Villages of Cappadocia – Mustafapaşa

Throughout the Seljuk and early Ottoman periods, Mustafapaşa (then known as Sinasos) remained predominately Christian although the Muslim population increased under the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman Greeks of Cappadocia were mostly wealthy caviar merchants trading in Istanbul, and built splendid old stone Greek houses for their families in Sinasos, with richly decoratively carved façades and blue-painted doors, houses which can still be admired today. The Sultan himself even authorised the Christian population of Mustafapaşa to build their own churches and old people tell the stories of a time when the sound of church bells mingled with the call to prayer from the minarets of the mosques.

In 1923 the euphemistically-named population exchange between Greece and Turkey forced the Christians to leave their homes in Sinasos behind them and Muslim muhacır (refugees) were uprooted from their villages in Macedonia to settle in the vacated houses in the newly-named Mustafapaşa.

Mustafapaşa remains one of my favourite villages in Cappadocia, partly because of the brocade of its history which is so poignantly recent but also because of the way it is a village which remains untouched by the negative effects of tourism. Old men still ride through the village on the donkeys carrying kindling and firewood, women still gather to make tomato sauce in huge pans over a wood-fire in the cobbled streets, weddings and the coming and going of seasons are still celebrated with the same songs, dances and traditional musical instruments – village life carries on as it has done for centuries.

The 26 churches the Greeks left behind them are being slowly and lovingly restored; the Church of St.Constantine and St.Helena, the Byzantine churches of St. Basil, St. Stephen and St. Nicholas are just some of the many churches worth visiting.

Mustafapaşa is really an ideal base for exploring the south of Cappadocia and some of the lesser-known valleys off the tourist track such as Monastery Valley, Golgoli Valley, Beydere Valley and the beautiful Gomeda valley which will enchant all nature-lovers. Just nearby you can discover Keşlik and its monastic complex, the recently-uncovered Roman mosaics at Sobessos, the villages of Cemil and Şahinefendi, the Selcuk medrese at Taşkinpaşa, and the winding road to Soğanlı Valley with its cluster of Byzantine churches.