The first hot air balloons of the season soared into the sky on Monday at the famed ancient site of Gobeklitepe in Turkey’s southeastern Sanliurfa province, heralding the festive season.

The rides in Gobeklitepe, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in June 2018, resumed after a long break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The visitors enjoyed the beautiful aerial view of Gobeklitepe, Harran Plain and Sanliurfa city center when three balloons took off at the same time.

Metropolitan Mayor Zeynel Abidin Beyazgul told reporters they aimed to make Sanliurfa the second largest hot air balloon center after Cappadocia, which is home to fabled fairy chimneys and stunning balloon rides.

“Tourists will find traces of every civilization here, see the first indigenous people, the places where the prophets lived, and taste traditional gastronomy and music related to them,” Beyazgul said.

He hoped commercial flights will begin after Eid al-Adha holiday and Sanliurfa will become the center of tourism.

Gobeklitepe has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List since 2011. It was discovered in 1963 when researchers from the universities of Istanbul and Chicago were working at the site.

In joint work at the site since 1995, the German Archaeological Institute and Sanliurfa Museum have found T-shaped obelisks from the Neolithic era towering three to six meters (10-20 feet) high and weighing 40-60 tons.

During the excavations, diverse 12,000-year-old artifacts such as human statuettes 65 centimeters (26 inches) high were also unearthed.

* Writing by Gozde Bayar

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