Promenade of İskenderun

Location of İskenderun within Turkey

Coordinates: 36°34′54″N 36°09′54″E / 36.5817°N 36.1650°E / 36.5817; 36.1650Coordinates: 36°34′54″N 36°09′54″E / 36.5817°N 36.1650°E / 36.5817; 36.1650
Country Turkey
Region Mediterranean
Province Hatay
  Mayor Seyfi Dingil (AKP)
  District 636.75 km2 (245.85 sq mi)
Elevation 4 m (13 ft)
Population (2012)[2]
  Urban 184,833
  District 318,780
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 31
Area code(s) (0)326
Licence plate 31

İskenderun (Arabic: الإسكندرون, Greek: Αλεξανδρέττα "Little Alexandria"), historically known as Alexandretta and Scanderoon, is a city and the largest district in Hatay Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.


The city was founded as Alexandria (Αλεξάνδρεια) and named for Alexander the Great.

Starting in the Middle Ages, Western pilgrims used the diminutive Romance form Alexandretta.[3]

After the Muslim conquest of Syria, it was named al-ʼIskandarūn (Arabic الإسكندرون), the Arabic rendering of the original "Alexandrou"; this name was further turkified into Ottoman Turkish as İskenderūn (إسكندرون), which in turn was preserved in its current modern Turkish form as İskenderun.


İskenderun is located on the eastern Mediterranean coast on the Gulf of İskenderun, at the foot of the Nur Mountains (Amanos Mountains).

İskenderun is a busy commercial centre and is one of the largest cities in Hatay Province, similar in size to the provincial seat of Antakya. The city is one of Turkey's largest ports on the Mediterranean and an important industrial centre home to the İsdemir steelworks, one of Turkey's largest. İskenderun has an active, modern life with good hotels, restaurants and cafes along the palm-lined sea front. There is a variety of accommodation for visitors. İskenderun is also an important naval training base.


The climate on this stretch of the Mediterranean is (Köppen: Csa) hot and humid in summer. Winters are mild and wet. At certain times of the year the town is swept by a strong wind called 'Yarıkkaya'. The countryside contains large areas of fruit groves. It is an important producers of oranges, tangerines and lemons, and even tropical fruits such as mangoes.

Climate data for İskenderun
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 25.0
Average high °C (°F) 15.4
Average low °C (°F) 8.6
Record low °C (°F) −0.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 81.7
Average rainy days 11.3 11.1 11.4 9.4 6.6 3.3 3.1 3.7 5.8 8.7 8.7 11.1 94.2
Average relative humidity (%) 61 63 66 69 72 74 74 72 67 65 63 63 67.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 130.2 142.8 189.1 216 279 309 294.5 288.3 264 232.5 168 124 2,637.4
Source #1: Devlet Meteoroloji İşleri Genel Müdürlüğü[4]
Source #2: Weatherbase[5]
Iskenderun mean sea temperature[6]
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
17.6 °C (63.7 °F) 16.4 °C (61.5 °F) 16.6 °C (61.9 °F) 17.6 °C (63.7 °F) 20.9 °C (69.6 °F) 24.8 °C (76.6 °F) 27.5 °C (81.5 °F) 28.5 °C (83.3 °F) 27.8 °C (82.0 °F) 25.4 °C (77.7 °F) 21.5 °C (70.7 °F) 18.9 °C (66.0 °F)


Distinctive İskenderun dishes include Künefe, a hot dessert with cheese. The main dishes include the Turkish staples such as döner and other kebabs served in the flat dürüm bread, lahmacun and also Antakya influenced cuisine including kibbeh, and sour pomegranate syrup used as a salad dressing. İskenderun in particular offers good quality fish and prawns.


Ruins of Bagras Castle on the Nur (Amanos) Mountains near İskenderun


İskenderun preserves the name, but probably not the exact site, of Alexandria ad Issum. The settlement was founded by Alexander the Great in 333 BC to supersede Myriandrus as the key to the Syrian Gates, about 37 km (23 miles) south of the scene of his victory at the Battle of Issus. Alexander camped in the high-lands of İskenderun, around Esentepe, and then ordered the city to be established and named Alexandria. İskenderun is one of many cities founded on Alexander's orders, including Alexandria, Egypt.

The importance of the place comes from its relation to the Syrian Gates, the easiest approach to the open ground of Hatay Province and Aleppo.

