Poor Hungary town eyes riches of Ottoman sultan

Statues of rival military leaders of 16th century, Ottoman Sultan Suleiman (R) and his opponent Miklos Zrinyi (L), are seen at the Hungarian-Turkish friendship park near Szigetvar on September 2, 2016 after the relic of the sultan was found outside Szigetvar last year. AFP photo

The recent discovery of the tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent, considered the greatest Ottoman ruler, has raised hopes of a tourism boom in one of Hungary's most impoverished areas.

From hamam baths and crumbling minarets to battle site memorials and ruins of mosques, traces of the country's 150-year-long stretch (1541-1699) in the Ottoman Empire are not hard to find in Hungary. But many Hungarians see them as relics of a dark period during which the country's flourishing renaissance era was extinguished.

As a result, few of the Ottoman monuments have so far been promoted by Hungarian authorities. Suleiman's case could change that, however.

Experts confirmed in July that excavations begun two years ago in the struggling town of Szigetvar, close to the Croatian border, had revealed the tomb of the 16th-century ruler.

Suleiman died aged 71 on Sept. 7, 1566, during an epic battle with the mainly Croatian defenders of Szigetvar Castle that depleted his forces hoping to quickly advance on Vienna, the capital of the Habsburg Empire.

On Sept. 7, senior government officials from Hungary, Croatia and Turkey will join thousands of visitors to Szigetvar to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the siege.

"This town is dying, young people are leaving or have already left for Germany or London, but Suleiman can bring in jobs, income and tourists," said Norbert Pap, head of the team of researchers whose excavations uncovered the tomb.

"Szigetvar may be on the periphery now, but 450 years ago it was on the main street of European history," Pap, a geographer and historian at nearby Pecs University, said.

Born in 1494, Suleiman, whose reign from 1520 to 1566 was the longest of any sultan, greatly expanded the...

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