This geographic region is characterized by a very rugged topography, with mountains extending all the way into the Aegean Sea. However, the soils are very fertile, and the Mediterranean climate is also very favorable. The slopes are covered with olive trees and citrus orchards, while on the narrow coastal plains, grains and a variety of vegetables are cultivated. The coastline is indented with numerous islands, peninsulas, and bays, so no town or village in the region is more than one or two hours from the coast. Local cuisines are based on olive, olive oil, fresh vegetables (artichoke, green beans, zucchini, etc.), fish, and seafood. There is also a great selection of starters, known as meze, based mainly on different local vegetables.
This region shares many geographic and gastronomic characteristics with the Aegean region. However, the coastal Mediterranean waters are not as rich as those of the Aegean Sea, so fish and seafood are often replaced by lamb and beef. A wide range of fruits and vegetables, as well as herbs, are also grown here. As one moves from the west to the east, the dishes get spicier. The province of Hatay, bordering Syria, is characterized by spicy cuisine that includes kebabs and yoghurt-based mezes. Kebabs are products of a fusion of Turkish and Arab cultures (Dagdeviren 2010). For example, the Adana kebabi is a hand-minced lamb meat kebab placed on a metal skewer and grilled over burning charcoal. Each year, the city of Adana organizes an Adana kebab and yalgam (a drink made from fermented red carrots and turnip) festival that is attended by large crowds of locals and tourists. A specialty of the city of Mersin is tantuni (small pieces of lamb or beef, spiced and mixed with chopped vegetables and herbs, and wrapped in a Zavash bread). Hatay is also famous for its kunefe, a cheese-based dessert soaked in a sweet, sugar-based syrup.