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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Istanbul's conquest celebrated with a bang!

The 558th anniversary of Istanbul’s conquest was celebrated with a laser, light and water show in the Golden Horn on Sunday.

The celebration started with voice and light shows before continuing with a movie, “The Conquest of Istanbul,” which was projected on a water curtain.

The show took place on a platform made especially for the conquest celebration in Balat. The show included Mehter musicians from Janissary bands re-enacting the conquest and Mehmed the Conqueror’s entrance into the city.

The event concluded with a firework, light and laser show.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Bomb blast rocks Istanbul

A bomb exploded yesterday in Istanbul’s upscale Etiler neighbourhood, wounding eight people including one police officer.

According to Istanbul’s Police Chief, the blast was caused by a medium-strength bomb that was mounted on an electric bicycle near a bus stop in the Etiler neighbourhood. The blast has been described as the work of a terrorist organisation by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The eight people wounded in the explosion were sent to hospitals in the surrounding area. Meanwhile, the blast also damaged a public bus and a private vehicle passing by, as well as several buildings. Traffic in Etiler was reopened after the police and security forces completed their investigation in the area.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Turkish director wins Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan picked up the prestigious Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for his most recent work, “Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da” (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia).

Whiles Ceylan is no stranger to winning awards at the Cannes Film Festival, he was as humble as ever saying ‘“Thank you for selecting my long and difficult movie one more time,” adding that he did not expect to win the prize.

Ceylan’s first short film, “Koza” (Cocoon), was screened in the 1995 Cannes Film Festival; his third feature, “Uzak” (Distant), received many awards including the Grand Jury Prize and the Best Actor Prize at Cannes in 2003. Again in 2006, his film “İklimler” (Climates), won the FIPRESCI Movie Critics’ Award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, while the filmmaker also picked up Cannes’ best director award at the 2008 edition for “Üç Maymun” (Three Monkeys).

Monday, 23 May 2011

The internet, a politician’s worst nightmare

Six senior politicians in Turkey's opposition Nationalist Action Party (MHP) have resigned amid a sex scandal; the six, including four vice-presidents, quit after sex videos were published online and amid threats to publish more compromising videos.

One of the six MHP leaders who resigned on Saturday said he had been the victim of a trap sponsored by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP. "I am resigning to spare my party the damage such allegations might cause," he said.
Last year, the head of the main opposition party, the secularist Republican People's Party, resigned over a similar scandal after bedroom images of him and a female MP were posted on the internet.

Based on previous incidents, it would seem the internet is a Turkish politicians’ worst nightmare but they still fail to learn from their mistakes; prosecutors have failed so far to find out who filmed and posted that video.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Number of smokers drops in Turkey

The number of smokers has dropped significantly in Turkey since the government imposed a ban on indoor smoking three years ago according to data from the Ministry of Health.

Turkey prohibited smoking on May 19, 2008, in workplaces and indoor public spaces. The ban was later extended to bars, cafés and restaurants in a move that brought laws in Turkey, one of the biggest tobacco consumers in the world, in line with legislation in Western Europe and North America.

It’s been three years since the ban was imposed; the rate of smoke addiction among men now stands at 40.7 percent, down from 47.9 percent and 13.8 percent among women, down from 15.7 percent.

The rate of indoor exposure to smoke also gone down from 38.5 percent to 14.9 percent, the rate of exposure to smoke fell from 55.9 percent to 13.9 in restaurants, from 16.5 percent to 10 percent on public transportation and from 11.3 percent to 7.4 percent in public buildings.

However there is only a slight drop in the number of people who believe smoking causes serious health problems, from 97.3 percent in 2008 to 96.2 in 2010.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Morality, a confusing issue in Turkey!

There’s always been an issue about what is considered morally acceptable and not in Turkey meaning producers of creative work are put on a tight leash.

H &M have had to remove its summer ad campaigns which featured swimsuit and bikini-clad models from Istanbul’s billboards and bus stops because they had been vandalized with spray paint.

The company said it pulled the ads not because of official criticism or threats but because of criticism levelled at the advertising company; ‘it did not want to upset the authorities and the public’.

Also word around Istanbul is that the police have been going round removing two seat sofas to prevent couples from sitting together in public. Cafe owners near certain parts of bustling İstiklal Avenue said ‘when we came to open up our cafe one morning a week ago, we realized some seats were missing. The municipal police had removed 12 of our two-person seats and taken them to a storage depot in Kasımpaşa without notifying us.”

I would like to think the police have better things to do with their time than to remove café chairs in the name of moral conduct.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Top 10 reasons to visit Turkey

Beyond the sun, sea and popular resorts, Turkey still has so much to offer; there are dozens of places offering an array of outdoor activities, historical wonders and small glimpses of paradise.

The recent Middle East unrest has deterred visitors and experts believe Turkey is where most tourists will end up. Tourist numbers to Turkey are expected to increase by three million, to 31 million this year meaning overcrowding could become a problem; this is the perfect time to skip the usual tourist pursuits and do something different.

The Princes Islands, Istanbul
These are a group of tranquil and car-free islands located a short ferry-ride from Istanbul. Four islands are inhabited and the biggest islands, Buyukada and Heybeliada, are the most popular for visitors. You can explore them and view their multi-storeyed 19th-century wooden houses at a leisurely pace by bicycle or horse-drawn carriage – the only transport on the islands.

Alacati, Cesme
When descending into Alacati on the Aegean coast, the stone windmills spied on the azure horizon offer a reminder of the flour-making industry that once flourished here. It has become a popular place for windsurfers; the whitewashed old buildings and cobbled streets have received a facelift making it the perfect place to unwind and sample the local life.

This peaceful yachters’ haven is equipped with several marinas, excellent seafood restaurants, friendly service and fabulous shops selling indigenous jewellery, crafts and clothes. You will spend a little more than usual here but you will get quality for money.

Kas is a fishing town of 6,000 people at the heart of the Lycian Way on the southwestern Mediterranean coast. Kas offers kayaking and canoeing trips to the sunken Lycian ruins and its pristine waters and varied coastline has made it Turkey’s top spot for diving.

For the adventurous landlubbers, the Taurus Mountains which tower above the town are the perfect place for mountain -biking, rock-climbing, trekking and canyoning.

The Kackar Mountains
Far away from the Mediterranean on the Black Sea coast is Trabzon, the gateway to the Kackar Mountains, one of Turkey’s best kept secrets.

The Kackars remind one of being in the Alps and the Himalayas all rolled in one. There are verdant green valleys, with rushing rivers flowing through them, pine forests and steep rocky mountains with ridges pock-marked by large glacial lakes.It’s a paradise for trekkers, mountain-bikers, ramblers and nature lovers of every description.

Whether it’s to marvel at the fairy chimneys made of volcanic rock, go white-water rafting in its rushing rivers, descend into the multi-storey underground cities or squeeze into a hermit’s cave in an early Christian monastery, there is plenty in Cappadocia to sate the appetite of the curious traveller.

Also, hot air balloon rides have become legendary here as the views of the lunar-type landscape are fabulous.

This is a nature-lover’s paradise perched on a clifftop on the Lycian Way; Kabak has blossomed from one tranquil hippy den to dozens of little paradises ranging from wooden huts to five-star hotels with swimming pools, it is a place to get away from it all.

Patara boasts some of the most impressive and important ruins of the Lycian, Hellenistic and Roman period which take a considerable amount of time to explore properly.

It also has the most luxurious white sandy beach which is a huge attraction for visitors to the area during the summer months.

Go back in time in Sanliurfa in one of Turkey’s most authentic covered bazaars, admire Hasankeyf’s ancient cave dwellings and visit Mardin’s Deyrulzafaran monastery where services are still held in Aramaic.

No visit to this area would be complete, of course, without ascending Mount Nemrut and marvelling at the giant statues that King Antiochus had carved out of stone of himself and pagan gods transforming the mountain top into a gigantic tomb.

Medical tourism
Turkey has gradually become popular for medical tourism so why not combine your holiday with a low cost medical procedure?

Procedures from simple dentistry to plastic surgery can be carried out in private or public clinics around the country or in JCI (Joint Commission International) accredited hospitals.

So if you want to have shiny teeth and get a little nip and tuck before you head off to the beach, it seems Turkey just might be the recession-friendly place to do it.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Turkey to build two new cities

Turkey Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced plans to build two new cities near Istanbul, one on the European side and the other on the Anatolian side.

Erdogan announced his new project two weeks after he unveiled his "crazy project" Canal Istanbul, a new waterway for Istanbul to link the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea with the aim of reducing maritime traffic on Istanbul Strait.

