Gaziantep Panorama, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Travel Aficionado’s photostream

In late August, I had the honor to lead a delegation of seven friends and colleagues to create a new sister city in Turkey. The city of Gaziantep in southern Turkey, 30 miles from the Syrian border, reached out to me in the spring — interested in forming a partnership with Pittsburgh to exchange cultural, economic, and educational opportunities. With the help of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Turkish Cultural Center of Pennsylvania, we were able to organize a mission and formalize the partnership. Gaziantep is an ancient city of Mesopotamia, the birthplace of civilization, and recognized as one of the ten fastest growing cities in the world. In 1992, it had a population of 340,000 people — today it has more than 1.4 million.

Gaziantep, Turkey, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Minamie’s Photo’s photostream

Our delegation included Congressman Mike Doyle and his legislative assistant Jean Roehrenbeck; Aradhna Oliphant, President and CEO of Leadership Pittsburgh; Steven Sokol, President of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh; Reverend Glenn Grayson, Founder and Past-Chairman of Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network and Pastor of Wesley Center AME Zion Church; James Williams, Director of Local Governmental Relations at the University of Pittsburgh; and Simin Curtis, Founder and President of the American Middle East Institute. This new sister city marks the first partnership with a city in a predominantly Muslim country and it is my hope that it will lead to great things for both Pittsburgh and Gaziantep.

For more on this amazing journey, please visit Steve Sokol’s blog at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh website. You can also view a video of a meeting with the Mayor of Gaziantep before the sister city signing ceremony below:

gypsy girl mosaic, gaziantep mosaic museum, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Catie & Linds’ photostream