Izmir - Turkey

İzmir (Turkish pronunciation: [ˈizmiɾ]) is a metropolitan city in the western extremity of Anatolia and the third most populous city in Turkey, after Istanbul and Ankara. It is the second most populous city on the Aegean Sea after Athens, Greece. In 2017, the city of İzmir had a population of 3,028,323, while İzmir Province had a total population of 4,273,677. İzmir's metropolitan area extends along the outlying waters of the Gulf of İzmir and inland to the north across the Gediz River delta; to the east along an alluvial plain created by several small streams; and to a slightly more rugged terrain in the south.

In classical antiquity the city was known as Smyrna, a name which remained in use in English and other foreign languages until the Turkish Postal Service Law (Posta Hizmet Kanunu) of 28 March 1930, which made İzmir the internationally recognized name. İzmir has almost 4,000 years of recorded urban history and even longer as an advanced human settlement. Lying on an advantageous location at the head of a gulf running down in a deep indentation, midway on the western Anatolian coast, it has been one of the principal mercantile cities of the Mediterranean Sea for much of its history. İzmir hosted the Mediterranean Games in 1971 and the World University Games (Universiade) in 2005.

The city of İzmir is composed of several metropolitan districts. Of these, the district of Konak corresponds to historical İzmir, with this district's area having constituted the city's central "İzmir Municipality" (Turkish: İzmir Belediyesi) until 1984. With the formation of the "Greater İzmir Metropolitan Municipality" (Turkish: İzmir Büyükşehir Belediyesi), the city of İzmir grouped together its ten (initially nine) urban districts, namely Balçova, Bayraklı, Bornova, Buca, Çiğli, Gaziemir, Karabağlar, Karşıyaka, Konak and Narlıdere. In an ongoing process, the Mayor of İzmir was also vested with authority over additional districts outside the city proper, extending from Bergama in the north to Selçuk in the south, bringing the number of districts considered part of İzmir to thirty – two of these having been only partially administratively included in İzmir.

The city is one of the oldest settlements of the Mediterranean basin. The 2004 discovery of Yeşilova Höyük and the neighboring Yassıtepe, in the small delta of Meles River, now the Bornova plain, reset the starting date of the city's past further back than previously thought. Findings from two seasons of excavations carried out in the Yeşilova Höyük by a team of archaeologists from İzmir's Ege University indicate three levels, two of which are prehistoric. Level 2 bears traces of early to mid-Chalcolithic, and Level 3 of Neolithic settlements. These two levels would have been inhabited by the indigenous peoples of the area, very roughly, between 7th millennium BC to 4th millennium BC. As the seashore receded with time, the site was later used as a cemetery. Several graves containing artifacts dating roughly from 3000 BC, and contemporary with the first city of Troy, were found.

The first settlement to have commanded the Gulf of İzmir as a whole was established on top of Mount Yamanlar, to the northeast of the inner gulf. In connection with the silt brought by the streams which join the sea along the coastline, the settlement to form later the core of "Old Smyrna" was founded on the slopes of the same mountain, on a hill (then a small peninsula connected to the mainland by a small isthmus) in the present-day quarter of Bayraklı. The Bayraklı settlement is thought to have stretched back in time as far as the 3rd millennium BC. Archaeological findings of the late Bronze Age show a certain decree of Mycenaean influence in the settlement and the surrounding region, though further excavations of Bronze Age layers are needed to propose Old Smyrna of that time as a Mycenaean settlement. In the 13th century BC, however, invasions from the Balkans (the so-called sea people) destroyed Troy VII, and Central and Western Anatolia as a whole fell into what is generally called the period of "Anatolian" and "Greek" Dark Ages of the Bronze Age collapse.

The Turks first captured Smyrna under the Seljuk commander Çaka Bey in 1076, along with Klazomenai, Foça and a number of the Aegean Islands. Çaka Bey (known as Tzachas among the Byzantines) used İzmir as a base for his naval operations. After his death in 1102, the city and the neighboring region was recaptured by the Byzantine Empire. The port city was then captured by the Knights of St John when Constantinople was conquered by the Crusaders during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, but the Nicaean Empire would reclaim possession of the city soon afterwards, albeit by according vast concessions to their Genoese allies who kept one of the city's castles.