Ecclesiastical history

The bishopric of Alexandria Minor was a suffragan of Anazarbus, the capital and so also the ecclesiastical metropolis of the Roman province of Cilicia Secunda. Greek menologia speak of Saint Helenus, and the martyr saints Aristio and Theodore as early bishops of the see. But the first documented one is Hesychius, who took part in the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and in a synod at Antioch in 341. Philomusus participated in the First Council of Constantinople in 381. Baranes is mentioned in connection with a synod at Antioch in 445. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Julianus was represented by his metropolitan, Cyrus of Anazarbus. Basilius was at the synod in Constantinople in 459 that condemned simoniacs. In 518, Paulus was deposed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian for supporting the Jacobite Severus of Antioch.[7][8]

The district center and Gulf of İskenderun

No longer a residential diocese, Alexandria Minor is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[9] In that list it was long named Cambysopolis,[10] but the Annuario Pontificio now gives the correct ancient name.

Ottoman era

The Martyrs Monument in İskenderun

The area was still a scene of fighting under the Ottomans, as it was here in 1606 that the army of general Kuyucu Murat Pasha suppressed the Celali revolts. The Ottomans continued to fortify the city and the remains of the early 17th-century Ottoman castle walls can still be seen where the Güzün stream crosses the Varyant road. The city was well described in 1675 by the English naval chaplain Henry Teonge in his diary. The next army to cross the Belen Pass and attack Anatolia through here were the Egyptians of Muhammad Ali in 1832.

View of the Mediterranean Sea from the promenade of İskenderun

However, in the later Ottoman period the city grew and grew as the main outlet for the overland trade from Baghdad and India, which had great importance until the establishment of the Egyptian overland route. Iskenderun served as a base, first for Genoese and Venetian merchants, then West and North European merchants. The British Levant Company maintained an agency and factory here for 200 years, until 1825, in spite of appalling mortality among its employees. During the 19th century the port grew, the railway was built in 1912, and the road to Aleppo was improved.

At the outset of World War I, when Britain was contemplating the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Lord Kitchener considered the conquest of Alexandretta to be essential in providing Britain with a port and railhead from which to access Iraq. He proposed a new railway from Alexandretta which would greatly reduce the time for reaching India from the UK. The de Bunsen Committee (8 April - 30 June 1915), a British inter-departmental group which was set up to discuss the issue in greater detail, preferred Haifa for this purpose.[11]

Republic of Hatay

Main article: Hatay State
Turkish forces under Colonel Şükrü Kanatlı entered İskenderun on 5 July 1938

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, most of Hatay including İskenderun was occupied by French troops. Between 1921 and 1937 the city was part of the autonomous Sanjak of Alexandretta within French-controlled Syria under the League of Nations French Mandate of Syria and the Lebanon.[12] This led to the foundation of the Republic of Hatay. In 1939, it joined with the Republic of Turkey after a referendum. The referendum was, and still is, regarded as illegitimate by Syria.[13][14][15]

Main sights

Panoramic view of the Gulf of İskenderun from İskenderun's district center


The city has two football clubs. One of them is Körfez İskenderunspor. The other, more successful team İskenderunspor folded in 2006, however a phoenix club İskenderunspor 1967 has been founded in 2009.

The city's basketball team is called İskenderun Belediyesi Spor Kulübü.


İskenderun is served by the Güney Gazetesi newspaper.

Notable natives

See also


  1. "Area of regions (including lakes), km²". Regional Statistics Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. 2002. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  2. "Population of province/district centers and towns/villages by districts - 2012". Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  3. Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edition, s.v. Iskandarūn
  6. Iskenderun Climate and Weather Averages
  7. Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 903-906
  8. Siméon Vailhé, v. Alexandria minor ou Alexandrette, in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. XII, Paris 1953, coll. 287-289
  9. Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 829
  10. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908, s.v. Cambysopolis
  11. David Fromkin (1989). A Peace to End all Peace. p. 149.
  12. Sarah Shields, Fezzes in the River Oxford University Press, 2011
  13. Fisk, Robert (1 February 2012). "Robert Fisk: Syria is used to the slings and arrows of friends and enemies". The Independent. Retrieved 15 September 2013. French handed it over to Turkey after a fraudulent referendum
  14. Fisk, Robert. "A LAND IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH". The Independent. Retrieved 15 September 2013. After engineering a fraudulent referendum in north-west Syria - the Turks trucked their supporters into the city
  15. Jack Kalpakian (2004). Identity, Conflict and Cooperation in International River Systems (Hardcover ed.). Ashgate Publishing. p. 130. ISBN 0-7546-3338-1. Turkish army ... expelled most the province's Alawite Arabs and Armenian majority. A rigged referendum followed


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