The Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Türkiye, S. Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake visited Middle East Technical University (METU) recently to discuss about possible collaborations in the field of archaeology that would eventually contribute to promoting heritage tourism in both countries.

She had discussions with Chair of Settlement Archaeology Department Prof. Deniz Burcu Erciyas, and other senior staff members from connected Departments.

This specific visit and discussion as based on the fact that both countries have much focus on heritage tourism, which brings substantial income to the economies of the two countries.

Ambassador Dissanayake, who also has a strong academic background in archaeology, explained the Sri Lankan archaeological heritage and its significance, pioneers in archaeological excavations and studies in the country and how the archaeological knowledge contributes immensely to its tourism industry, noting that six (06) out of eight (08) UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka are archaeological and cultural heritages. She noted that Turkiye has 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites inscribed for its archaeological and cultural significance.

It was also mentioned that as a student of archaeology she has much interest in archaeological heritages belonging to several different periods in Turkiye and above all, the influence of East and West over the centuries in such heritage sites.

Contribution to tourism by tour guides with in-depth knowledge of heritage sites were discussed in length. Need to enhance the demand for the profession of tour guiding among young graduates of archaeology was understood as being important. It was agreed that exchanges of students with the exposure through summer field camps even for a couple of months could broaden the understanding of young and would incentivize others.

As all universities in Sri Lanka where archaeology is taught are public universities and also METU being a public university in Turkiye, funding long term exchange programmes for academics and students is not easy, it was agreed that to start to look at short term exchanges with practical exposure at excavation sites and some university experience that could be covered by existing facilities at both ends.

Ambassador also suggested that it may be possible to cooperate with the Hony. Consuls of Sri Lanka in Turkiye and Turkish Airlines and was optimistic in finding innovative methods to finance for such initiatives. She further suggested to arrange visiting Sri Lankan academics for various other purposes to come and speak about Sri Lanka, not just on archaeology, but on other subjects too, as it was mentioned by the Turkish academics that knowledge about South Asia, including Sri Lanka is much less among Turkish undergraduates.

In this context Ambassador proposed to organize a South Asia Day, if other South Asian embassies in Ankara are in agreement. In any case, Ambassador expressed her willingness to organize a Sri Lanka Day, with an introductory presentation on Sri Lanka, its art, architecture & archaeology, biodiversity and environment, economics and political aspects and opportunity to understand Sri Lank through Sri Lankan Food, movie, music and dance.