated outbreaks of cholera.
Although the port of Iskenderun has become the largest city in Hatay, Antakya is a provincial capital still of considerable importance as the centre of a large district, growing in wealth and productiveness with the draining of Lake Amik. The town is a lively shopping and business centre with many restaurants, cinemas and other amenities, centred on a large park opposite the governor's building and the central avenue Kurtuluş Caddesı. The tea gardens, cafes and restaurants in the neighbourhood of Harbiye are one of the city's most popular spots, particularly for the variety of meze in the restaurants.
With its hilly countryside and a number of places of historical and religious interest Hatay is attractive to visitors. There are a number of music and folklore festivals held in the province each year. Particular sites of interest include:
the world's second-largest collection of Roman mosaics in Antakya museum
the rock-carved Church of St Peter in Antakya, a site of Christian pilgrimage.
Gündüz cinema, once used as parliament building of the Republic of Hatay.
The tunnel of Vespasian, in Samandağı, built as a water channel in the 2nd century.