World Ports and Cities

The last point of farewells: Ports

Ports have always been final points of goodbyes throughout history. They divided people into two groups: those who go and those who stay. The last pieces of land the sailors have seen before opening to the vast blues are the last stops that will remain in their minds for months. In this state, the ports that infiltrate as poems, songs, literature and cinema as a romantic space are theoretically defined as a natural or artificial havens that allows ships to shelter, loading and unloading of ships and passengers.

The importance of ports in human history is directly proportional to the importance of maritime culture and maritime transport in terms of both commercial and tourism value. When the world topography is considered, it is quite normal to mention primarily in terms of port history, the societies the most densely and commercially living the maritime culture and benefiting the most from the sea. At this point, considering the geographical and strategic location of them, it should be noted that Mediterranean Civilizations show an ancient wealth in terms the history of world ports. The use of natural ports in marine cities is related to the response to commercial and economic needs of maritime transport and shipping activities. On the other hand, there is no exact information on the archaic origins of artificial ports in research of maritime history. It is thought that Central Asia, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean Civilizations are in cultural contact with ancient traditions and reached a level of civilization ahead of its time were constructed various ports with simple engineering techniques. (2000 BC) Let’s break the rudder of our ship from four quarters of the world to important port cities. “Let our bow is clear and our wind is easy. Vira Bismillah!’’

Mystical and Beatiful: The Port of Tangier-Morocco
“The ports of the cities on the coast of the desert are tedious / Bird flies ship does not pass, caravan is in time.’’ Whenever I remember the verses, The Morocco’s Tangier Port come to my mind. Obviously, these rhetorical words pretending ignorance have been said for oriental ports such as Tangier Port. Well, it must be the fate of the geography that dignified attitudes of the mystical ports, which the poet knows and ignores. In such cities people feel undoubtedly sad and a little further away from everything. A strange melancholy feeling of looking back at the show of stage… In this respect, Tangier is like the countryside both at the near side and at the far side of the world. Film lovers know well The Sheltering Sky movie made by famous Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci in 1990. In the movie, three American tourists come looking for the mystical East with Oriental enthusiasms. When their ships arrived at the port of Tangier, the attendant asked astoundedly, ‘’ You are the first Westerners come to here after the war, Why did you come here?”

Especially the Western intellectual who escaped from the depression of World War II desperately seeks a harbor to haven; seeking to find “a sheltering sky” with reference to the film (adapted from Paul Bowles, “The Sheltering Sky”).

The Beat Generation, a movement formed by a handful of intellectuals in the 50s; it was to seek the cure for social depression that poked fresh emotions such as hope, excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the spirit. The art movement that flourished in the Beat Hotel in Paris had chosen a single place from the East, apart from Western metropolises such as New York and London. Tangier… The bohemian representatives such as Brion Gysin, Paul Bowles, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg who came and settled in Morocco and spent most of their lives in the end times, love Tangier very much was described as ‘’nowhere in the world’’ in those years.  Let’s mention about the port… The port of Tangier, established to the south of the Strait of Gibraltar where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean were mixed, was established at the point where the 14-kilometer strait was connected to the European side. It is close enough to reach Spain by ferry service that takes about half an hour or one hour; thanks to its historical, cultural and mystical atmosphere of the East, it is as far away from Europe as it is… Transportation convenience due to its strategic location in terms of maritime transport between Europe and the Continent of Africa, the port has always been attractive. The port, which is the crossroads of espionage and smuggling traffic, is now a stopover point for tourism destinations… Tangier, which is a Mediterranean port that people going to important cities of Morocco Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakech in the south must visit, is at the same time hometown of Ibn Battuta who is considered as one of the most important travelers of the world history. People who love seagulls flying over the Gibraltar; narrow streets curled into the city center from the port; the mystical chaos composed of by African, Andalusian, French and Berber culture.

Warm City: Rio De Janeiro-Brazil

Portuguese sailors probably did not expect that they would pass the North Atlantic and Atlantic Oceans and encounter such a living nature when they said Vira from Lisbon. From the beginning of the 1500s when the city was discovered, it was foreseen that the port area, which had the gates of the continent opening to the ocean, would multiply its importance over the centuries. In fact, it have been tried to be kept under control by many colonists movements constantly in history. Thanks to the virgin texture of Brazil, it has been able to solve the needs of ‘white people’ since its discovery to nowadays, and it has been able to deliver its products grown in the habitat of abundance tropical climate to many parts of the world. Rio de Janeiro, which has been in immediate contact with the human population for more than five hundred years, is the gateway of Brazil to the West (it is better to say that it is an ironic direction of confusion and more accurate to the East). After Napoleon invaded Portugal with the political eddy he created on the European continent, the noble families of the kingdom fled from Lisbon and took their breath in Rio de Janeiro. Besides being one of the most important export ports of the continent, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain, which is mentioned among the Seven Wonders of the World, Copacabana, one of the most famous beaches of the world, which is about 4 kilometers long, Sugar Loaf Mountain laying through Atlantic Ocean located in the opening of the Guanabara Bay are the values that the ones are worth-seeing, Rio de Janeiro has and add extra beauty to its beauty.

“Diamond Center of The World”: Antwerp-Belgium
Considering the route of transit maritime transport in Northern and Southern Europe, Antwerp stands out as one of the most important ports in Europe. Antwerp as its international name or Antwerpen as its original etymological name took its name from a myth. A giant known as Antigoon used to take money from the sailors passing through Scheldt, the river on which the city was built, and cut the hands of those who did not, and threw them into the river. A hero named Silvius Brabo, who stood up against this tyranny, made him what Antigoon did to the sailors and throws the giant’s body without hand trunk into the river. According to legend, after that day, the city was called Antwerpen with the reference of Antigoon, the protagonist of this myth. The historic center where the port area is established has also the best examples of traditional European architecture. The development of the transportation and trade network of the Port of Antwerp helps to improve the city’s road, sea and air traffic and contributes to the commercial mobility of convenient transportation from around the world.  The area where the port is established and continues to grow day by day with additional services is 13,057 hectares. The part of the area on the East side of the Gulf of Scheldt is 7,239; and 5,818 hectares on the West coast.

“Fragrant” Harbour: Hong Kong
Located in the south of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong is one of the first to come to mind when it comes to maritime transport and trade. The region meaning “Fragrant Harbour”, until July 1997 was a colony of British Empire and after that became a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, Jews, Christians, and Confucians have been instrumental in expanding the range of cultural forms and beliefs and making the region known as the “World City of Asia”. We can say that the wealth of the port has served for cultural hybridization. The region has evolved into an international maritime transport hub, logistic attraction point and a global trade destination thanks to its long-term status as a free port after centuries of colonial rule. Today, it has a rapidly growing structure thanks to its large hinterland that shapes the Asia-Pacific Region.Hong Kong Port, is considered among the ports where loading and unloading speed is at maximum thanks to its more than 300 cranes.

A Pearl In The North Sea: Port Of Rotterdam-The Netherlands
When we talk about the ports of the world, we cannot pass without mentioning it. Rotterdam… One of the most important centers not only in Europe but also in the world logistic sector whose city memory dating back to 13th century. The destructive influence of the Second World War almost destroyed the urban texture of Rotterdam and the city was rebuilt all over again after the 1950s. This is why we do not see much of our eye on the architecture of the city of Rotterdam, with Baroque, Gothic or Romanesque structures that we can see in many of the cities of Central and Northern Europe. On the edge of the modern style, it is content with winking to its fanciers. Rotterdam, the 2nd largest cities of the country after the capital Amsterdam in terms of population, is at the same time considered as the largest port of the Europe. It is referred as a large gateway to all of major land sea networks, such as North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australia, from the north of Europe.

New York, New York: South Street Seaport-USA
New York… The center of trade, economy, culture, art, tourism and entertainment… One of the most populous cities in the world; the metropolis of the world, not only America. Let us not pass without mentioning that the city, which is one of the most important points of global bureaucracy, is hosting the United Nations Headquarters. Like Wall Street, it contains an important region which is considered as the financial center of the global economy.  It is known to everyone that New York, having leading institutions in many fields such as cinema and media sector, advertising, fashion-design, entertainment, information-equipment-education, is the big brother of many sectors on a global scale. The fact that the city, number one in terms of tourism activities in the world, known as the ‘World Capital’ stems from it having a voice in almost every human-oriented sector.

