Kocatepe Mosque

Every Islamic country has its magnificent and solemn national mosque standing in the capital city for Muslims across the nation to come for worship. Kocatepe Mosque, the national mosque of Turkey, was erected in Ankara after it became the capital. It is one of the largest mosques in the world, accommodating about 24,000 worshippers at a time.

The gigantic and spectacular Kocatepe Mosque strikes an impressive chord with its modern architectural style, tiers of domes, and towering minarets that stand on the mosque’s base like four huge candles. The construction of this awe-inspiring religious building took almost two decades to complete. It was rebuilt twice in contrasting styles before finally showing the world its current neo-classical Ottoman design. Under the dome is a massive prayer hall, with a circular chandelier hanging in the centre radiating warm yellow light like the moon. The smaller circular chandeliers encircle “the moon” like little stars, illuminating the colourful patterns in the architecture’s interior. It would be a great time to experience the power of religion when sitting on the red carpet looking up at the dome, or observing the pious worshippers praying.

The Mausoleum of Atatürk (Anıtkabir)

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the great founder of the Republic of Turkey. He was the field marshal in what was then the Ottoman Empire. Seeing the empire declining and being all vulnerable when facing vigorous attacks from the well-equipped European powers in WWI, the field marshal insisted on launching reforms before the empire fell apart. After a provisional government was formed in Ankara, he abolished the Ottoman Sultanate. The independent and autonomous Republic of Turkey, which was smaller in size than the Ottoman Empire, practised secular and westernised policies with Kemal as its president. The resilient Turkey has become a regional power since then. Kemal, the national hero, won the hearts and respect of his people.

To honour Kemal’s enormous contribution to establishing the country, the majestic Mausoleum of Atatürk was erected as his resting place. The Atatürk and Turkish War of Independence Museum next to the mausoleum boasts a collection of the Kemal’s objects, and exhibits the history of the war. Located in the city centre like the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C in the USA, the Mausoleum of Atatürk possesses the same prestigious position in Turkey as the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (commonly known as the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong) in China, and the Lenin’s Mausoleum in Russia. It has been receiving countless Turkish and visitors worldwide. Soldiers are guarding the mausoleum. The guard mounting at the square is worth watching. When it comes to remarkable occasions such as the national day, a striking military parade will be staged to pay the highest tribute to the country's founder.

Ankara Castle

Castles are commonly seen in European countries. It is the royal residence as well as the city’s essential fortification. Although many of them may have already retired from the defensive system today, they still serve as a symbol of the nation. Erected in the Eurasian Ankara, the Ankara Castle in European architectural style is a sheer exhibition of the charisma of East meeting West.

The exact year of the castle’s establishment is unknown. Some say that the Hittites, an ancient empire that ruled over north-central Anatolia in 1600 B.C, built the castle. However, not much archeological support was presented to substantiate this claim. It is more often associated with the Roman, Byzantine, and Seljuk periods. Setting high on the peak, the castle has been a witness to Ankara’s history, and a loyal guard protecting the city. Within the castle’s outer wall stand the old Ankara houses constructed with tiles, wood and mud bricks, which are worth a visit. When you reach the top of the fortress overlooking the city, you can have a panoramic view of the red-tiled roofs of the quaint Ankara houses. When the town is lit-up after sunset, you can slowly walk down the hill, and stroll around the shopping street in the historical neighbourhood. Or you can take a coffee break in an antique café.

Temple of Augustus

Octavian Augustus, the first Roman emperor, once expanded his territory to Central Anatolia. Ankara then became the capital of the newly formed Province of Galatia. Traces of the Roman eras can still be found in the city today. The Temple of Augustus is one prime example.

Emperor Augustus wasn’t buried in Ankara but at the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome, Italy. The Roman emperor, who led the empire to thrive, was deified as Divus Augustus after his death. Temples honouring Augustus were erected in cities such as Pula in Croatia, and Barcelona in Spain. The temple in Ankara became dilapidated due to insufficient maintenance during the Ottoman years. Yet, a copy of the emperor’s autobiography was engraved on the walls of the temple in Latin and Greek translation. The inscription is an almost completely preserved version of the text, which serves as a reliable source of materials for studying this period of history.

The renowned Haci Bayram Mosque stands right next to the temple. After learning about the Roman Empire’s history and architecture, you can walk over and visit the Ottoman mosque of another architectural style in history.

Atakule Tower

In the capital, the Mausoleum of Atatürk is not the only place commemorating Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. The Atakule Tower, the remarkable communications and observation tower, is named after him. In Turkish, the word “Ata” means “ancestor”, which is often used as a nickname (Ata) for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; while “kule” means “tower”. It stands on the hill as a loyal guardian of Ankara.

Although the Atakule Tower, which is at the height of 125m, may not be the tallest skyscraper in Ankara, it rises proudly above the city skyline. On a clear day, you can see the tower clearly from almost anywhere in the city. Visitors can look out the elevator’s windows for a pleasant city view before riding up to the observation deck. When reaching the deck, you can check out through the binoculars those lovely Ankara attractions. Or simply grab a chair and enjoy a Eurasian sunny day. A bistro and a café are within walking distance to have a relaxing drink. When night falls, the tables in the revolving restaurant right beneath the dome are awaiting your visit. You can savour delightful dishes and at the same time embrace Ankara’s night view from all angles, which will definitely make a romantic experience! After reaching the ground, you may have a nice walk in the Botanical Park in the Çankaya region sitting adjacent to the tower to enjoy a quiet night.