Iskenderun, also Iskenderon , is a city and district in the province of Hatay on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
Iskenderun is located on the Mediterranean coast on Gulf of Iskenderun at the foot of the Nur Mountains (Amanos Mountains).
Iskenderun is a busy commercial centre, the largest city in Hatay Province, surpassing the Hatay provincial seat of Antakya. The city is one of Turkey's largest ports on the Mediterranean and an important industrial centre home to the Russian-built Isdemir compound, one of Turkey's largest steelworks. Iskenderun has an active, modern life with good hotels, restaurants and cafes along the palm-lined sea front, and there is a variety of accommodation for visitors. Iskenderun is also an important naval training base. There is a small Suryani Christian community in the city.
The climate on this stretch of the Mediterranean is very hot and humid in summer, when people escape to the countryside or to the beach. At certain times of the year the town is swept by the strong wind called 'Yarikkaya'. The countryside contains large areas of fruit groves, important producers of oranges, tangerines and lemons, and even tropical fruits such as mangoes.
Distinctive Iskenderun dishes include Kunefe, a hot dessert with cheese. The main dishes include the Turkish staples such as doner and other kebabs served in the flat durum bread, lahmacun, and also the Arab-Levantine cuisine of Antakya including kibbeh, and sour pomegranate syrup used as a salad dressing. Iskenderun in particular offers good quality fish and prawns.
Iskenderun preserves the name, but probably not the exact site, of Alexandria ad Issum, founded to supersede Myriandrus as the key of the Syrian Gates by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, about 23 miles south of the scene of his victory at the Battle of Issus. The importance of the place ever since has derived from its relation to this pass, the easiest approach to the open ground of Hatay Province and of Northern Syria, and the Romans continued to fight with Persia for control of this area during their era of dominance.
Alexander camped at the high-lands of Iskenderun, around Esentepe, and then ordered the city to be established and named "Alexandrette". Iskenderun is one of many cities founded by Alexander's orders, including Alexandria.
The area was still a scene of fighting under the Ottomans, as it was here in 1606 that the army of general Kuyucu Murat Pasha suppressed the rural uprising of Celali Canbulatoglu. The Ottomans continued to fortify the city and the remains of early 17th century Ottoman castle walls can still be seen, (where the Guzun stream crosses the Varyant road). The next army to cross the Pass of Belen and attack Anatolia through here were the Egyptians of Muhammad Ali in 1832.
However in the later Ottoman period the city grew and grew as the main outlet for the overland trade from Baghdad and India, which had great importance until the establishment of the Egyptian overland route. Iskenderun served as a base first of Genoese and Venetian merchants, then West and North European merchants. The British Levant Company maintained an agency and factory here for 200 years, until 1825, in spite of appalling mortality among its employees. During the 19th century the port grew, the railway was built in 1912, and the road to Aleppo was improved.
Republic of Hatay
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War most of Hatay including Iskenderun was occupied by French troops and in 1921 was established as the autonomous Sanjak of Alexandretta within French-controlled Syria. This led to the foundation of the Republic of Hatay. In 1939, Republic of Hatay joined with the Republic of Turkey, after a referendum. See Hatay Province for a detailed history of this era.
Places of interest
Arsuz(Ulucinar), holiday town on the coast to the south of Iskenderun, with beautiful sandy beaches, a very warm sea, and places of historical interest. The coast is lined with holiday homes and there is accommodation in hotels or guest houses.
Sogukoluk, mountain resort on the way to Antakya a quiet retreat from the heat of the coast in summer months.
Bakras - The castle was built in antiquity and much restored since, a watchtower on the mountain road, from Iskenderun on the road to Antakya.
Yakacik (Payas) - contains a splendid example of Ottoman architecture dating back to the 16th century; the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Complex comprising a mosque, bath, bazaar, caravanserai, and madrasa. 22km from Iskenderun on the road to Adana.
In the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jones claims the Holy Grail is in the "canyon of the crescent moon" outside of Alexandretta. Indiana explains that Alexandretta was completely demolished by the end of the first crusades and that the city is now known as Iskenderun, even though that name is simply Alexandretta in Arabic. In the movie, the Nazis offer the sultan of Hatay precious valuables to compensate for removing the Grail from his borders. He ignores the valuables, but accepts their Rolls-Royce Phantom II. Following that, we see the Jones boys head from Berlin to Iskenderun where they find the Holy Grail. However the canyon and the El Deir Temple in which they find the Grail was filmed in Petra, Jordan. In the film, the residents of Iskenderun are depicted as Arabs, even though the area is now a part of Turkey, this can be explained due to the Arab population there.
The progressive metal group Andromeda released the song "Iskenderun" on their album Chimera.
Names of Asian cities in different languages
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade