Two years ago in Istanbul, I dragged Selcuk Altun, a Turkish author and lover of all things Byzantine, to the Hagia Sophia, a sixth century church that’s now a museum. But we couldn’t even get close. Altun took one look at the mass of sweating humanity blocking the entrance and decided to do the interview outside. But this year, the change is astonishing.
The square in front of the Hagia Sophia is almost empty — a lonely seller of roasted chestnuts and corn calls it the worst he’s seen.
Tourism contributes some $30 billion per year, about 4 percent of Turkey’s economy. But Turks say tourism revenue will be down sharply this year, and possibly next year, too. A massive, ongoing migrant crisis, a bitter feud with Russia and, perhaps most damaging of all, a series of deadly terrorist attacks — including one in January, right here in the heart of Istanbul’s Old City — have seen visitor numbers plummeting.
Read more at NPR
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