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The provincial capital has a long history. During the postHittite epoch, in the Roman Era, it was known as Nesa, or Nysa, later named Muscara by the Seljuks. Standing on a steep hill, its castle is the prominent landmark. Originally built by the Crusaders, the Seljuks had repaired and extended its circuit of walls.
Nevşehir is poor in Christian relics, but rich in Seljuk monuments, mosques and tombs which bespeak of a high cultural level in the early Turkish period. With the consolidation of Ottoman conquest, Muscara became an administrative center, subject to the town of Nidge. Damat Ibrahim Pacha, the son-in-law of Sultan Ahmet III, developed Muscara into a town of importance and changed its name to Nevşehir—New Town.
It would not be proper to speak of Nevşehir without paying homage to its founder, Damat Ibrahim. Born in 1678, the son of Ali Aga, the Reis (Mayor) of Izdin, Ibrahim completed the customary education of young Turkish noblemen, then traveled to Instanbul to visit friends and seek office, and had been offered a minor position in the sultan’s household. His diligence and honesty was soon noticed and the sultan promoted him to the rank of Court Secretary. Always courteous and pleasant to converse with, young Ibrahim Pacha became a close friend of Crown Prince Ahmet. Subsequent promotions elevated him to the rank of Chief Tax Collector, in which capacity he traveled far and wide in the vast empire and lived for several years in Nish (the present Nis in Yugoslavia).
When Prince Ahmet occupied the Ottoman throne as Sultan Ahmet the Third, he recalled Damat Ibrahim Pacha to Instanbul, named him Prime Minister and gave him the hand of his daughter, Fatma Sultana.
Being the second most powerful person in the Ottoman world, Damat Ibrahim became a great reformer and a devoted protector of the common people. His very first official act was the introduction of a liberal system of taxation, based on the real ability of the citizen to pay his prescribed quota. For the first time in history individual circumstances, natural calamity and even illness were taken into consideration by the tax officers, who would lower the individual’s tax accordingly.
The introduction of compulsory military service and the earliest efforts to westernize the backward country were made during the premiership of Damat Ibrahim.
His educational and cultural reforms were also enlightened. He ordered the construction of public baths, religious and secular schools and the founding of the Nevşehir Public Library. He sponsored the construction of safe wells and a water conduit between the city and the water-rich Asikli Dag, a nearby mountain. He initiated the building of a hospital and a caravanseray and would even introduce nomadic tribes to settle in granted lands, cultivate, breed cattle and contribute to the national economy.
The statue of Damat Ibrahim Pacha is standing in front of the Governor’s Residence.
The museum of Nevşehir has a small but valuable collection of Hittite, Christian, Roman and Seljuk relics.
Three kilometers distant from Nevşehir, the Valley of Nar is a genuine small Garden of Eden with inhabited caves, charming orchards and vineyards, wine cellars and an ancient public bath still in use.