A visit to the town of Elmali is like a walk back in time.
Elmali is a traditional Turkish town high in the mountains between Seki and Kas. Its backdrop is the impressive snow capped Taurus Mountains. As its name suggests apples are the main crop produced by the many farmers who live in or around this wonderful town, and when we visited in Autumn, the air was filled with the sweet smell of the recently harvested crop.
We set off from Fethiye and took the main road towards Antalya passing through Kemer and on to the Kizabel Pass before descending onto the plain below. We followed the signs to Seki. After 50 minutes we arrived in Seki and stopped for tea in the tea house in the centre of town.
Feeling refreshed we rejoined the road out of town and followed signs for Elmali. The road is surfaced and wide enough for two cars but take care as the bends are sharp and there are no crash barriers! The road snakes through the outskirts of Seki before climbing to the Gugu summit some 1,830 metres (6,000 ft) above sea level. The views in this section of the journey are breathtaking and you’ll want to stop from time to time to take them in. The snow poles at the side of the road indicate that this may not be a road to take in the Winter though and later, when talking to the locals, we found out that the road is often impassable during the winter months. The road then snakes down the other side of the summit before reaching the valley where the river Gugu flows and on through a village until it arrives in Elmali.
Our first call was to the Ketenci Omer Pasha Cami (mosque). It was built in 1610 (muslim calendar 1019) and is a spectacular example of a single domed mosque. It was built under the orders of Ketenci Omer, a prominent Ottoman commander from Manavgat who had fought in the Vienna War. He financed the build from the spoils he had taken from Sarajevo. It was designed by the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The mosque was restored twice in 1870 and 1938 with interim repairs in 1929 following damaged caused by a bolt of lightening that struck the minaret causing extensive damage not only to the minaret but also to the rear part of the prayer hall from the falling masonry. The restoration in 1938 saw some of the traditional Iznik tiles being replaced by Kutahya tiles but by all accounts the new tiles are sympathetic in style and quality to those they replaced.
It’s a spectacular building both inside and out. The interior of the mosque is spacious and split on two levels. It has a capacity to hold 800 people although we guess it would be a bit of a squeeze when full. The centre of the dome is graced by a huge glass ball light. Within the grounds of the mosque there is a tomb, a theological school (now a childrens library) a fountain and bath.
We left the mosque and headed up into the narrow side streets where we saw traditional mud brick houses that were, apart from the white and black paint, Tudor in style. Some of the houses were empty meaning we could take a quick peek in the windows and see the interior rooms. As we headed up the hill the houses became bigger and better. But, we wondered why such grand houses had been built in such an out of the way and agricultural area. We found the reason later when talking to locals, it was because the town was a popular Yaylar for the then rich Turks who would spend the summer months in the town to avoid the searing heat of the summer down on the coast.
We wandered around for some time before emerging from one of the streets into the market area. The market wasn’t open the day we visited but we were able to explore the many small shops selling goods ranging from textiles through to hand made metal work and copper goods.
We had read in a guide book about some traditional wooden grain stores in a village around 5 miles outside the town so we jumped back in the car and headed on the road towards Kas, We arrived to find the wooden stores in a farmer’s back yard! We headed in slightly hesitantly as we didn’t want to trespass but the farmers wife, who was tethering a goat in the vicinity, didn’t seem concerned at all. The grain stores are impressive and unique. Their design is similar to the Lycian tombs dotted around Fethiye and the Aegean coast. The stores aren’t used any more but, apart from a bit of weathering, were in great shape.
With the day drawing to a close we headed back toward Fethiye on the road we came in on. We could have headed on the road to Kas around 55 miles on and followed the coast road back, but time didn’t allow for that.
All in all a wonderful day out!