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).

Turkey~ one country many faces

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Despite having studied Turkish politics and culture and having traveled to the country for several times in the last three years my mind still cannot draw a simple, linear, mono-color draft to reproduce the essence of Turkish culture and identity. The closer I get to the “truth” the deeper I swim in confusion. The more I discover the less I know with certainty. The closer I sail to the heart of Turkey the farther I am being carried by its beats. It is never enough and, however, it is still always too much. Not enough to build up walls around categories, and too much for those categories to resist the new (and sometimes even the old) waves of understanding and metamorphoses. Turkey is one of “those things” that I am unable to conclude. Perhaps because there is no such thing as the conclusions I meticulously search. I have walked all the way back and forth: I have included my experiences in the frame of previously acquired knowledge, I had demolished and then replaced all the prejudices and stereotypes, shifted from books to opinions expressed by my Turkish acquaintances, to personal perceptions and vice-versa… And still, Turkey does not cease to surprise me. And I guess it will never do.

I discovered the country three years ago and I definitely experienced sort of cultural shock, a shock that I expected to have and I enjoyed, a shock without which I would have been disappointed. I have been always keen on discovering the “difference”, at such a degree that I was seeing it even in places where it did not exist. I am fascinated by different cultures, ways of seeing and understanding life, this attraction being reflected even in the books I chose to read, which, of course, deal with culturally rooted issues. Being gifted with a great amount of empathy allowed me to overcome even my most entrenched prejudices and tolerate the strangest and darkest point of views, looking always for the cultural or historical explanation behind them. My mind started to work on the “what if?” mood, questioning all the values and “truths”. Visiting and living for a while in Turkey sharpened these abilities, but instead of helping me to clear the image they dissolved all my mental sketches leaving me only blurred lines… Foggy pictures of different Turkeys.

Yes, there are many Turkeys in my mind and heart. Culturally speaking South-Eastern Turkey is very different from the Western part of the country. Try to compare Izmir with Mardin, and you’ll get what I’m talking about. It’s like speaking the same language (not always, as there are many Kurds and Arabs in the East), eating the same dishes (although in my opinion in the East the food is more delicious, while in the Western part of the country you can notice an invasion of Western foods-pizza, pasta) and listening to the same music in different universes. If you visit the former Ottoman capital you can catch the spirit of Turkey, Istanbul being a micro-cosmos which embodies both of the worlds: Taksim, Moda being a metaphor of the West, while the conservative neighborhoods reproducing traditional Turkey.

Seems easy, right? Well, I initially felt in the same trap. But reality is way more complicated. Although appearances encourage us to resume Turkey to the West-Orient axis, there is nothing more wrong. Turkey is more diverse than we can imagine, actually is the mother of diversity (or father?), showing many faces of the same reality. Shades you will discover only when talking with and especially listening to people, not before they trust you and feel free to express their opinion, being sure you won’t judge them. If in the beginning you had met the “Oriental” and “Western” type your brain and their pride (proud to be Western-alike, or proud of their traditions) encourages you to see, in the end you would have to recognize there are no such great difference but paradoxically there are many tones and sides of the same coin, making you understand that you would have probably thought and acted in a similar way if you had grown up in the same environment(s). You would be surprised to discover that the başörtülü (wearing Turkish veil) lady you met is more open-minded, funny and tolerant than many of her secular counterparts. Or that the guy who traveled half of the world and considers himself an atheist is strongly attached to the patriarchal Turkish society, and when it comes to marriage he prefers a traditional housewife to a modern, emancipated woman, and even lets his mother to make the choice. Of course, I’m not suggesting that Turkish people are not what they seem to be or that conservatives are more modern than secularists. We are those who see them in a wrong way, being captive in our stereotypical shells. What I’m saying is that a person’s character and cultural building is more complicated, especially if he or she was raised in such a diverse place as Turkey. There are as many Turkish sub-identities as are the Turks. So don’t rush to judge at the first sight or talk.