Erdogan said the new city on European side will be home to one of world's largest airports with the capacity to host 60 million passengers a year. The new city will be designed as a commercial hub with ports, marinas, and new sports complexes.

According to Erdogan, construction works for the two new cities will begin one year after the parliamentary elections scheduled for June 12.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Hilton Garden Inn opens 3rd hotel in Turkey

Hilton Worldwide announced the opening of a Hilton Garden Inn in the south eastern province of Şanlıurfa; it is the latest addition to the company’s growing Turkish portfolio.

The hotel is located within walking distance of Şanlıurfa Castle, in the heart of the city center, the vibrant bazaar, and the “Pool of the Sacred Fish” (Balıklıgöl), all of which are popular local visitor attractions.

Hilton Garden Inn Şanlıurfa offers 159 bedrooms, including six suites, a contemporary designed lobby, 24-hour business center and complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access throughout the hotel. The hotel is located 35 kilometers from Şanlıurfa airport, which connects with both Istanbul and Ankara airports.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Be Muslim for a month in Istanbul

A social enterprise is offering individuals the opportunity to immerse themselves in Islam, without having to convert, through a trip to Istanbul that takes in the regular sights and sounds but also includes prayers at dawn and midnight and lessons on Islam and its basic practices.

This package holiday is run by the Blood Foundation ; it offers bed, board, instruction and sightseeing for £600. The whole idea works along the lines of ‘Make Me a Muslim’, shown on Channel 4 I 2007 or the BBC's– The ‘Retreat’ but without the cameras.

In addition to praying and fasting, participants will forsake alcohol and pork, smoking however is permitted. They will also be expected to carry out pre-prayer ablutions, mastering the art of hoiking their feet into a washbasin as part of the process.

The Blood Foundation also has other programs like ‘Monk for a Month’, where people spend time in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

This is not your average holiday but if you are fascinated with or want to learn more about Islam, the Muslim for a Month program might be for you.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Turkish Grand Prix on its last legs?

The fourth round of the 2011 Formula One World Championship takes place this coming weekend in Turkey, just outside Istanbul.

There has been a lot of tensions surrounding the Turkish Grand Prix this year with insiders certain this will be its final year.

Reported disputes between F1 owner Bernie Ecclestone and Turkish organizers over the costs associated with the event is being blamed for the demise of one of the biggest events in Turkey.
According to widely reported statements, disputes arose primarily when F1 owner Ecclestone doubled the race licensing fee from 8 million pounds to 16 million.

This lead to İstanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) head Murat Yalçıntaş tweeting “It looks like the Formula One race will not be held in İstanbul next year.” He has reportedly confirmed it was the excessive increase in price that led to the decision; the Ministry of Finance has been footing the bill since the inception of the Turkish Grand Prix.

So will the Turkish Grand Prix stay or go? There’s been no official confirmation yet but F1 fans are advised to enjoy this weekend’s event in case it is turns out to be the final one. The entire time table is listed below.

Local Time (GMT +3)

Thursday 5th May
15:00: FIA press conference

Friday 6th May
10:00 – 11:30 – First free practice
14:00 – 15:30 – Second free practice
16:00 – FIA press conference

Saturday 7th May
11:00 – 12:00 – Third free practice
14:00 – 15:00 – Qualifying
15:00 – FIA post qualifying press conference

Sunday 8th May
15:00 – 17:00 – Turkish GP
17:00 – FIA post-race press conference

UK Time (BST/GMT+1)
Thursday 5th May
13:00: FIA press conference

Friday 6th May
08:00 – 09:30 – First free practice
12:00 – 13:30 – Second free practice
14:00 – FIA press conference

Saturday 7th May
09:00 – 10:00 – Third free practice
12:00 – 13:00 – Qualifying
13:00 – FIA post qualifying press conference

Sunday 8th May
13:00 – 15:00 – Turkish GP
15:00 – FIA post-race press conference

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Cappadocia tourism redefined by balloon tours

For years tourism in Cappadocia has been centred around the fairy chimneys but now the trend is changing; demand is now focused on hot-air balloon tours.

Tourists from all over the world visit Cappadocia specifically for the hot-air balloon tours, the balloon rises to 1,000 or 1,500 feet and allows passengers to see Cappadocia’s landscape and get a closer view of the fairy chimneys.

The balloon has a varied capacity of 3 to 36 passengers and can vary in length from 45 minutes to one and a half hours. The average price for the tours varies between 100 and 200 euros.