Nizamettin ŞEN

My first encounter with her was in 1978. I first heard about her during my agency years in Istanbul. In those years the likelihood of a woman managing a touristic restaurant outside of Istanbul was almost zero. The number of restaurants in Antalya that were able to cater to tourist groups could be counted on one hand. Moving from Istanbul to Antalya she opened the Hisar Restaurant in the Old Town (Kaleiçi) of Antalya. This ancient building where the restaurant is located was used during the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. She rented this beautiful historic venue from the Treasury and restored it. A props master from Istanbul Osman Şengezer helped her in this process. Ms. Emel was very pleased with the groups that were sent by the agency I worked at and specialised in cultural tours. But it was the German groups who were most delighted. Tourists took great pleasure in meeting and talking to her, because it was a privilege to come across such a distinguished Turkish lady.

Ms. Emel was the granddaughter of Ahmet Refik Pasha and the daughter of Ms. Fatma. She was born in 1910. In 1927, she graduated from Çamlıca Girls High School. It was normal for the family to attach great importance to education, because Ms. Emel’s father Hashim Pasha was Minister of Education during the Ottoman Empire’s last years. Ms. Emel spoke impeccable English and French. I also met with her husband Mr. Safter. He was a true Istanbul gentleman and worked abroad as a diplomat for many years. I remember seeing him always reading something whenever I visited Hisar Restaurant. He never interfered in the affairs of the restaurant and would sit quietly in his chair.
I got to know Ms. Emel’s daughter Fatma and her husband who used to play for the Beykoz and Beşiktaş football teams. For a while she managed Hisar with Ali Berberoğlu, one of the most important tourism mangers in the Antalya Region, as a “Key Club” establishment, which was exclusive to private members and fashionable in Europe and Istanbul at that time.

Having won the Oscar for Best Actress and later receiving the title of Princess after marrying the Prince of Monaco Rainier III. Grace Kelly visited Antalya in 1978 together with the renowned conservationist Captain Jacques Cousteau, who came to explore the cliffed coast of the city. They were hosted in Hisar Restaurant by Ms. Emel. When Ms. Emel recounted her meeting with Grace Kelly she mentioned to me that she was a very lovely and very humble personality. At that time, political, diplomatic and bureaucratic guests coming to Antalya were hosted in Hisar without fail and would be acquainted with Ms. Emel. Bulgarian President Todor Zhivkov was one of these guests.

In 1990, Ms. Emel came into my office. She told me excitedly that she had a new project in mind and wanted to hear my opinion. Succumbing to the lure of mass tourism, her new venture was to sell carpets, rugs and souvenirs to tourists coming to dine at Hisar Restaurant. I explained to her that agencies wouldn’t find such a practice very appropriate. She still gave it a go, but in the end my prediction was correct and she abandoned this venture.

In 1986 Ms. Emel’s importance started to be recognised. The Governor of Antalya honoured her for her contributions to tourism in Antalya and for keeping the facility open throughout the year. On the other hand, the Antalya Turkish Women's Union rewarded as an “Outspoken Defender of Women's Rights.” In later years, she received the “Woman of the Year” award by the Turkish Association of University Women, which is given to modern, progressive and successful women.

Ms. Emel Sürel, the first woman manager and pioneer in Antalya’s tourism sector, passed away in 2001.