OLUMIDE BAJULAIYE writes on the travel agency that has become a household name in the country particularly in Abuja and Kano.
Vefa Tourism and Travels was established in 2006. Between 2006 and 2010, it was a general sales agent of Turkish Airline, but in 2010 the agency terminated its contract with Turkish Airline and became a local travel agency. But in Abuja and Kano, it is still the authorized sales agent of Turkish Airline. Vefa Tourism and Tours also sells 18 other airline tickets, all airlines that operate from Abuja.
Speaking with WESTERN POST in his office, the Manager of Vefa Tourism and Travels, Mr. Selami Altay, said the agency has introduced online sales to make booking easier for intending travelers. “The most recent is the online sales; with Vefa Tourism and Tours on our website- vefang.com, people can make bookings and compare the price with others with just one click. For example once you search Abuja to Chicago and return like ten days later, our website will compare all the prices of airlines operating from Abuja to and fro Chicago, from there you can select the cheapest one”.
Vefa is an arm of First Surat Group of Companies a company that has more than 16 other companies including schools, foundation and hospital operating in Nigeria. Every year, according to Selami, Vefa in collaboration with ABINAT (Association of Business People and Investors of Nigeria and Turkey) brings about 700 Turkish investors to Nigeria and also takes Nigerian businessmen to Turkish on business tourism. Vefa is also the authorizing sales agent of ABINAT.
Many Nigerians Now Visit Turkey for Vacation, Says Selami
“Also for medical tourism, we arrange medical trip for Nigerians who have been referred to Turkey for medical treatment in collaboration with Nigeria-Turkish Nizamiye Hospital. We will get in touch with the hospital in Turkey immediately and contact our Embassy so that Visa can be issued on time. If anyone is referred to Turkey for medical treatment, Vefa will arrange the patient Visa with the assistance of Nizamiye Hospital,” Selami said.
He added: “We also organize excursion for schools, NTIC Schools and Nigeria-Turkish Nile University. About 700 to 800 students visit Turkey every year through Vefa. Many Nigerians go to Turkey for business, but not for tourism. Tourism is only mostly by Turkish schools, but in the last two years, Nigerians have started visiting Turkey on vacation. Before it was not so, but now Turkey is number one place for Nigerians to visit, especially for Christian pilgrimage and tourism.
“The Biblical places named in the Bible like Ephesus, Tarsus, Antakya, Cappadocia, all these places are located in Turkey and people don’t know them. They always read them in the Bible but they do not know they are located in Turkey. For a complete Christian pilgrimage, you need to visit Turkey because seven Revelation Churches are located in Turkey. From Europe and America, approximately 30, 000 Christians visit Turkey every year because they know these places are located in Turkey, but in Africa most people don’t know, it is just coming up now”.
‘Now, More Than 15, 000 People Travel to Turkey on Pilgrimage’
“We now get different offers from churches that put Turkey in their pilgrims’ programmes. Now more than 15, 000 people travel to Turkey on pilgrimage. For anybody who wants to have complete knowledge of the origin of Christianity, he or she should visit Turkey. Virgin Mary House and Virgin Mary’s Grave is also located in Turkey. For Muslim pilgrims, it is good to visit Turkey to see Ottoman Empire, the ruling emperor of that time.
“All pilgrims, Christian or Muslim, visit churches and mosques in Turkey. We don’t discriminate about religion. As a Christian, you are free to enter mosques and a Muslim also can enter churches without been molested. It is an open place for everyone,” Selami said.
For any Nigerian that has UK, Shengen, Canadian or US visas, Turkish visa can be issued through Vefa or at the point of entry, he added.
Places to Visit While on Pilgrimage in Turkey
Ephesus: This is the city where Saint Paul wrote his famous Epistles and it is the place believed to be the City of Seven Sleepers considered as Saints by Catholic and Orthodox Christians. This ancient city houses the House of Virgin Mary, the ruins of Temple of Hadrian and the relics of Roman Library of Celsus.
Tarsus: It is a focal point of many civilizations including the Roman Empire, when Tarsus was capital of the province of Cilicia, the scene of the first meeting between Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, and the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.
Antakya: It is believed to be the place where Christians were first called. It is a city where the first crusade took place. Antakya is a city with the biggest church in Turkey, having Saint Peter and Saint Paul on Huruyet Cadessi.
Cappadocia: This city whose name means the Land of Beautiful Horses is also mentioned in the Bible. Cappadocians were also regarded as God-fearing Jews in the Act of the Apostle. The Mountain Rock site of the city is UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a place where about 30 churches and chapels were carved out of mountain rocks, dating back to 9th and 11th centuries.
Konya: Konya is a city in the Central Anatolia Region where whirling dervishes’ lives. It is the seventh most populous city in Turkey with historical places to visit.
Bursa: This is where history reveals itself to you. Ulu Cami Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in Bursa and a landmark of early Ottoman architecture.
Urfa: Urfa is the birth place of Abraham and it is the holy city of Urfa (Ur) of the Chaldees, because of its proximity to the holy village of Harran. It is situated on a plain, about eighty kilometers east of the Euphrates River.
Selami said Vefa Tourism and Travel arrange visits to the above-named places for any pilgrim. “We offer the best tourist service and our prices are the cheapest,” he added.