Video

The rhythm of Istanbul

This is the rhythm of Istanbul melted in the city’s vivid colours, flavours and emotions. 🎶  The streets of the city are a living ethnographic museum, which invites us to a multicultural exploring adventure. The video catches the heartbeat of the metropolis, its colours and diversity. Street musicians, having different ethno-religious backgrounds and unknown stories perform on the stage of humanity asking the rushing passers-by to stop for a second and breathe the beauty of life. Let your thoughts and worries go. Free yourself and feel the music. Let the energy of different cultures passed from generation to generation and preserved in the heart of the performers take you to other worlds, other realities, other times. Music speaks the same language, the language of joy and emotion. Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Spanish street musicians give Istanbul a touch of mystery, a unique sense of togetherness, a mosaic made of contrasting pieces embracing each other. A noisy peace, where everyone shouts, sings or whispers and celebrate his/hers identity. Istanbul stands as the unofficial capital of Turkey (and why not of Eurasia) ~ a testimony of the past, a sample of the present and a metaphor of multiculturalism.

Let your heart be stolen by this wonderful city. Escape today. Enjoy the magic. ✨

Special thanks to my special friend for creating this special video for Turkish Delight Bazaar (originally created for the Facebook page, however, I decided to share it on the blog as well).

From İnşallah to Maşallah

8862194241_92a75d1d2d_oPhoto credits: Anita Gould 

Since I’ve started my irregular Turkish language learning adventure I developed an extraordinary ability to complain. Whenever I get the chance to talk with somebody in Turkish after the usual Merhaba (Hello), Nasılsın? (How are you?) and Ne yapıyorsun? (What are you doing?) a painful need to say Türkçe çok zor! (Turkish is very difficult!) terrorizes my brain. It’s not because I cannot continue, it’s more like an absurd need to inform my interlocutors about how difficult their language is.  I succeed to silence my stubborn mind and to continue the conversation for a while. Untill I “smash into” the first linguistic obstacle… and then my “struggle” is suddenly over.  There is nothing left to do but wave the white flag and surrender by finally saying the “magic” words: Türkçe çok zor! And what do I get instead? Hadi ya! (used to express disbelief) Gerçekten mi? (Really?) Türkçe dünyanın en kolay dillerinden birisidir. (Turkish is one of the easiest languages of the world.) Of course, Turkish is easy… for Turks. But it really is difficult(gerçekten!) for foreigners. Actually is the most difficult language I’ve been learning. Yes, I’m aware that the other languages I’ve studied, Italian, Spanish and French, are Latin languages, therefore it’s not so difficult for a Romanian to understand them.

But wait, I’m half Hungarian!

And both Hungarian and Turkish are Ural-Altaic languages. But so are Finnish, Estonian, Tatar and Mongolian. That means I should learn them easily, right? If only it would be so simple… Knowing Hungarian didn’t make my job (much more) easier. I cannot deny that there are some similarities between Turkish and Hungarian grammar and both have sounds like ‘ü’ and ‘ö’. I even found a common sentence Cebimde çok küçük elma var.(Tr) -Zsebemben sok kicsi alma van.(Hu) (I have many little apples in my pocket.). But that’s all, this is the point where the two languages sign the divorce papers in my mind.

So I’m on my own again…

Me and Turkish. Sometimes we are so happy together! We are in seventh heaven! But our occasional quarrels bring us back down to earth with a bump… Even though I did learn the grammar rules on my own and I’ve been working on my Turkish vocabulary whenever I had  spare time, I still have problems when reading literature. I still need the dictionary, patience and… time. I still make mistakes when writing long complex phrases. Oh, we have such a complicated relationship. Me and Turkish. But we will manage somehow, İnşallah! (if God willing! I hope so!) Adım Adım. (step by step). I’m dreaming about the day when I won’t need to ask people Tekrar eder misiniz, lütfen? (Can you, please, repeat?) or Bu ne demek? (What does this mean?). The day when Anlamadım (I don’t understand) will disappear from my vocabulary. The day when my Turkish will be Maşallah! (Magnificent!) and not just güzel (pretty, good)The day I will talk like a Turk.

On my way to Maşallah… Since I have a busy schedule I will set some milestones:

  • discover my weaknesses and turn them into strengths (in other words find the most common mistakes I make and do some research)
  • read (and finish!) a novel in Turkish (devote at least a half an hour/day to lecture)
  • listen to Turkish music and translate the lyrics (post a song+lyrics/week on blog)
  • watch a Turkish movie/week
  • speak and write in Turkish as much as possible
  • Post every day on Turkish Delight Bazaar’s Facebook page

İnşallah I’ll reach my destination!

