Foça, known as Phokaia in ancient times, is a cute little town on the Aegean Sea, 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Izmir. It's populations is around 30 thousand but in the summer time it goes up to 70 thousand with local and foreign holiday makers who prefer this area for its natural beauties, crystal clear water, small coves, and the climate. Some of Foca's bays are rewarded with the Blue Flag, securing the clean waters of an area in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. These are; 1st Mersinaki Cove (Samata Beach), 2nd Mersinaki Cove (Club Phokaia Hotel), 3rd Mersinaki Cove (ex-Club Med), 4th Mersinaki Cove (Hanedan Hotel), Yeni Foca Canak cove (Pollen Hotel). The town has many traditional stone houses which some of them have been used as boutique hotels. Foca is also famous for its Mediterranean Seals (Monachus Monachus), which are under preservation. Actually the city took its name from the seals.
23 kilometers (14 miles) north of Eski (Old) Foca there is Yeni (New) Foca town, which has many summer houses. It was originally settled by Genoese who built a naval base here and called it Niyez Fokez or Phokainova, but today it's a modern summer resort for local people and doesn't offer much to foreign visitors.
Phokaia was one of the 12 Ionian cities at the most northern part of the Aeolian region. Its name was mentioned in Homer's epic The Odyssey with the Sirens' Rocks. First inhabitants of Old Foca were immigrants from Greece around 9th century BC who escaped from Doric invasion.
The city had two harbors and a very strong fleet which sailed all the way to the Adriatic and Spain to establish colonies such as; Emporion (Ampurias) in Spain, Alalia in Corsica, Velia in southern Italy, Massalia (modern Marseilles) in France, Lampsakos at the Dardanelles, and Amisos (modern Samsun) on the Black Sea. According to Herodotus, the world's first historian, Phocaeans were good sailors and traveled long distances with fast ships holding a capacity of 500 passengers, traded with Egypt, minted electrum (a mixture of gold and silver) coins etc. After Miletos, Phokaia became a very important port city on the Aegean.
In the 6th century BC the city was captured by Persians advancing in Asia Minor destroying the Lydians. Phokaia lost its strength and most of its population under the Persian rule. Joined into the Ionian Revolt at Lade against Persian domination, they regained their freedom. The city became a member of the Delian League during the 5th century BC, but then rebelled and left it, allying with the Athenians. Phokaia existed, but with less importance, during the reign of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period. The city was destroyed of big earthquakes during the Roman rule in the 1st century BC. During the Byzantine and Ottoman periods the city was a small fishermen town.
Archeological excavations in Foca started in the early 1900's, which until today unearthed several monuments from the Archaic, Hellenic and Roman periods, such as; remains of Temple of Athena and Sanctuary of Cybele, an open-air theater, castle, mosaics, fragments of ceramics and pottery etc. Some of the findings are in the Izmir Archaeological Museum today. It's believed that the Temple of Athena was built in the 6th century BC on a rock platform overlooking the city, and that her statue was made of wood in a sitting position. The temple was destroyed by the Persians in the 6th century BC and finally by a big fire in the 5th century BC.
There are some small islands facing Foca, these are; Orak, Incir, Kartdere, Fener, Hayirsiz, and Metalik Islands. Especially two of them, Orak and Incir, are the islets known as the Sirens' Rocks mentioned in the Homer's Odyssey. Homer described these rocks as to where ships crashed after sailors loosing their way because of the spell-binding voices of the Sirens, mythological creatures of sort of women having wings. It was probably the effect of the wind passing over the rocks to create this sort of mythological voices. These strange rocks were originally formed by volcanic eruptions, waves, wind and rain. Orak is the biggest island of them, it has a long beach and also high cliffs. Incir Island is mostly used as a picnic area and beach by the people. Hayirsiz and Kartdere Islands have some high cliffs. During the latest excavations on Incir and Orak islands, archaeologists discovered rock sanctuaries facing towards the Temple of Athena in Phokaia. Most of these small islands and surrounding bays shelter today some of the very few left Mediterranean seals in Turkey.
Seytan Hamami (Devil's Baths) is a tomb cut out of the rock at the foot of Can Hill, around 2 kilometers (1,2 mile) east from Foca center. It's probably dating back to the 4th century BC. Entering the tomb from an arched entrance, there are 2 burial chambers inside. During the excavations, a stone block made of white, red and green marbles, a base, some inscriptions, and a lions statue were discovered. Unfortunately this tomb was sacked way in the past thus none of the important artifacts were found.
Tas Ev (Stone House) is a monumental tomb located on the side of the road some 10 kilometers (6 miles) before Foca. The 4,5 meter (15 feet) high tomb was cut partially of the rock between 5th and 4th centuries BC and was influenced from the Persian style.
The Bes Kapilar (Five Gates) Castle was built by Genoese but there existed a smaller forth since the Hellenistic period. When Phokaia was captured by the Ottomans in 1455, its ramparts were repaired and towers were added. An inscription at the entrance mentions that the repairs were carried out between 1538 - 1539 by Silahtar Iskender Aga, woodsman of the Sultan Mustafa Han who was the son of Suleyman the Magnificent. The castle had also a boat house which is used as an open air theater today and the wall was restored in 1983 and 1994.
The castle (Dis Kale), known as Genoese Castle as well, was built in the 17th century in a strategic point securing the protection of the city. It was built on the tip of a small peninsula and separated from the land by a huge trench to the east. Some stone cannon balls were found during the underwater archeological works and it's believed that these were fired from catapults against enemy ships. Today nothing much left from the castle, there are remains from the wall and some traces of a Turkish Bath inside.
Fatih Mosque is one of the oldest monuments from the Ottoman period in Foca, although it lost most of its architectural characteristics because of restorations until today. The mosque was built by Mehmet II after the capture of Foca in 1455. There are two inscriptions over its gates; according to the first one at the entrance of the courtyard that gate was built by a Mustafa Aga, and the other inscription on the main entrance gate mentions that Suleyman the Magnificent restored the mosque.
Kayalar Mosque is inside the Bes Kapilar Castle. It was built in the 15th or 16th century by the Ottomans. The minaret was rebuilt in the 19th century. The Sadirvan (fountain for ablutions) stands on the west of the mosque. It has a rectangular shape and the wooden flat roof was renewed recently.
Hafiz Suleyman Mescid is a small mosque (Mescid in Turkish) built in 1548 by Haci Mustafa, head of the guard of Foca castle. It was made of local stone and restored several times between 18th-19th centuries, closed to prayers in 1917 and than re-opened in 1992.
This old Ottoman cemetery was used for burials between 16th and 19th centuries. The tomb stones have floral decorations on them such as roses, cypress trees, pomegranate, grapes, dates etc. The cemetery is not used anymore as there is a new one around the town.
There are two Turkish Baths from the Ottoman period in Foca, both of them in Ataturk neighborhood. They have lost some of their architectural elements since many centuries. One of them has a typical dome in the middle but other one is badly damaged.
As you approach Foca, you can notice historic wind mills on top of the Degirmen Hill. The wind mills were built mainly in the 19th century and some of them were in function until 1960's. Strong northern winds of Foca secured that these mills did their job well. The wind mills of Foca are in bad conditions today but local government has plans to restore them for tourism in the near future.