bosphorus from topkapi palaceIn the month of October 2009, Affinity hosted it’s very first ‘Travel to Timeless Cities’ study tour to Turkey. 

The itinerary included seeing some cities with ancient traditions tracing back to the Hittites, Romans, Byzantium, Seljuks & the Ottoman periods. Each civilisation has left their mark on the grounds it has walked upon. This is apparent when you travel to such cities as Kayseri, Cappadocia, Nigde, Gaziantep, Urfa, Mardin & Diyarbakir in the Anatolia regions & finishing up in Istanbul.


The group consisted of 7 people including;

  • Rev Glenda Blakefield – Associate General Secretary of the Uniting Church National Assembly
  • Rev Ian Pearson –  Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church
  • Helen Pearson – High School teacher @ Ravenswood Girls High School (married to Ian)
  • Wilma Viswanathan – Uniting Church Interfaith Representative
  • Kim Davis – Director Office for the Participation of Women for the Catholic Church
  • Makiz Ansari
  • Ahmet Keskin

The trip was enjoyed by all as it gave everyone an opportunity to take in history, not only Christian & Islamic history but also scenery pre-dating Christianity ranging back to the Hittites. 

Some highlights worth mentioning are:

harran university– Urfa; We were fortunate enough to see some important place where common Islamic/Biblical figures are mentioned such as the place where Prophet Abraham (A.S) was catapulted into the fire as narrated in the Quran in Urfa; and visit his birthplace of Harran (30km from Urfa) which was used as a Medrese during the Ottoman period. Close by was also the tomb and station of Ayyoub (A.S) & Elyassa (A.S). We also saw the original burial place of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi.

– Cappadocia; A place where Christians lived during the 11th century for a few hundred years. Our guests really enjoyed this place.

cappadocia2– Mardin; Seeing the ancient monasteries was spectacular. This city is a model where Muslims and Christians are living side by side in harmony.

– Antep; A great example of how education is combating poverty and providing hope for the region. We visited a boarding school in the slums of the city where over 100 orphans stay, all sponsored by the local businessmen. It’s also providing education for over 3000 students from the neighbourhood. The students are not paying any money for their tuition as they’re all sponsored by the Antep businessmen. This model has been so popular that they’re trialling this in other cities in the region such as Diyarbakir. We also visited a University which was opened for education within a 1yr. There’s a huge demand for Universities in this city as it has the highest influx of immigration in the whole of Turkey, outpacing Istanbul.

harran university– Diyarbakir; People were genuine, warm and re-defined the term ‘hospitable’. We visited a businessmen’s association where one of the gentlemen said ‘people come to Diyarbakir crying and they also leave Diyarbakir crying’. What this means is that people (national and international guests) don’t really want to go to Diyarbakir or they go there unwillingly but after seeing the city and seeing the warmth of the people, how they open their homes and their hearts, people leave with some level of sadness. I could testify this with our group as well as everyone was sad when they left. Our Diyarbakir hosts came all the way to the airport to see us off to Istanbul. This touched our touring party immensely and we were talking about Diyarbakir and the people for days while we were in Istanbul.

– Istanbul; Breathtaking, spectacular……..words can’t describe this city!

All in all the our guests were overwhelmed with the hospitality, generosity and warmth our hosts showed towards us. The key measure for this was the sadness they had felt when leaving that evening as they would have liked to stay on for hours as the discussions and hospitality was overflowing.

I’ll save myself the trouble of trying to look back and remember some key highlights/comments as expressed by our guests as some of them have written great testimonies already, namely Kim & Wilma, that you could read for yourselves.


fatih university cappadocciasmlgoldern horn hotel overlooking sultan ahmet mosque













antep school istanbul home visit