Kurban Bayramınız mübarek olsun!

kurban-bayrami-karikaturToday is the first day of Kurban Bayramı (Eid al-Adha), the Feast of Sacrifice in Turkey and all around the Muslim world. I would like to wish all my Muslim readers Kurban Bayramınız Mübarek Olsun! (May your Feast of Sacrifice be blessed!) As I have never been in Turkey (nor in another Muslim country) during Kurban Bayramı, I felt I’m not the right person to write about. I refuse to base my knowledge and judgement upon other people’s feelings and opinions. Still, I couldn’t stand aside and keep totally quiet during the bayram. I cannot pretend there is nothing going on. So I made some research and I prepared a short selection of and extracts from the best articles/blog posts I found about Kurban Bayramı:

  • I’m going to start with Janeyinmersin,a blog I’m always delighted to read. Janey explains us the meaning of Kurban Bayramı:

(Kurban Bayramı) is a 4 1/2 day festival which takes place 70 days after Ramazan has ended.  It is known as the Festival of Sacrifice referring to the story of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son Ismael at God’s bequest.  Pretty much the same deal as Abraham and Isaac if you are running in Christian circles. The festival is all about charity and community.  Each family (who can afford to do so) will purchase an animal for the sacrifice and over the past few weeks there has been an abundance of animals to be found grazing on any spare parcel of land around the city.  After the animal has had its throat cut and the life-blood has drained away the meat is split into three – one third to your family, one third to your neighbour’s and one third to the poor.  It’s a lovely idea (well except for the sacrifice that is).  If you cannot afford to purchase an animal you can make a donation to an organization such as Türk Hava Kurumu and have animals slaughtered in your name. The organization will also make sure the food is correctly distributed to the poor. Read Janey’s piece here.

  • I’ll continue the list with one of my favourite blogs: Natalie Sayin’s Turkish Travel Blog, a must-read for those who plan to visit Turkey. Natalie wrote about her role in the celebration:
    ‘I will dress in my oldest and drab clothes (bear with me- there is a reason why I am wearing old clothes), then head to friends and family to join in with this age-old religious tradition. My role in the celebration is simple. I will stand and listen while a verse from the Quran is read. The throat of the sheep will then be slit and the blood drained into a hole in the ground. Once this has been done, I will join in with the other women to clean and cut the animal up, hence why I am not dressed in my best gear. A certain amount of the meat will be allocated to the poor. Neighbors who have not had the opportunity to purchase an animal will be given some and the rest will be divided between the families.’- Click here to read the whole article.

 

  • Another expat, Danni (Living the Turkish Dream), explains us why sacrificing sheep during Kurban Bayramı is not as bad as it seems:

‘I have seen comments from people in the past who say the process of sacrificing millions of sheep over a few days for a religious festival is barbaric and inhumane, however, the meaning behind the tradition and the process of giving meat to those less fortunate people is a good one in my opinion, it is not meaningless killing for the sake of it, it has a purpose. Some people do find this an outdated, old fashioned tradition and some modern families like to donate money to charity instead.’- Click here to read more.

A strange desire: 1(00)1 nights in the harem

1558591591.interior02© Abbeville Press

“Are youu crazy???” No, I’m not. Actually… Yes, I am. But not in the way you might think! Shhhtt… Chill! Don’t judge before reading, DO comment after.

Let me tell you a short story:

Once upon a time beyond the woods,  beyond high mountains, beyond the seven seas… there was a girl.

Whom am I lying to? This is not a fairytale. This is the opposite of a fairytale. (Is it?) There IS a girl. Now. Here. She hates “fairytales” starring presumed real life monsters, imagined hell and stereotypes. The myths. Hates and loves them in a strange way. Loves to unveil their hidden truth and hates the reactions myths trigger.

Now she points a finger at the Ottoman harem. Wait, they did, and they stained it with their dirty words: lust, brothel, sexual slaves.

And this is her response:

  • “I would love to spend 1(00)1 nights in the harem!”
  • “Are you insane? Have you lost your mind?”- followed by their thoughts-“This girl has no principles! Why on Earth would someone want to become the toy of the sultan?”

Well, that girl is me. And no, I DO NOT dream to be a slave! I don’t even want to see the sultan! My purpose is more… scientific. If I had the opportunity to travel back in time I would choose the Ottoman harem.

