Once upon a time, a great Turkish clan moved out of Central Asia towards the Middle East. In 1072, about 300,000 members of this clan, their allied tribes and supporters, were the first Turks to enter the landmass of Asia Minor. The remainder continued on a long migration towards Iran and Egypt.
Facing Byzantine armies for the first time at Malazgirt, the Sultan Alp Arslan managed to divide and conquer. But it was 100 years before a second decisive battle at Myriocephalon, in the Turkish Lake district, cleared the route to the Aegean. During this time, the Selçuks had spread across central Anatolia and set up a capital at Konya, with a port and winter headquarters at Alanya and a second port at Antalya.
The Selçuks were great builders and these cities were endowed with splendid monuments – inner and outer castle, caravanserai and shipyards at Alanya and Antalya; palace, mosques and medresses at Konya. The latter are exquisitely decorated with blue glazed tiles.
Between the three cities (Konya, Alanya and Antalya) ran a network of paved roads with camel caravans taking textiles, alum, metals and horses from the interior to trade with Italian republics. They returned with sugar, fruits, salted fish, spices and all sorts of luxury goods.
Some of these roads still exist, as do some of the caravanserai along them. They were often based on older Roman roads, but their greater width, the kerbs and steps are typical trademarks of Selçuk roads used by camel caravans. Since they crossed the Taurus, they passed through spectacular limestone mountains dotted with cedars and juniper. At lower levels, tiny villages grew wheat and vegetables and hosted travellers.
A project led by the Forestry Ministry has led to the signposting and way-marking of a walking route of about 150km along some of these roads; there are a few village houses offering accommodation. There are far more routes crying out for development and another project has just started. Other routes have been damaged by modern road-making and quarrying. However, the Antalya Conservation Commission has just placed sections of these roads under conservation and this work will be continued in 2016. So now conservation needs to be coupled with systematic management, publicizing the routes and the development of accommodation.