city and central district in Turkey

Osmaniye is a city in the Cilician Plains. The city has few attractions but it serves as a good base to explore the outlying sites in the countryside.

Understand edit

Hemite Castle from across the Ceyhan River

Osmaniye is in the southeastern corner of the Cilician Plains, at the foothills of the Nur Mountains, so it shared the fortunes of that region.

In the 12th century BCE, after the collapse of the Hittite Empire, the area came under the rule of a number of associated polities collectively named "Neo-Hittites". During the Middle Ages, it was the power base of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, allied with the Crusaders, who left their mark in numerous castles across the region. The Turkish settlement, mainly by nomadic tribes, began in the 11th century. The winters of the Cilician Plains are an eternal spring, but in summers the region slides into a scorching inferno, then malaria-stricken. So these nomads overwintered in the plains, and fleed to the balmy respite of the surrounding mountains as the heat and swarms of mosquitoes approached. A market town grew hereabouts, named after one of those tribes, Kınık.

In the 1860s, the American Civil War was raging on, and disrupted the access of the textile mills to cotton the world over. The Ottomans saw the emerging gap in the international supply chain, and invited experts from Egypt, which had a long history of cotton cultivation, to explore the potential. As it turned out, the Cilician Plains offered the perfect conditions for cotton agriculture, but lacked a workforce. So under the pretext of pacifying the unruly nomads, who had engaged in scores of rebellions century after century, the Ottoman army deployed Fırka-i İslahiye ("the reforming division") upon them in 1865, forcing them into a sedentary and agricultural lifestyle. The authorities accordingly developed Kınık into a larger town, and renamed it after the empire lest any of these new cotton farmers dare to forget who the boss was and revert to the condemned olden ways. (The counterpart in the inland-facing side of the Nur Mountains is called after the army division, İslahiye.)

From then on until the first decade of the Turkish Republic, Osmaniye was the capital of the independent province of Cebelibereket ("the fertile mountain"), but was demoted to a subdistrict of Adana in 1933. This was a disgrace for most of the locals, but it was rectified in 1996 when the city became a provincial capital again.

With the irrigation projects coming off in the arid soils of Southeastern Anatolia to the east in the 1990s, the cotton production shifted to that direction and is no longer that important for this region. The local agricultural focus is more on peanuts and olives nowadays.

Get in edit

By plane edit

The nearest airports are Adana-Şakirpaşa (ADA IATA) 100 km west, Kahramanmaraş (KCM  IATA) 112 km northeast, Gaziantep (GZT  IATA) 160 km east, and Hatay (HTY IATA) 116 km south.

By train edit

As of 2024, regional and long distance trains, including the Fırat Express which runs from Adana to Elazığ via Türkoğlu (for Kahramanmaraş) and Malatya, are suspended. Regional trains from Mersin via Adana are expected to resume in 2026.

  • 1 Osmaniye railway station (Osmaniye Garı), Dr. İhsan Göknal Mahallesi (1 km north of the central roundabout).  

By bus edit

There is a minibus service from İskenderun, and probably from other regional towns.

By car edit

Highway D400 runs through the city on its course between Adana and Gaziantep. Toll motorway O-52/E90 parallels it about 5 km to the north.

Get around edit

The city centre is flat and compact, so is very walkable. There is a fleet of city minibuses, but you are unlikely to use them. For the outlying sites, you need a car.

The downtown area is on a strange one-way grid, with several streets in parallel with each other running southwards, but none in the other direction. Devise a workaround plan before setting out. Parking space is also hard to come by in this area.

See edit

City centre edit

Enverül Hamit Mosque
  • 1 Central Park (at the corner of the D400 roundabout providing access to the city centre). A pretty area with subtropical greenery. There is an open-air cafe at its side, offering an opportunity to people-watch.
  • 2 City Museum (Kent Müzesi) (at the southern side of the central park). Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Housed in a faux-Seljuk building.
  • 3 Old Cotton Factory (Mehmet Eminler Konağı), Atatürk Cd. The dilapidated remains of an old processing plant for raw cotton. It's set around a courtyard with a large gate opening onto the street, but is private property so you may not be let in. Along the streetside, it's flanked by a row of equally dilapidated historic houses. These are among the few examples of the local traditional architecture, characterized by bay windows on the upper floors, left in Osmaniye.
  • 4 Enverül Hamit Mosque (Enverül Hamit Camii or Büyük Cami, "Great Mosque"). The central mosque. Its portal inscription ascribes it to the 1890s, but it should have been significantly altered in the meantime and looks plain and modern. At one side of its courtyard was Çınarlı Kahve (Sycamore Cafe), which might have appeared straight out of the novels by Yaşar Kemal, one of Turkey's internationally best-prized writers and a native of the region, but the tree and the cafe are long gone, and a young sapling vigorously grows in the space left behind, next to a commemorative sign.   It was badly damaged in the 2023 earthquake.
  • 5 Clock Tower (Saat Kulesi) (at the central strip of a street just south of the mosque). A modern clock tower.