Before telling you why, let me debunk some myths and provide you some useful information:

  • Harem is not the synonym of lust, actually harem means sacred, taboo, forbidden, respect, purity and honour:

“The word harem is one of an important family of words in the vocabulary of Islam derived from the Arabic root h-r-m.” meaning “to be forbidden or unlawful, and to declare sacred, inviolable, or taboo. A harem is by definition a sanctuary or a sacred precinct.The most sacred or exalted places in the sixteenth-century Ottoman world were harems. The holy cities of Mecca and Medina and their environs were, and remain, the two most revered harems in Islam. One of the most important titles held after 1517 by the Ottoman sultan, like the sultans of preceeding dynasties before him, was “the servant of the two noble sanctuaries” (hadımul-haremeynül-şerifeyn), a title proudly used today by the rulers of Saudi Arabia.” (…)”While not himself divine, the sultan, “God’s shadow on Earth,” created a sacred space with his presence. (…)The private quarters in the palace precinct to house women and children of the royal household, was referred to as “the imperial harem” because of the presence there not of women but of the sultan.”  Leslie Peirce-The Ottoman Harem, Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire

  • Therefore, “harem” referred also to family. This means that we are not talking (only) about slaves but first and foremost about the wife or wives (up to 4), children, mother (valide sultan), mothers-in-law, divorced or widowed sisters of the sovereign, and of course, their female servants.
  • Yes, there were servants. BUT many of them occupied administrative positions in the harem and received large salaries:

According to Travel Link Turkey: “the actual handling of the Harem was performed and shared by two women, Kahya, “Head Housekeeper” and Haznedar Usta, “Head Treasurer”. Haznedar Usta was responsible for the financial matters of the Harem, and she acted like a treasurer allocating cash allowances and material possessions to harem women in direct proportion to their rank. After kalfa and haznedar usta, came Kalfas, the senior maids who were responsible for several duties: First Secretary, First seal-bearer, First Mistress of Robes and so forth. They were assisted by lesser servants called Halayiks.”

  • Consequently, some women enjoyed economic independence:

“A further source of women’s influence beyond the family was their ownership and exploitation of property.”(…) “(Women) contribute(d) to the public welfare by endowing religious foundations (…) or undertaking other forms of charity. From the great mosque complexes founded by the sultans’ mothers to modest neighborhood endowments created by ordinary individuals, Ottoman women left their mark on the cities.(…) An interesting feature of women’s public charity was that a significant portion of it was aimed at helping other women: contemporary histories and testamentary documents show well-to-do individuals making provision not only for female family members and retainers but also for less fortunate women: orphans, paupers, prisoners, and prostitutes.” Leslie Peirce-The Ottoman Harem, Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire

  • Moreover, women in harem were educated: they were teached about Ottoman culture, learned to read and write in Ottoman Turkish, to play various instruments, to sing, to dance and to recite poetry.
  • We must mention that there was a period in the Ottoman history called the “Sultanate of Women”, when the empire was ruled by women. Some of them exerted a great influence in Ottoman politics from the shadow, as Hürrem, the wife of Suleyman the Magnificent, while others, see Kösem Sultan, were official regents.

So, as you can see, life wasn’t that bad in the Ottoman harem.

Now, let me tell you WHY I would choose the Ottoman harem as a destination if I had the opportunity to travel back in time:

  • This part is shorter than you were expected, as my answer is quite simple: to discover the truth and debunk more myths!

A clarification:

  • I would spend 1(00)1 (11, let’s admit 3 years would be too much) nights in the Ottoman harem as an observant or in an administrative position.
Gallery

Turkey through Zeynep.’s eyes

Now that’s what I understand by the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”! I found Zeynep. on Flickr… I was so enchanted by her pictures that I couldn’t help but share them… I just love these people. I love the way Zeynep. catched the spirit of Turkey… She took me back to Turkey and made me miss it even more… You should definitely check her albums here. She takes really amazing pictures not just of Turkey but of other countries as well. Enjoy my favourites:270402454_bd97aa763d_o

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Zeynep.

Zeynep.!

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Gallery

The Muse Meets the Artist. The Art meets Istanbul

3131f607c569c2b2490640bca6403af9Orhan Gürel

Late Summer. Late Sunday. Late… Still not too late for art. Not too late for dreams. Never too late for Istanbul. Depicted in blue and orange. Cold and hot. Rational and passionate. One muse, several artists. Frozen moments in warm rays. Past and present. History and future. Tradition and modernity. It’s all here. No technical terms, only paint drops and feelings from someone who loves Istanbul and art. Far from being an expert, grounded only in the reality of subjective emotions aroused from less or more famous canvases. I made a selection of my favourite paintings, which have the power to make me dream about their muse. About the world’s capital, as Napoleon used to call it. About Istanbul.