Let’s come to South Street Seaport, the natural port of New York. Located at the mouth of the Hudson River, the port is one of the most beautiful examples of the world’s natural ports. South Street Seaport, which started to serve American maritime transport since the 1600s, was used in domestic trade activities in this period. Nowadays, with the prominence of the tourist potential, it has started to search for its economic attraction in the tourism sector by changing its commercial power segment and thus its popularity has increased. Now the port has become a tourism and activity center, shopping stop, restaurant and entertainment paradise; it evolved from a commercial structure to a touristic center with cultural and art activities arranged in the summer months. If you come to South Street Seaport, you can get to the harbor through the Hudson River with the sailboat tour called ‘Pioneer Tour’ with the historical boats, visit the museum here and taste the world cuisine by shopping in the world-famous shops and restaurants.

Ports From Country Port Of Izmir
Külebi, said that “Izmir’s sea smells as girl, girl smells as sea /Streets smells as both girl and sea.” in his “Requiem for Atatürk” poem. I guess it is hard to find another expression telling this much simple and this much good a city. Izmir… The pearl of Aegean, the city that makes the songs of victory in the National Struggle. The port region of Izmir forms the inner area in the southeast of the line connecting Foça and Karaburun in the east-west direction. Port of Izmir, which is one of the biggest export ports of our country, is divided into a natural division as inner, middle and outer ports.  The city has been a very important maritime center throughout the history of civilization; the development of the port in modern times increased the importance of the city of Izmir too. The port contributes greatly to the development of the inner region which is also its hinterland. Considering the city planning criteria, it is an obvious fact that Port of Izmir is directing the city in a certain development profile. The city is in a healthy harmony among settlement areas, the sea and the port triangle. The strategic location of the port makes it the pearl of the Aegean in terms of its location on the transit route between both Western and Southern Europe and North Africa and for the Black Sea coastal countries. The port provides bulk solid-liquid cargo loading and unloading, infrastructure, equipment, mixed goods, Ro-Ro and passenger services. As an export port, it is also an important logistic point for industrial facilities in the inner regions of our country.

Port of Sinop
Since the Ancient times when ancient Greek and Rome civilizations developed and expanded, when it comes to count the most important port cities of Black Sea, Sinop comes first to minds undoubtedly. The city was founded around 7 BC as the Helen colony. According to a myth, it was named after an Amazon queen (Sinope), one of the founders of the primitive period. Sinop, as a port of Black Sea that is a partial inland sea, both in the ancient times and after the Anatolian Civilizations in the Byzantium, Seljuk, Candaroğulları Principality and in Ottoman Empire governances always keep its importance and become an ancient port city. Today, while strolling around, you feel you are in a cute port city stuck between ancient and modern periods. The development of the commercial and logistic network in Republican period, although not as developed as the other ports of our country, being only natural port of the region and the fact that fishing and marine culture are important means of living for the people of region provide the port keep alive. The importance of the port cities are handled in terms of having a say in tourism and maritime transportation sector thanks to the natural or artificial sea shelters of the piece of land that have a coast of oceans and seas. Of course, this determination is valid when considering commercial and economical potential. In order for the ports to have a say in the world transportation sector, their form must be suitable and open to development, as well as the inland areas (hinterland) is expected to have a suitable standard for land shipment in order to ensure continuity in transportation. The assessment of “World Ports and Port Cities” is undoubtedly an enormous research subject that needs to be dealt with utilizing the principles of many disciplines, such as history, sociology, geography, economics and commerce. We preferred to mention the settlement located in the backyard of port formed naturally or artificially (hinterland), namely the port city, its history and its socio-economical culture. In the maritime culture, which has gained importance as a stop and shipping point in the maritime culture from the antiquity to the modern times, it is obvious that it will be unfair to evaluate the economic gains of the port cities only from the sea. A port can also change its city in cultural, social and demographical perspectives. We believe that we were able to have seen this change in the port cities where we can only deal with some of them. In conclusion: Port cities, commercial and logistical centers, as well as being architectural, cultural and touristic places they offer special contributions to the geography of world history will increase their value as we can think.


