For most of the city’s long history it was known simply as Marash (mah-RAHSH, alt. 568 meters/1864 feet, pop. 250,000).
During the Turkish War of Independence it fiercely resisted the French occupying armies. In recognition of its citizens’ bravery and tenacity, in 1973 it was renamed Kahramanmaraş (KAH-rah-mahn-mah-RAHSH, “Heroic Marash”).
Its earliest known name was Marqasi in Hittite times.
In fact, armies have regularly flattened the town so despite its great age only a few old buildings remain.
Its people raise a lot of cotton, peppers and potatoes, weave cotton textiles, and beat copper into interesting shapes.
If you stop here for a meal or a bed (here’s the best hotel in town…), check out the museum, the Great Mosque (Ulu, or Acemli, Camii) built in 1502, the 14th-century Taş Medrese and Taş Han, and the often-rebuilt citadel.
Whatever you do, eat ice cream. Maraş dövme dondurması (Marash beaten ice cream) is famous throughout Turkey. Because of the hot climate, it’s made with a lot of gum arabic “binder” to keep it from melting. This gives it so much “body” that sellers used to hang it on hooks outside their shops (or so they say….).
This ice cream rarely drips, and it is not ice cream that you lick, it is ice cream that you bite.
Today, vendors in multi-colored traditional Marash costume can be seen on street corners in tourist areas. They scoop ice cream from a cooler with long-handled paddles, plop it in a cone, and serve it with a flourish.