“To bargain” is probably the most suitable verb to describe Turkey. Besides being the activity which made the Turkish bazaars famous, negotiation is a necessary tool to resist the daily avalanche of apparently contradictory values and the continuous social and political changes (sometimes crises) the country faces. Most of the people (yes, including conservatives and strong secularists) are found in the middle, trying to negotiate and to conciliate their values and believes. And if opposite directions, extreme sociopolitical contrasts are clear and unquestionable, the middle way is subject to negotiation. And exactly this is the way consciously but most of the time unconsciously followed by many Turks. If politically speaking is quite easy to choose a camp, in daily life people are more confused. Turkey and Turkish people are somewhere in the middle, belonging to both West and Orient, but somehow in the same time to none of them.

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.

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“Soğuk” stories V: One night in Urfa

Thank you Nicéphore Niépce for inventing photography! When memories start to fade away in our overloaded “hard disk” pictures work like a “Refresh” button!

I sat cross-legged like a Turk and smiled to the camera as I knew that one day this picture will steal a smile and give me back my memories.

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And it did. It took me back to the summer of 2012. To my first traditional Turkish evening. In Şanlıurfa. And I decided to take you with me. I won’t hold your hand… but hopefully I’ll hold your imagination. Ready? Imagine yourself entering a 450 year old konuk evi (guest house) in Şanlıurfa. The perfect place for tarihi kokusunu arayanlar (those who are seeking the scent of history) as stated on the Harran guest house’s website. And I was one of them, proud and somehow overwhelmed to be in the place where diverse people, histories and identities meet, in Mesopotamia, the so-called cradle of civilizations… A strange, nameless feeling embraced me and made me realize that we don’t have enough words, and sometimes living our dreams simply paralyzes our thoughts. My introspection was interrupted by the tempting flavors. I must say that South-Eastern Turkey’s history smells delicious. And spoils your tastebuds with its domatesli ve patlıcanlı kebap (tomatoe and eggplant kebab), bostana (Turkish gaspacho), salata (salad), lebeni çorbası (youghurt soup).

dscn0857After dinner I found out that preparing  çiğ köfte (raw meatballs, yes the meat is actually RAW, is not cooked) requires artistic skills. It is believed that çiğ köfte was invented in Urfa in the time of Abraham. Nimrod (the king of those times) wanted to execute Abraham by setting him on fire and ordered to collect all firewood in Urfa for this purpose. As a result people didn’t have firewood to cook and ate raw food. One day somebody found a way to make meat tastier by adding bulgur, herbs, spices and kneading the mixture. I mentioned above that making çiğ köfte is not an easy task. See the aşçı (cook) in action:

dscn0863The best çiğ köfte is made by dancing on the rhythms of the davul (drum) or on the davul 🙂 .

dscn0871And here’s the result:

dscn0874Well, çiğ köfte is not my favourite, and not because is raw meat, at the time I didn’t even know what I was eating! Actually it doesn’t even taste like meat… It’s like a strange combination of herbs and spices worth to try at least once!

The hallucinating combination of flavours, the rhythm of the drum and the traditional Turkish music made the evening unforgettable.

img_2951And prepared us for the next level: Halay (Anatolian folk dance) which is quite simple:  people form a circle by holding each others little finger and the leading dancer waves a handkerchief.

img_2961Dancing requires energy, and the best ‘fuel’ to boost your energy are taltılar (sweets), elbette (of course)!

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Çay lav yuu because…

dscn0460I’m an ardent story reader, and sometimes, on this blog, I pretend to be a storyteller. A story reader or teller who works better with çay (tea) especially with Turkish. I love to tell stories… although I usually tell them in Romanian, which by the way is not even my mother tongue, and still, is my native language. Now, probably you think that I drunk too much çay prepared with something stronger than water and ask yourself quite disappointed:

  • Why am I reading this nonsense post?”

Why? There’s always a “why”. And before your “why” arrived I had launched my own set of “Nedenler” (Whys). Don’t be afraid to get yourself lost in translation, soon it will be all clear whether we talk about the questions or the answers (just scroll down). Here’s the list:

  1. Neden yazarım?
  2. Neden bazı insanlar bunu okur?
  3. Neden kendime “neden” diye sorarım?
  4. Neden tüm “nedenlerin” cevabı bilmek isterim?
  5. Neden Türkiye?
  6. Neden Türkiye yerine İtalyadır?

