Che Guevara is a popular figure among certain groups in Turkey, especially political leftists and Kurdish nationalists (there’s a lot of overlap between the two). College students pattern their hair styles after his and his words are quoted in young adult literature. So it’s natural to run across his picture on a visit to the southeast, as here where he guards the door of a souvenir shop in Gaziantep’s downtown market area. Che is joined here, in a thought-provoking tableau, by Ali the nephew of the prophet of Islam, and Ataturk the founder of the Turkish Republic.
School children prepare to perform a dance under a banner depicting Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey.
All state holidays in Turkey are marked by elementary school programs featuring various groups of children singing, reading poems, or performing dances (both modern and traditional). This first-grade class (including my son, who is not technically Turkish) delivered a spirited rendition of several folk songs and anthems in praise of Ataturk.
After successfully leading the Turkish war of independence, Mustafa Kemal enacted several reforms, including the assigning of surnames for every citizen in the country. While his subjects were choosing last names for themselves from the self-evident (“Born”) to the nature-inspired (“Sun”) to the painfully prosaic (“Son of the Yogurt Maker,”) the nation’s first president assigned himself the name of Ataturk: “Father of the Turks.” If the attitudes of current Turks are any indication, he was justified. Ataturk’s image can be seen in nearly every classroom and workplace across the nation, including this rug shop where two Ataturk pictures formed part of a street display in Ankara.
Architectural features in the courtyard of the Sultanahmet Mosque (or Blue Mosque) in Istanbul, completed in 1616 and designed by a disciple of the great architect Mimar Sinan.
In the southeastern Anatolian countryside around Malatya and Kahramanmaraş, the small motorbike with a sidecar for your friend to ride along is a pretty common sight. Same goes for the artistic expression on the sidecar – similar to the painted slogans Turkish truck drivers use to decorate their vehicles. This picture comes from a midweek afternoon at a Turkish teahouse like any other, near the site of mountain springs that continuously produce bubbly mineral water. It’s said to be good for kidney stones, but I should give fair warning – it tastes like rotten eggs.
Muslim visitors contemplate a picture of Mecca in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Mosque.
At a wedding in eastern Turkey. As part of the henna celebration, balls of green henna are formed around candle wicks, then set burning to celebrate the marriage.
Just kidding! I’m sure he is a devout Muslim and would never think of such a thing. The circular design behind him just looks a lot like a rising sun to me. I imagine a person could get desensitized to the brilliant patterns after hanging around these things all day long for years on end … you know, like teenagers playing violent video games. Of course, in other ways, repairing Turkish carpets is nothing at all like playing violent video games. I admit the analogy is limited.
Whatever else the carpet repairman’s job may or may not be, there is one thing it is for sure (at least, wherever I’ve seen it being done): a man’s work. In the same way that I’ve never seen a Turkish man sitting at a loom weaving a carpet, I’ve never seen a Turkish woman sitting in front of a shop repairing one. While I’m sure there are exceptions, the roles in my experience seem clearly defined. My best guess at the explanation is that in traditional Turkish village society (which bore the weaving tradition to the present day), women more generally are responsible for work done in or around the home, whereas men are more often responsible for work done someplace else, such as at a shop or office. As Turkish society becomes more modernized, of course, in many places these sorts of divisions (and skills?) are beginning to disappear.
“One city does not greet another, but one man greets another.”
– Sumerian proverb from Ur, c. 2000 B.C.
This proverb, quoted in Rory Stewart’s excellent book The Prince Of The Marshes, does a pretty good job of explaining how I think relationships are most genuinely formed on the international stage. In our case, we usually leave the greeting to our children. These pictures should give you an idea of the scene a year or so ago when we went on a walk with our kids through the historic Ulus neighborhood in downtown Ankara. Kaya is the little blonde two-year-old in the picture above; at that age he was still loving the attention and hadn’t gotten sick of it yet, whereas his older brother Moses (in the stroller below) was starting to develop some reservations. Perhaps it’s just a personality thing – international diplomacy can’t be every preschooler’s job.