“The cousin of Gaziantep is an important element of our country” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as he spoke at an event titled “UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy: Gaziantep” that was held in Istanbul's Çırağan Palace on Feb. 20 to celebrate the listing of the southeastern city of Gaziantep on the UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy list in late 2015.
Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin said adding Gaziantep to the “World Creative Cities Network” in gastronomy area meant awarding the southeastern city for the wealth it had created over the years.
“We tried hard to be added to this network, but we know that we're still at the start of the path and that we will work hard to be the world capital of cuisine ... Of course, this is not an award received in blink-of-an-eye efforts. We have a past as old as human history, and we have a great cultural heritage,” Şahin said at the event, underscoring that Gaziantep had stood out from among 18 countries UNESCO nominated as creative cities of gastronomy.
Şahin said the move had dealt the city administration new responsibilities, listing what Gaziantep Municipality planned for the near future in terms of promoting the cultural aspects of the southeastern city.
“We will increase the employment of women ... We'll do more innovation, research and development as well as contests, workshops and festivals,” Şahin said, adding that Gaziantep, which was home to the ancient city of Zeugma, would be a bridge from Anatolia to the rest of the world.
Attending the event alongside Şahin, Gaziantep Gov. Ali Yerlikaya said Gaziantep's success in cuisine was acknowledged by the world, citing the uniqueness of the city with a 6,000-old history.
“Efforts made by Turks, Kurds, Yazidis, Jews and Armenians have had a bearing on the cuisine created in this land. The cuisine we're speaking of has around 500 different dishes,” Yerlikaya said, noting that he was excited to see Gaziantep cuisine awarded on an international level.
Underscoring that Gaziantep had always been a city of hospitality, Yerlikaya said the peoples of Gaziantep loved to share their food for centuries and emphasized that the city was hosting around 350,000 Syrian migrants.
Launched in 2004, UNESCO's Creative Cities Network comprises 116 cities worldwide. It aims to foster international cooperation with and between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy.
“The UNESCO Creative Cities Network represents an immense potential to assert the role of culture as an enabler of sustainable development. I would like to recognize the many new cities and their countries that are enriching the network with their diversity,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.