Historical Port of Alexandria
When we turn back the pages of history, it is mentioned a port known as an important anecdote and built in Alexandria, one of the four Alexander city founder by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. According to this anecdote, Pharos Island was connected to the land by a 1.5 kilometers long and 180 meters wide embankment road and ports were built for commercial ships on both sides of this construction provided that artificial shelters were formed.

Where is Tangier?
Located in the south of the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangier is Morocco’s closest city to continental Europe. There is Gibraltar located on the opposite shore of Tarifa, stretches for 14 kilometers. It constitutes an important artery of the Black Continent with the reciprocal ferry services organized between Africa and Europe.

Ancient Culture
Its history dating back to the Carthaginians who reigned in the BC 5th century, Tangier has an ancient culture, which is a Berber and Phoenician hybrid. Historically, the Romans, Vandals, Mauritians, Arabs, Moroccan Dynasties, Spaniards, Portuguese and British took control of the region and influenced cultural stratification in this geography.

Address of The Festival: Rio De Janerio
If we mention Rio de Janeiro the warmest city of the world, we must also mention samba which provides millions of fanciers both born in this city and from all over the world flocking to Rio in the festival period. The Samba City in the Rio’s port area Rivadavia Correa, one of the special areas where this festival is held each year, has an area of more than 114,000 square meters. In the Rio Festival, which has nearly turned into a religious ritual, the dance schools in the city perform parades with choreographies and perform shows for tourists from all over the world.

Antwerp is an important point of European cultural and historical tourism with its medieval Baroque and Gothic architectural works, museums and art centers operating in many fields. Stadhuis (Antwerp City Hall), known as Antwerp’s city hall, GroteMarkt (Grand Market Square), Mayer van den Bergh Museum, Our Lady Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady), Vleeshuis Museum, Rubenshuis (House of Painter Peter Paul Ruben), St. James Church,  Antwerp Central Railway Station make an indelible impression as the major values contributed to the city’s texture.

Lantau Island
Lantau Island, one of the most important residential areas of Hong Kong, is famous for its Buddha statue, one of the symbols of Buddhism. Solid bronze design, full weighing 220 tons; it is recorded as one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. Tourists from all over the world can climb 268 steps to reach the huge pedestal where the statue is located.

The Biggest Port of Europe
The reason why Rotterdam has the title of the biggest port, despite the other European countries standing out in terms of commercial power; is that it interconnects the country’s maritime logistics networks into a single point. Rotterdam Port is the eye of the Dutch economy with its capacity to circulate around 40 thousand ships per year. This volume is whereas reflected in their economies as more than 500 billion euro a year as a commercial input, proving us why Rotterdam is seen as the country’s financial center.

Commercial Potential of New York Harbor
Organizations that start in the evening hours during the summer season turn South Street Seaport into a kind of performing arts event venue. Open-air cinema shows, jazz concerts, festival events, music and dance performances prove that the port directs its commercial potential to the tourism sector.

After The Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy, which occurred in the Atlantic Ocean in 2012 and is reportedly among the biggest hurricanes, affected New York and the harbor quite badly. As a result of the natural disaster, some parts of South Street Seaport have become unusable. Over time, with various arrangements and reinforcement works and renovation projects the port has been given life to.

The Only Natural Harbor of The Region
Port of Sinop forms a safety zone to take shelter all the time for logistical ships in the stormy climate of the Black Sea. The inner port in the southern direction of the peninsula is called as “White Sea” in the maritime literature thanks to its completely closed structure to storms and winds.

Other Important Port Cities
There are many important port cities in the world. Hamburg-Germany, Marseilles-France, Porto-Portugal, Valencia-Spain, Valletta-Malta that we cannot mention in this study, are some of the examples.

By: Necati Bulut

*This article was  published in the  July – August issue of Marmara Life. 

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