I’ve unwittingly chosen paintings dominated by orange and blue. After a brief reflection I’ve concluded that these have to be the colours of Istanbul. At least for me. I see Istanbul in orange and blue. Whether we talk about tradition, warm sunny days, adventure, passion, rust, noisy people and music, electric burst… or silence, modernity, reason, dreams, refreshing waves binding the icy sky, it’s all Istanbul. Orange and blue. Orhan Gürel knew this, and added to his blue Istanbul mild rays of orange. He melted the contrasting colours until it was impossible to separate them (see the first painting).

Another painter who was inspired by Istanbul and whom I admire is Erbil Devrim. His unique painting style is somehow opposing Gürel’s style by tracing clear lines instead of blurred contours. His originality caught the attention of the international audience. According to Quadro Art, in 1968 Devrim was elected Turkey’s “Young Artist Of The Year” and in 1991 he was awarded the prestigious title of Turkey’s State Artist. [1] In my opinion these are two of his best pieces:

devrim erbil

gOrange or blue? Or both? I cannot decide!

My list couldn’t ignore the painter who was awarded “The Most Successful Artist of Turkey” in 2004, Ismail Acar. In his paintings the “East appears to meet the West, with tens of thousands of years’ history viewed by him in a contemporary way . Ismail Acar applies contemporary media techniques, including computer technology, to traditional painting techniques.” [2] The following painting is without question my no. 1 from his work! It gives me a dreamy insight of reality, without drawing a line between fantasy and truth, providing the opportunity to choose which Istanbul fits us better. The inside one, the outside one? The upside down Istanbul?

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However my favourite paintings depicting Istanbul were created by the Ukrainian-born Russian-Armenian painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky  (1817-1900). Tutt’arta tells us his story: “In 1845, Aivazovsky went to İstanbul upon the invitation of Sultan Abdülmecid I, a city he was to travel to eight times between 1845-1890. During his long sojourn in İstanbul, Aivazovsky was commissioned for a number of paintings as a court painter by the Ottoman Sultans Abdülmecid, Abdulaziz and Abdulhamid, 30 of which are currently on display in the Ottoman Imperial Palace, the Dolmabahce Museum and many other museums in Turkey.” [3] When I’m looking at these paintings I feel like travelling back to time. They nurture my curiosity about the Ottoman past and flatter my imagined memory. istanbul ivan as

Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky + Ива́н Константи́нович Айвазо́вский - Tutt'Art@ (35)

 

Is there anything more beautiful than Constantinople bathing in the warm sunset rays? I would love to have one of this painting in my living room! Although it’s quite risky…as I might be unable to take my eyes off this master-pieces…

What about you? Which one do you prefer?

Bibliography:

  1. Erbil, Devrim, Quadro Fine Art Gallery (visited: 31.08.2014)
  2. The Evolution of Turkish Art, “The Art History Archive” (visited: 31.08.2014)
  3. Ivan Aivazovsky | Seascape and landscape painter, “Tutt’arta” (visited: 31.08.2014)

“Soğuk” stories III: Hasankeyf… my love!

dscn0633Oh, Hasankeyf! Forgotten cave town of Eastern Turkey…you are haunting my daydreams and memories. Testimony of the past, secret of the present … I was enchanted by your calls to prayer, colourful bazaar, rainbow spices, medley of flavours and smiling people…

How time flies, but still keeps our memories alive, held captive in a picture, an object, a flavour or a perfume… All we need is one look to trigger the sparkles of a false déjà vu…

It has been two years since I discovered this otherworldly place, which seemed rather the product of an imagined book written in a surreal time, between now and then. I instantly fell in love with its sunbathing hills, dusty paths, ancient rocks, mysterious caves and warm turquoise Tigris, which carries the secret of this place far away… to an uncertain future or maybe to a new, yet undiscovered past…

I fell in love with its playful, friendly children… whose dreams can change the future and memories the past… who know more than they can ever guess… but unheard stories pass away…

DSC00178surrounded by the children of Hasankeyf

Fell in love with the mystery of the around 4000 caves… some of them 12.000 years old… can you imagine what would it be like if these rocks could speak…?
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I fell in love with this bazaar… guarded by the proud minaret of the Rızk Camii… which has been calling people around to prayer for around six centuries… never loosing its unifying voice… its fate and hope…

 

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I fell in love with the Tigris river… so quiet… melting its refreshing water in the hot earth…

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Hasankeyf, I fell in love with you!