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Belen

4.3
Belen is a town and district of Hatay Province in the Mediterranean region of south-central Turkey.DemographyBelen is a Sunni Turkmen district of Hatay Province.GeographyThe district of Belen consists of a small town of the same name and the surrounding villages in the forested slopes of the Nur Mountains. The Belen Pass is the main route across the mountains and joins the coastal city of İskenderun with Antakya. The pass is a key route between Anatolia and the Middle East. The Belen district is known for its cool clean air (especially when compared with the heat of the Mediterranean coast below) and its mountain spring water.The roadside restaurants in the pass have long been a stopping place for travellers, serving the typical dishes of Hatay, and especially "Belen tava", meats fried in tomatoes, garlic, spices and peppers.Belen itself is a small market town with a post office and other basics. The people of Belen are conservative; the municipality is currently (2010) controlled by the Turkish far-right MHP, with the other seats held by the AKP.HistoryKnown in earlier times as "Maziku Bagras" and "Bab-ı İskenderun" the pass was brought into the Ottoman Empire in 1516 after the battle of Mercidabık. The Ottomans posted a guard on the pass, the main route from Syria to Anatolia, and gave the area the name "Belen". In 1535 following a visit by Suleyman the Magnificent a wall was built to secure the pass along with a caravanserai, a mosque and a bathhouse, and with these facilities Turkish families were settled on the mountainside, partly acting as watchkeepers on the pass, along with the military garrison. This early Ottoman architecture is still in place.
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