Aegean Turkey


Istanbul, Turkey, June 2004. Enjoying the sun in the garden between Aghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Same dress, same face, same koboloi, as any Greek. Au repos entre Aghia Sophia et la mosquée Bleue, avec l’éternel koboloï pour occuper les mains.

Contrary to this elderly man who does not need anymore to emigrate, hotel receptionist Adem is working six days a week, 12 hours a day (studying his university books during the night shift), and gets less than 300 Euros a month. The Normal Story. Met a Spanish tourist, fell in love, ten members of her family came over to meet him, they sent an invitation, he applied at the consulate with lots of documents and a huge fee, had even to fly back to Gaziantep, deep in the country towards Syria, to get his papers faster, made a special insurance, got a disclosure from his father’s apparel business, two months later he got his passport back from the Spaniards with the stamp CANCELLED.


Tire, Turkey, June 2004. A bit inland in order to avoid the crowds of Kusadasi beach-goers and Ephesos ruin-lovers, this is one of Turkey’s few decorated felt textile making villages. Légèrement à l’intérieur des terres, loin des baigneurs de Kusadasi et des visiteurs d’Ephèse, Ali continue la tradition familiale de fabrication de textiles feutrés.

I had emailed our friend Sebnem from Izmir that we did not care about touristy stuff, so she took us on a Sunday to Tire, her native town and where she works, inland from the very touristy seacoast. Even under excruciating heat, the place had lots of character, we sipped tea at Derekahve by a stream (dere means stream), then left my mother to go about the almost empty center of town. Unlike Greece, some stores were open during the mid-afternoon hours, including the last craftsman making shoe by hand (a missed pix because of my shyness and not wanting to appear as a tourist — but I got back on this next one) and one of twenty or so makers of decorated felt textile. A friend of her family, he proceeded to give us a demo while showing us an article in a 2002 issue of the British Museum Magazine about him and his pals — in Western Turkey as well as in the area along the Syrian border. Arif, a young economist who learned the trade from his father Mehmet and he in turn from his father Cemal, took some wool fibers of different, natural colors, made a cock and a flower out of the colored one, then pressed them onto a layer of non-dyed grey wool. The complete process is much longer and entails old, pressing machinery that we saw inside the shop. When I went to pick up my mother, an older man was sitting at her table and had offered her tea. He was a refugee from Skopje in the 1920s at the time of the exchange of populations between Turkey and its former territories.


Istanbul, Turkey, June 2004. Like in neighboring Greece, schoolchildren — here visiting the Blue Mosque — are learning more and more about the culture and nature of their country. Comme dans la Grèce voisine, les écoliers — ici visitant la Mosquée Bleue — apprennent de plus en plus sur la culture et la nature de leur pays.

“Our country will be in the European Union in 10-15 years because they need our youth who is eager and used to work. In Europe, people get lots of money for little work, and they have become lazy”, I agreed with many of Adem’s clearly enunciated ideas. “In 10-15 years also, China will have become the new U.S.A.” To buttress his claim he offered the traditional Muslim bias, “Israel is behind the U.S., and now Israel is seeking China’s favors”.


Istanbul, Turkey, June 2004. Beautiful youth, lunch-eating schoolchildren, these Turkish girls pose for my companion. Belle jeunesse, ces écolières interrompent leur récréation de midi pour bavarder et poser pour ma compagne.

“A survey in Bodrum’s high-schools showed that three-quarters of the girls are not virgin”, told us later Erdal, a Kurdish transplant operating a Beatles-decorated teahouse in that old harbor turned resort.

“But that is not true in the East!”

“God forbid! In Diyarbakir, a newlywed must still show…, sorry Madam,” did he say with a look at my companion, “blood on the sheet to the groom’s family on their first night”.

A world divided and changed by mass tourism. From the Anatolian plain to the Aegean coast.

“Turks believe Western women are easy because, indeed, when they drink, they go easily to bed”, said Erdal with his wide grin. “Then you have older women coming to get young Turks, and they pay for everything”.