First published Friday, August 21st 2009 for IEDP Columns LinkedIn
Already two weeks in Turkey, the country where I used to live for more than ten years, I enjoy most of the known and some of the new sounds and movements, although some of them shock me very much.
After twelve years I still love to come and stay here for holidays every year. It ’s really like my home away from home. I get excited the moment the plane takes off from Schiphol Airport.
This year I make a trip down memory lane first, via Kalkan and Antalya, some of the places I used to live, after which a 7 hour drive from the South Coast through Middle Anatolia brings me to Ürgüp, Cappadocia, the natural wonderland with its typical fairy chimneys.
Volcanic and chalk stone shaped by centuries of storm and snow, leaving behind strangely shaped figures, with cave houses sand underground cities sometimes as deep as twenty floors down.
Here the first Christians lived, hiding away for the Romans, and leaving behind a legacy of countless churches both above and underground full of burial places and icons everywhere. A magical landscape where these days the old cave houses are still inhabited by the most poor people of the area while sometimes less than hundred meters away from the most beautiful 4-Starr hotels, newly build or extended old cave-houses situated deep into the volcanic chalk stone rocks. Old and new alike make use of the natural climate control and perfect isolation of the thick walls. No air conditioning needed in summer and in winter a modest heater suffices.
Last night the ‘Davulcu” woke me for the first time, a ritual drum player who traditionally walks the streets to wake up everybody long before sunrise in order for them to have ‘Sahur’ , a good breakfast before there long day of fasting starts.
Which means no food, drink or sex until sunset. And last night it also meant the official start of the month of ‘Ramazan’.
So today will be the first day that a good part of the Turkish population will not eat food, not drink, smoke or have sex between sunrise and sunset, in order to honor Allah and all living beings, to contemplate about the things they are normally taking for granted and count there blessings.
I am glad to be here once again during the Ramadan because of the special atmosphere, and I do respect the people who start and maintain the fast during this whole holy period, although personally I consider it a very unhealthy way and certainly not a purification or detox in the real sense as I know it, although it’s even said to serve this purpose in order to get more people to join. Detox is hot, also in Turkey.
Fasting without any liquid at all, may it be water or tea, during more than twelve hours is very much opposite from draining toxin’s from the body, let alone with the copious meal which is eaten just before going to bed at night. It will not become anybody’s metabolism.
No matter how much I am an ambassador for taking time off, for a time out from the regular routines, cutting down on abundance and luxury in order to get more than usual in touch with authentic cords strung by our soul and detoxing from major and minor addictions, but not in this rigid, in my eyes very unhealthy way.
I remember too well, when I was living here in Turkey and working as a tourguide, I would have to talk my driver into going to the side of the road and eat, as he was looking gray while postponing starting to eat until the mosque would give the time of ‘Iftar’ , breaking the fast , in the evening.
In that heat, in a bus still without air conditioning in those days, without having a sip of water the whole day, it was totally irresponsible, both for himself, all the passengers as well as everybody else in the surrounding traffic.None of my Turkish friends or relatives and only some of my acquaintances are living according to this rule of the Koran.
They are either non-practicing Muslims, Alevi’s or atheist, and most of them are principally against the more orthodox religious ways in their from origin, at least since 1923, seclusive country.
Since ten years, especially after Erdoğan became prime minister, religion and politics are getting more and more entwined.
His party knows itself financially supported by Ülker, a huge national company chain which is for the bigger part into Erdoğans family.
He himself is shareholder of three different distribution firms. All, what a surprise, working with Ülker.
The friends I stay with refuse to buy any Ülker products, even if they have to travel far to get another brand, like so many others I am finding out these days. Even when , like with a friend with a heavy gluten allergy, there are hardly any other gluten-free products to find on the market than Ülker.
There is hardly any food, drink of dairy product, which they don’t produce or distribute under their name.
They were the ones who put the figures of Cocoa Cola to an unknown low in favor of ColaTurka.
And although I am not a Cola fan at all, it frightens me to learn that Turkish Airlines flight attendants claim that at the request of the governments increasingly substitutes CC for CT and where it used to be in all fridges next to and in equal amounts of water, this development is very scary to me.Even so, and being in the religious orthodox area of Central Anatolia , shop owners will order the requested brand, even though they are sincere and strongly believing people themselves, the pomegranates juice which my sons father ordered, arrived the next day in the ‘market’.
Turkey has a long secular tradition since Atatürk in 1920 started Turkey’s reformation and since my first visit in 1985, I do not know of a stronger and popular integrated opinion that state and church should stay separate and the non-Islamic legal system of justice should be maintained. So there is in general a lot of resistance against this revival of Islamic politics.
As most of us know, the Turkish military has always been in favor of a secular state and will do everything to prevent this Islamization of the system, so it might not come as a surprise that there is no Ülker product to be found in the whole big army apparatus, they are said to even have initiated the boycott.
Talking about old and new sounds: it is amazing how many I-Phones I have seen here in those weeks since my arrival, they total more than I have seen the whole last year in Holland. With, to my surprise, the two daughters of friends of ours, 9 and 14 years young, who both use their parents ‘old’ one. How old can they be
And they look with deep frowns at my son when he declares his confidence in Samsung in general and his Pixon in particular. His dislike of I-Phone and Apple is not understood here at all. You can see them think: “Saka yapiyorsun” (you must be kidding), although they are too polite to say this out loud.
The Davulce of the old days is no more , the one I remember from the days when I was living in Antalya, hitting a traditional drum and singing his nasal hymn.
The sound of last night is sharp and irregular; certainly does not produce the deep tones I remember , and the song (Manii) I was nostalgically waiting for last night, seems forgotten on the way.
My ex-husband says that these days it seems that the Davulce is hitting on an oil drum and he can appreciate it even less than I remember, this disturbance in the nights to come. So the Plan is clear for everybody, where the drummer of the Ramadan band would normally come around the doors with his ID card to gain his yearly pocket-money, in this street he will be asked to pass as quietly as possible and he will get his money upfront, as to thank him for doing so.
Tonight’s choice is as complicated as well as simple: mountain-biking through this amazing landscape of fairy chimneys or letting myself being lured by the fairytale-like performance of the Whirling Dervishes , real mystics who pray their prayers dancing, inviting the Universe to impregnate the earth with its energy, accompanied by this really traditional and well-known sounds of Sufi music: Flutes, drums and snare instruments and wonderful nasal singing.
For me it will be the latter, the men will choose the exercise tonight, although my sixteen year old son will accompany me some days later, when I can not stay away from this meditative dance ceremony on our last night in this amazing country.