Istanbul - The longest ever cultural festival kicked off in Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city, in a bid to revive tourism and commerce battered by terror attacks and a coup attempt.
The so-called Beyoglu Festival will last 50 days at the iconic Taksim Square in Beyoglu, a district at the heart of Istanbul known until recently for its vibrant night life and as centre of art, design and fashion.
The area is losing its glory as more and more shops, restaurants, cafes and art galleries, including those on the well-known Istiklal Avenue, are being shuttered in the wake of a series of suicide bombing attacks over the past year and a coup attempt on July 15, which killed at least 120 people, scaring away foreign visitors.
“The terror attacks and the failed coup attempt have caused a considerable distress among the shop owners and the tourists,” said Ahmet Misbah Demircan, mayor of the Beyoglu municipality, at the opening ceremony of the festival.
“Beyoglu, which has been the centre of art, fashion and innovation for centuries, will become an even more vivid place with this festival,” he said.
The festival is expected to draw 400 prominent antique salesmen, second-hand booksellers, designers, handicraft artists and scientists from across the country.
“We are here to support Beyoglu,” said Talat Turnalar, a seller of antique record players.
“In the past, Beyoglu was a centre where people could visit without any hesitation or without any fear of terror attacks.” “We want Beyoglu to go back to its old good days,” Turnalar said.
Ugur Ozay, an antique salesman, said the festival will be a very good opportunity to bring people together following the horrible terror attacks and the failed coup.
“Our hopes are quite high,” he said. “It will succeed to unite people under the humanism of culture and art.”