Murat and Servet’s wedding in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş was a typically chaotic celebration with plenty of dancing, attended by just about as many people as could comfortably fit on the (very large) dance floor. The entire town is often invited to a wedding in Turkey, and the more people come the greater the honor for the father of the groom.
Fakir Baykurt’s novel Kaplumbağalar (The Turtles) is an outstanding examination of Turkish village life, comparing the city with the countryside in a way that only someone who has lived both places could. In this excerpt (my translation from the Turkish), a “somewhat fat” surveyor – a Turk from the city – visits the village on government business. He is met by Rıza, the village educator; Battal, the headmaster; and Kır Abbas, at seventy the oldest man in the village.
They went in and sat down.
Mr. Somewhat Fat stretched out his legs.
“I can’t sit crosslegged, it hurts my knees!” he said.
The others sat crosslegged. They were behaving respectfully towards Mr. Somewhat Fat.
“Sitting crosslegged doesn’t suit me!” said Mr. Fat.
Riza knelt right across from them, on the kilim.
“Ahh, when you’re not used to it it’s hard, sir!”
“The best is a table and chair, sir!” said Battal. “But we’re not used to it! That seems difficult to us too…”
“Sir, a table and chair, or better an armchair, is both comfortable and good for your health! To achieve full blood circulation a person should sit in an armchair …”
Kir Abbas was sitting with one knee straight up and one knee bent. He searched Riza’s face. “Hey, who are these guys, Riza? What’s their business?”
Sitting on the floor all the time is pretty difficult if you’re not used to it. But my experience is that after a few weeks, you start wondering if a table is really all it’s cracked up to be. Here, Eren’s friends, relatives and special guests gather in his father’s house for dinner on Saturday night, before the hours of dancing to come on the last night of the wedding. The salad and soup first course shown here will be followed by plenty of bulgur, chicken meat, and probably some eggplant dish, with some baklava for dessert to celebrate the special occasion. All the women, downstairs working hard in the kitchen, will eat the leftovers once the men are done.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-1600, f/4, 1/30 sec.
For anyone wanting to get a broader picture of the modern side of Turkey: Lens Culture online magazine recently featured George Georgiou’s photo essay, Fault Lines: Turkey East to West. The first half of the essay features mostly some creative documentation of the clash between the urban and the rural as seen in some of the country’s newer buildings and towns. But don’t miss the second half, composed of street portraits of modern Turks in Istanbul’s trendy Taksim Square.