Countryside edit

  • 6 Zorkun (25 km south). A mountain hamlet where the locals maintain summer cottages amidst coniferous forest — an echo of the nomadic tradition of retreating to the mountains during summer.    
  • 7 Toprakkale (14 km west of Osmaniye, 5 km south of the village of the same name; in the triangle of the large interjunction of D817 and D400, access from the western fork of D817). A castle with black walls on a basalt outcrop. The current structure exhibits contributions from many of its occupiers, including the Abbasids, Byzantines, Cilician Armenians, and Mamluks.    
  • 8 Castabala-Hierapolis (Kastabala) (16 km north). Daily 08:00-16:00. This was founded as a Hittite city, and later captured by the Persians, Alexander the Great, and Romans. Most antiquities date back to the latter, and these include a bathhouse in ruins, a stretch of road pavement, remains of a colonnaded street, and an amphitheatre. Bodrumkale is a Cilician Armenian castle perched atop a nearby hill.   Free.    
  • 9 Gökçedam (formerly Hemite) (24 km northwest). The village where Yaşar Kemal was born, this is Hemite of his novels, although there is little reminder of his childhood here. There are also the ruins of a hilltop castle nearby, built by the Cilician Armenians and served the Teutonic Knights for a while. Below the castle, on a lower-lying outcrop on the banks of the Ceyhan River, is a faint, weather-beaten Hittite relief depicting a warrior — the river valley was a major route connecting their heartland far to the north with their southern domains in what is now Syria.    
  • 10 Karatepe-Aslantaş (34 km north). Daily 08:00-16:00. This is a national park with an extensive Neo-Hittite site. It's very scenic as it is overgrown by a pine forest and surrounded by a dam lake (therefore known as the "Hittite Peninsula"). The open-air museum is enclosed by an intact fortress and exhibits a rich collection of Hittite artwork (statues and reliefs) and inscriptions.   Post-2023 earthquake status: open to visits. 70 TL (about €2.40).    
  • 11 Kadirli (46 km north). The main town of the northern part of Osmaniye Province was Roman Flaviopolis. The town is a frequent setting in Yaşar Kemal novels, but always goes unnamed in them. It has changed a lot since that ignominious murder in the ironsmiths' market, first published in 1974.    
  • 12 Ala Mosque (Ala Cami) (at the eastern end of Alacam Cd, Kadirli). This was built in the 5th century CE as a Byzantine church and monastery. The Dulkadirids, a local Turkish dynasty, captured the area in the 15th century, and converted the building to a mosque by basically adding a minaret; the rest of the layout was preserved. It was abandoned sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century, and laid in ruins for long. In 2020, the main building was rebuilt to the original design, and the walls of the courtyard were left in the semi-ruinous state.    
  • 13 Savranda (Sarvandikar) (28 km east). This is a Cilician Armenian castle built to protect the approach to the Amanus Gate (modern Bahçe Pass) through the Nur Mountains. It also saw an occupation by the Frankish Crusaders. It's on a rocky outcrop, among a densely forested mountainous landscape.    

Do edit

Buy edit

  • There is a line of ATMs along the southern side of the central park, and many banks are on Ahmet Alkan Cd as you turn south from the corner.

Eat edit

Tarhunzas, the Luwian (Neo-Hittite) weather god, in Karatepe-Aslantaş
  • Kömbe is the local cookie with a touch of clove and cinnamon, and dipped in grape molasses prior to cooking.
  • Local simit, Turkish bagel, also features molasses, but it tastes bland and neither sweet nor salty.
  • 1 5008 Sk east of the mosque is a strip of eateries, some featuring local liver kebabs.
  • Small eateries are everywhere in the downtown area.

Drink edit

  • There is a couple of shops specializing in pickles along Ahmet Alkan Cd, where you can enjoy a cup (or a barrel) of fresh şalgam suyu (fermented black carrot juice).
  • You may come across vendors selling meyan kökü şerbeti (liquorice root juice) in the street markets.

Sleep edit

Connect edit

Go next edit

  • Adana, the riverside regional capital, is to the west.
  • İskenderun is a major harbour town to the south, and is the gateway to the rest of Hatay.
  • Gaziantep is a major city to the east, with a great old town and mosaic museum. Head this way for Southeastern Anatolia.
Routes through Osmaniye
MersinAdana  W   E  → Nurdağı (    N / S) → Gaziantep
Adana     (S) ←  W    E  → Nurdağı (    N / S) → Gaziantep

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