‘Welcome to Santa Claus land’; Turkey’s tourism pitch to Goa, IndiaSeptember 25th, 2010 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS
Panaji, Sep 25 (IANS) Turkey would make an ideal religious tourism destination for India — specifically Goa — as the European nation is home to several Christian heritage sites which, though lesser known, are of ample significance, Turkey’s top diplomat to India has said.
Speaking to IANS on the sidelines of his formal address to the captains of industry here, Turkish Ambassador Levent Bilman said that for the Catholic population of Goa, Turkey should emerge as a preferred destination for religious tourism — for one, because it was home to one of the most popular figures of Christian lore Santa Claus, also known as the portly father Christmas with a flowing white beard, who rides on a reindeer-drawn sleigh at Christmas.
“Not too many might know this, but Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas was born in Anatolia in Turkey. Turkey is also the home of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, who lived her last days here. Even the Pope visits this place very often to pay his respects to the Mother,” Bilman said, adding that such sites and many more diverse samples of religious history could be found in Turkey.
“Why, the legendary Noah’s Ark was also found in Turkey,” he said.
“Turkey has nine sites on the world heritage list, while 18 others are on the tentative list,” Bilman said, adding that despite the worldwide tourism industry facing severe setbacks during the global recession, tourism in Turkey flourished, with nearly three crore tourists visiting the European country, which is also known as an automobile manufacturing hub.
Bilman said that one runs out of breath when it comes to drawing parallels between the two rich and diverse cultures of the world — India and Turkey. “Whether its history, religion, cultures, music, food, tradition — our paths are similar,” he said.
Looking back at India’s Mughal empire, Bilman said the founder of the Mughal dynasty Babar wrote his memoirs ‘Babarnama’ in the Turkish language, and the chief architect of the Taj Mahal, the epic monument to love built by Shahjahan, was also Turkish in descent.
“Between Urdu and Turkish, there are nearly 8,000 common words in the vocabulary. When I see Bollywood movies, which by the way are extremely popular in Turkey, the need for subtitles is not even felt,” he said.
Bilman further said that tourism visas for Turkey could be processed within a day at the respective consulates in Mumbai and Delhi.
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