UN World Tourism Organization announces Tur Abdin village of Hah as part of Upgrade Programme for 2022

TUR ‘ABDIN — The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has included the Syriac village of Hah in the historic Tur ‘Abdin region in southeastern Turkey on its list of “Best Tourism Villages — Upgrade Programme for the year 2022.

This year’s version of the annual list published by the Madrid–based UNWTO includes 32 villages from 18 countries.

The Turkish Ministry of Tourism nominated three villages. Birgi in Izmir made the acclaimed Best Tourism Village list. Amalekizik in Bursa and Hah (Anıtlı) in the Syriac homeland of Tur ‘Abdin were included in the UNWTO Upgrade Programme.

Numerous villages that fall short of the requirements for recognition benefit from the Upgrade Programme. The UNWTO and its Partners assist these villages in enhancing the aspects of the villages’ application found to be lacking in their evaluation.

The three villages from Turkey were chosen from a total of 136 villages which were nominated by 57 UNWTO Member States for the year 2022. 

“The accolade recognizes rural destinations that are embracing tourism as a driver of development and new opportunities for jobs and income, while preserving and promoting community-based values and products,” the UNWTO states on its website. Among the criteria required for a village to be included in the list is the promotion and preservation of (cultural) heritage, the environment, and human and economic values, as well as economic stability and the prioritization of tourism.

The UNWTO list was determined by an independent committee consisting of 20 people. The awards will be presented to the winning villages at a ceremony in the Saudi city of al-Ula on 27–28 February.

Also Read: Syriac churches and monasteries nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

Hah: A Syriac Village

Located in Mardin’s Midyat District, Hah is considered one of the first villages of the Syriac people in Tur ‘Abdin to convert to Christianity. There are old churches dating back to the first centuries AD but built on older religious buildings. The word Hah itself means “place of rest”. Twenty Syriac families live there and the mayor is a Syriac.

The Syriac liturgical book of Phanqitho in the village church of Habses ascribes the beginnings of Christianity in the Tur ‘Abdin to the return of the Three Wise Men from Jerusalem after visiting the newborn Child Jesus in Bethlehem. These Three Wise Men are said to have sojourned in the village of Hah and laid the foundation for the world’s first Christian church. According to Church tradition, the church in Hah is the oldest church in the world. It is called the ܝܠܕܰܬ ܐܠܳܗܳܐ ܕ ܚܰܐܚ —Yoldath Aloho d-Hah or Church of the Mother of God in Hah.

Yoldath Aloho d-Hah ܝܠܕܰܬ ܐܠܳܗܳܐ ܕ ܚܰܐܚ The world’s first church according to Syriac Church Tradition.

In April 2021, eight monasteries and churches in Tur ‘Abdin were nominated by Turkey for UNESCO’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites: Mor Gabriel Monastery (est. 397 AD), the Saffron Monastery (493 AD), Mor Abai Monastery (near the Syriac village of Qelleth), Mor Lazarus Monastery near Habses, the Churches of Mor Quryaqos in Urdnus and Mor Azozoel in Kfarze, St Jacob of Saleh Monastery in the Syriac village of Saleh, and the Mor Sobo Church and Yoldat Aloho Church, both located in Hah.