Smyrna was captured again by the Turks in the early 14th century. Umur Bey, the son of the founder of the Beylik of Aydın, took first the upper fort of Mount Pagos (thereafter called Kadifekale), and then the lower port castle of Neon Kastron (called St. Peter by the Genoese and as "Ok Kalesi" by the Turks). As Tzachas had done two centuries before, Umur Bey used the city as a base for naval raids. In 1344, a coalition of forces coordinated by Pope Clement VI took back the lower castle in a surprise attack in the Smyrniote crusades. A sixty-year period of uneasy cohabitation between the two powers, the Turks holding the upper castle and the Knights the lower, followed Umur Bey's death.

Modern İzmir is growing in several directions at the same time. The north-western corridor extending to Aliağa brings together both mass housing projects, including villa-type projects and intensive industrial area, including an oil refinery. In the southern corridor towards Gaziemir yet another important growth trend is observed, contributed to by the Aegean Free Zone, light industry, the airport and mass housing projects. The presence of the Tahtalı Dam, built to provide drinking water, and its protected zone did not check urban spread here, which has offshoots in cooperatives outside the metropolitan area as far south as the Ayrancılar–Torbalı axis. To the east and the north-east, urban development ends near the natural barriers constituted respectively by the Belkahve (Mount Nif) and Sabuncubeli (Mount Yamanlar-Mount Sipylus) passes. But the settlements both above Bornova, inside the metropolitan zone, and around Kemalpaşa and Ulucak, outside the metropolitan zone, see mass housing and secondary residences development. More recently, the metropolitan area displays growth, especially along the western corridor, encouraged by the Çeşme motorway and extending to districts outside the city of İzmir proper, such as Seferihisar and Urla. The population of the city is predominantly Muslim, but it was predominantly non-Muslim up to the earlier quarter of 20th century.

İzmir is also home to Turkey's second largest Jewish community after Istanbul, numbering about 2,500. The community is still concentrated in their traditional quarter of Karataş. Smyrniot Jews like Sabbatai Zevi and Darío Moreno were among famous figures in the city's Jewish community. Others include the Pallache family with three grand rabbis: Haim, Abraham, and Nissim.

The Levantines of İzmir, who are mostly of Genoese and to a lesser degree of French and Venetian descent, live mainly in the districts of Bornova and Buca. One of the most prominent present-day figures of the community is Caroline Giraud Koç, wife of the renowned Turkish industrialist Mustafa Koç, whose company, Koç Holding, is one of the largest family-owned industrial conglomerates in the world.

İzmir once had a large Greek and Armenian community, but after the end of the Greco-Turkish War, many of the Christians remaining in the city were transferred to Greece under the terms of the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

İzmir's cuisine has largely been affected by its multicultural history, hence the large variety of food originating from the Aegean and Mediterranean regions. Population movement from Eastern and South East Anatolia regions has enriched the local cuisine. Another factor is the large and fertile area of land surrounding the region which grows a rich selection of vegetables. There is considerable culinary usage of green leaf vegetables and wild plants amongst the residents, especially those with insular heritage, such as the immigrants from Crete. Some of the common dishes found here are the tarhana soup (made from dried yoghurt and tomatoes), "İzmir" köfte, sulu köfte, keşkek (boiled wheat with meat), zerde (sweetened rice with saffron) and mücver (made from zucchine and eggs). A Sephardic contribution to the Turkish cuisine, boyoz and lokma are pastries associated with İzmir. Kumru is a special kind of sandwich that is associated particularly with the Çeşme district and features cheese and tomato in its basics, with sucuk also added sometimes.

Trade through the city's port had a determinant importance for the economy of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 19th century and the economic foundations of the early decades of Turkey's Republican era were also laid here in İzmir Economic Congress. Presently, İzmir area's economy is divided in value between various types of activity as follows: 30.5% for industry, 22.9% for trade and related services, 13.5% for transportation and communication and 7.8% for agriculture. In 2008, İzmir provided 10.5% of all tax revenues collected by Turkey and its exports corresponded to 6% and its imports 4% of Turkey's foreign trade. The province as a whole is Turkey's third largest exporter after Istanbul and Bursa, and the fifth largest importer. 85–90% of the region's exports and approximately one fifth of all Turkish exports are made through the Port of Alsancak with an annual container loading capacity of close to a million.

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