Well, because every question is a boş çay baradağı (empty glass of tea)… excepting one. One single question, question no. 5 is a çay dolu bardak (full glass of tea): Why Tukey? which you can enjoy by clicking here. Şerefe! (Cheers!)

And to eliminate the initial confusion, my mother is Hungarian and my father is Romanian, so I do use to speak “fele apă fele viz” (apă=water in Romanian, viz= water in Hungarian, fele=half in Hugarian, it’s a way of saying “I speak half Hungarian half Romanian”), while on this blog I speak “half su half water”(su=water in Turkish). It seems that I’ve created even more confusion… I guess I’m pretty good at confusing people.

“Calm down baby and drink a çay!”- (never) said my inner Turk-“Then start with the beginning”

Hah! He can be really hilarious! I’ll continue with the beginning… as question no. 5 already had a head start. So…

  1. Why do I write?-Because my words flow like çay in the empty glasses… and there are still too many glasses to fill! Writing is a way to “exorcise” all my uncertainties and fears (together with jogging). Is a way to discover myself and the world surrounding me. It’s a way to (re)create my inner word and peace. Shortly, I write to understand myself. Who knows, one day I’ll figure out who I am! 😉
  2. Why do some people read this?– This glass cannot be filled by me. So, there is a boş çay baradağı and I cannot do anything about. Only you, my dear reader, can…
  3. Why do I ask myself “Why?”– 2 “whys” in the same question? Are you nut? I’m definitely not a nut (dried fruit)! Just in case… 😛 So why why? Because I am the girl with the “whys”! I’m hopefully in love with “why”! Obsessed! I need to know all the reasons and if I don’t, my mind will enter its storyteller mode and bomb me with unlimited possibilities of answer to “Why”. Sometimes I wonder how efficient and inefficient would I be without my dear “Why”?… (note: “Why” is quite important in social sciences)
  4. Why do I want to know the answer to all these whys?-Am I afraid to die stupid? Just a little bit…but please, don’t tell anybody else. Still a glass of çay can temporary work instead of the answer. Or another challenging “why”.
  5. ———————————————-> (scroll up if you missed it)
  6. Why Italy instead of Turkey?– now that’s a really really tough one. A short clarification to understand where does this question come from: those who have visited my blog at least once must have realized that I’m in love with Turkey or at least that this blog has many thing to do with Turkey. If you did not realize that,  but you did read my blog, it means that I’m doing a really awful job and I should stop writing right now. A consolation: I might be the worst writer ever, but at least you can find from time to time some great pictures here… and the name of my blog Turkish Delight Bazaar, should work as a hint. Now let’s get back to business. What all this has to do with Italy? I’m not an Italian, although I do spend some time in Italy, given that I’m studying there. As I told you before I’m some kind of “mixture” (just like Turkey), lost between my Hungarian and Romanian selves: People, especially foreigners tell me that I look like a Hungarian because of my light complexion and blonde hair, but everybody back home believes that I physically resemble more my father’s family, which is Romanian… Moreover, my way of being is considered more Hungarian than Romanian (?!), well, sometimes… Are you still there? Ya sabır ya Allah! (God give us patience!) We still haven’t reach our destination. A glass of çay would be welcomed now, you know what I mean. So here’s a Romanian-Hungarian girl, crazy about Turkey but studying in Italy… Guess what she’s studying? About TURKEY! Now can you understand this dilemma/trilemma…? I’ll give you a short solution: Kader (destiny). There’s an assumption that if you can explain something shortly you truly understand it. Well, not all the time… But I have plenty of time to understand. As for  Kader let’s say that he came before Turkey… And I love Kader almost as much as I love Turkey. So much that I’m considering to open an Italian boutique in my bazaar. Italy doesn’t have çay but it has the best latte macchiato and cappuccino to fill the empty glasses, amazing gelato (ice-cream) and pizzzzaaaa! Mamma mia! It’s impossible to resist! So enough with the “whys” for today!

Moral of the story: I need more çay (or cappuccino?) in my life, more dolu bardaklar!

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

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“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.
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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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