"O Turkey ! how mild are thy manners, Whose grandest and highest of men Are all proud to be rhymers and scanners, And wield the poetical pen !"

Thomas Hood, Poetry, Prose, and Worse, 1836

"A real Turk is a manly, though rather violent, kind-hearted being, and if he has confidence in you, very easy to deal with."

Lady Stanhope, October 1827

"A humorless soldierly people whose arts are courage, honor, and bloodletting."

Nelson Algren, Who lost an American ?, 1963

Where do they come from ?

The Turks first came from the wide plains of Central Asia. These nomadic horsemen migrated westwards, converting to Islam along the way, until they finally reached Anatolia. In 1071, the Byzantine Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes was defeated by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert, and thus opened the way for Turks into Asia Minor. Even today, the Turks have not forgotten the ethnic cousins they left behind in Central Asia - the Azerbaijanis, Kazaks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Kyrgyzs, Ugyur as well as smaller groups like the Chechens, Gagauz, etc. The downfall of the Soviet Union has left to a rise of a feeling of Pan-Turkism - that of the unity of Turkic peoples...the Turkish government is pouring aid into the former Soviet republics, and Turkish businessmen are rushing in. The plight of the many wars and conflicts in these lands are also attracting the attention of the Turkish people, for example, the Chechen conflict - when I was in Ankara, there was an ongoing campaign in support of the Chechen struggle for independence from Russia...or the rights of the Turkish Cypriots...the Western Tracian Turks...
"Support Chechenya !" (Cecenistan) posters at Ankara Bus Terminal
To find out more about these Turkic nations, visit Sota, a Netherlands-based research centre for Turkestan and Azerbaijan. Its Web page has links related to pages of Turkish peoples and communities; e.g., Turkey, Azerbaijan, Chechenia, Turkmenistan, etc. There are also links to history and culture of Turkish peoples ; Or go to The Russian and East European Studies Virtual Library - a great resource site from the University of Pittsburgh ; Updated monthly.
Normads of the East

Turkish hospitality

The hospitality of the Turkish people is legendary. Everywhere I was invited to have tea and chat with the locals - even from people who can hardly speak English. All of them are so friendly to tourists, and would do whatever possible to assist foreign visitors. I often have to turn these friendly people down, due to time constraints and my fear of falling victim to crime ( - there have been a number of reports of schemes by some of the unscrupulous elements of the population, to exploit this well known hospitality of the Turkish people in general to drug and rob tourists). A tourist therefore has to be careful and decide when it is safe to accept the drinks and so on. Personally, I only accept drinks in open areas, and try to avoid wandering into remote areas with strangers.

Turkish Islam

Once devoted Muslims, the Turkish of today are very liberal people. Since the abolition of the Caliphate in 1923, Islam is no longer the driving force of Turkish life. Despite a resurgence of Islam in recent years, most Turks still regard religion as essentially a private affair - not something one should mix with politics. Just take a look at an Istanbul magazine stand or watch the Turkish TV - one could hardly believe this is a Muslim country. One finds Turkish edition of the Playboy and Penthouse, and the TV is full of Turkish music video just like that of any other country - with all the non-Islamic rap and so on... But Turkey is a country of great contrasts - while Istanbul is full of infidel pleasures like discos and pornography newsstands, the East is another country - one where Islam is the order of the day, and the imam's call for prayers is taken seriously...

Turkish Cuisine

The Turks are fond of comparing their cuisine to that of the Chinese and the French, and claimed that these three are the greatest cuisines in the world. Although I hesitate in agreeing entirely with this saying, I have to rank it as one of the best. For indeed, the unique geographical location of Turkey as the crossroads of the East and West, as well as the long migratory history of the Turkish tribes, have bestowed this nation a rich and varied cuisine. In addition was the imperial heritage of the Ottoman court, which had not only acquired territories from afar, but acquired taste of diverse cuisines and cooking methods from all corners of the empire.

My first encounter with Turkish cuisine was at a coach meal stop near Edirne, where rice and various Turkish dishes are displayed. One points the dishes one desires, and they will either be served with rice or with bread. (Anyone who has been to Southeast Asia will find that these stalls/shops resemble the Indonesian "nasi padang", or the Chinese "mixed vegetables rice".) The whole meal will cost around US$4 to US$7 and it offers one an uncostly insight into this rich cuisine. In addition, as an Asian, I was most delightful to come to a country where rice is a staple again...

The most famous Turkish dish is perhaps the kebab, sticks of grilled mutton or beef (a little like the Malay "satay"). The ordinary Turkish worker has kind of a "kebab burger" for lunch everyday - the Turkish version of fast food. I have this pretty often, when I'm rushing for time and do not want to have a formal meal. (The Turks find the spicy Adana kebab the best, but I find it too salty.) Another great category of Turkish dishes is the dolma, or stuffed vegetables - rice, meat or indeed, any imaginable ingredient is being staffed in vegetables like the eggplant/aubergine, tomatoes, cabbages and so on. And of course, the list goes on. Visit Yusuf's Turkish food page site or Turkish Cuisine & Receipes to explore the Turkish cuisine.

Everyone has heard of the Turkish coffee but one hardly finds it in Turkey since the loss of coffee-producing Arabia and Yemen in the early part of this century. Instead, one finds tea, or chai, everywhere. One hardly passes a day without being offerred chai. These are drank in tiny glasses and is drank without milk. Some Turks drink more than 10 glasses (possible because the glasses are small as well) on an average day...

Homage to Istanbul - Glories of the Ottomans

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