By Halil Fidan
SANLIURFA, Turkey (AA) – Located in southeastern Turkey, Gobeklitepe, the world's oldest known temple, was visited by nearly 26,000 people during the recent nine-day Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, according to an official at the ancient site.
Celal Uludag, head of excavation at the 12,000-year-old site, said the ruins have been open for years but this year they attracted a record number of visitors, and they drove tourist traffic in March and April.
The site, near the city of Sanliurfa, got extra attention after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, declared 2019 the year of Gobeklitepe.
Dmitry Wood, a Ukrainian tourist, said that they were fascinated by many places in the region, especially Gobeklitepe, and that he would recommend it to his friends when he gets back to Ukraine.
Tuba Arkan, a Turkish tourist, said that she had heard a lot about Gobeklitepe, which pushed her to make the trip from Istanbul with her family.
Gobeklitepe is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is recognized as the oldest temple in the world by many international organizations.
Gobeklitepe was found in 1963 by researchers from universities in Istanbul and Chicago. Since then, the excavations have never stopped.
The German Archaeological Institute and Sanliurfa Museum have done joint work at the site since 1995 and have found T-shaped obelisks from the Neolithic era towering some 3-6 meters (10-20 feet) high and weighing 40-60 tons.
During the excavations, diverse historical artifacts like a 65-centimeter-long (26-inch) human statues dating back 12,000 years have also been discovered.
* Writing by Dilara Hamit from Ankara