Side - a tourist trap
By Nils E. Bjørnæs and Camilla Kaas Stock
The Old Town in Side was probably an idyllic place not that long ago. But mass tourism has changed its character, and today's streetscape is dominated by flashy shop facades and advertising. When you then add thousands of tourists all crammed into the narrow streets, the idyll that might have been seems lost. Here, market forces have had free scope.
Of course the city is surrounded by magnificent historical monuments, but if you are one of those who dislike being crowded, then perhaps avoiding this part of town isn't such a bad idea. At least, at certain times.
A place of trade
Side has a long history. The first settlements took place in the 7th century before Christ, and with its strategic location and natural harbor, the town came to play an important role as a place of trade. The city gradually developed a considerable merchant fleet that traded with countries in both the eastern and western part of the Mediterranean.
For a period in the 1st century BC Side had a somewhat dubious reputation as a slave market for African slaves and as a hideout for notorious pirates. Because of its location and surrounding long sandy beaches, it was a perfect place for pirates and slave dealers.
But the city also has a proud history as both a commercial and cultural centre in that part of the Mediterranean. In the 5th century BC, Side minted their own coins, even while under Persian rule, proving that the city had a large amount of independence.
Centre of learning
The cities role in the eastern Mediterranean as an important learning centre, is also reflected in the fact that Antiochos VII, who took over the throne of Syria in the year 138 BC, was sent to Side to get his education.
The Roman general Pompey ended the terror of the pirate and slave trade in 67 BC and Side, who raised monuments and statues in his glory, could finally begin to rid itself of its bad reputation.
During the Roman rule the city flourished, especially in the 2nd and 3rd century AD, when Side was a metropolis and the headquarters for the provincial governor and his administrative staff, not least because of its large port. This made Side an important place for the import of goods, particularly through extensive trade with Egypt.
Burnt and abandoned
Side's glory ended in the middle of the 7th century. At this time the city was growing rapidly as the headquarters for the bishop of Pamphylia, and the settlement spread far outside the city walls. A series of attacks by Arab fleets turned the entire area into a warzone. In the end the whole town was left in ashes and abandoned, with people resettling in Antalya.
The new part of today's Side is constantly growing and dominated by large hotels in the beach area, but also by an increasing amount of apartment buildings. And with this area's popularity as a destination for sun-worshiping tourists from northern Europe, it will probably also continue to attract holiday home buyers. Not least because of its reasonable prices.
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