One of the best things about being involved in the Baptist World Alliance is the opportunity to visit global cities that you might not see otherwise.
I have a hard time visiting any such city for more than a day without sharing some of its cultural charms, and Izmir is no exception. Izmir’s history goes back 8500 years, and includes a parade of civilizations from stone age folk to Hittites, Ionians, Lydians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and the current Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923. Most Christians would know it best as the ancient city of Smyrna, home to one of the churches addressed in the book of Revelation.
Artifacts from many past civilizations can be found in the Izmir’s Archaeology Museum, where statuary and fragments of monumental buildings make up such an embarrassment of riches that many are simply stacked along a wall outside the museum proper.
That was all fun, but not as colorful as a stroll through the Keremalti, a large bazaar where you can buy everything from fruit to fish along one alley, peruse gold and silver along others, and find everything from housewares to clothing of every type in others. Beware the men who speak good English and pick you out of the crowd to lure you into upstairs rooms filled with Persian carpets and expensive handbags. They can get quite testy if you don’t buy anything after being plied with apple tea.
We were here during Ramadan, a month marked by fasting and prayer. Prayer calls echoed from many minarets as the faithful gathered in mosques both large and small to recite prayers and hear sermons from the Quran.
Izmir is built around a deep bay, an inlet from the Aegean Sea called the Kordon. Facing west, it’s a terrific place to take in the sunset while watching people fish, dodging vendors of nuts and cold drinks, and enjoying an almost cool breeze from the water. We’ll hate to say goodnight to Smyrna, but tomorrow, Ephesus awaits.