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A guide to living in Istanbul

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Friday, 30 November 2012

Sexy Turkish TV infuriates PM

Turkish drama Magnificent Century, which a New York Times blogger described as "a sort of Ottoman-era 'Sex and the City'", is hugely popular in Turkey and the Middle East.

The TV show is set during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and depicts the sultan cavorting in the altogether with various nubile ladies in his harem (one of which eventually became his wife) - as well as heralding in a new political and cultural era for his Turkish homeland, of course. 

The show's ratings are through the roof, with 150 million tuning in to watch each week. But there's one Turk who won't be tuning in each Friday for new installments: PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan is so annoyed at the way the sultan is depicted he has urged legal action against the series.

The Sultan takes time out from his busy harem schedule to pose for publicity shots for The Magnificent Century.

Last weekend Erdogan forcefully denounced the historical soap opera, bizarrely bringing up Turkey's recent contentious foreign policy, saying that people "ask why we are dealing with the affairs of Iraq, Syria and Gaza. They know our fathers and ancestors through ‘Magnificent Century,’ but we don’t know such a Suleiman. He spent 30 years on horseback, not in the palace, not what you see in that series.”

Erdogan said that the series director and the owner of the television channel that broadcasts the show had been warned, and that judicial authorities had been alerted. “Those who toy with these values should be taught a lesson within the premises of law,” the Hurriyet news reported him as saying.

Critics - including cultural spokespeople and political rivals - have struck back at Erdogan, accusing him of censorship and cultural authoritarianism. One rival, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party Muharrem Ince, claimed that Erdogan was acting like a sultan - and determined to be the only sultan in the country.

 Turkey's culture and tourism ministry has also waded into the dispute, claiming that soap operas like The Magnificent Century generate millions of dollars for Turkey.

Erdogan's governing party, which has strong Islamic roots, has been championing the Ottoman Empire and bring its culture into national consciousness. 

 Even the sultan's descendants had something to say. Son of the last Ottoman prince Osman Selahddin said that while he didn't appreciate the way the sultan was depicted, he wasn't too fazed as he knew it was a work of fiction. “I am following the series,” he said. “But I don’t take it seriously since it is only a soap opera.”

No stranger to controversy, when the show first aired last January it received 70,000 complaints. The Supreme Board of Radio and Television said that the channel broadcasting the series had exposed "the privacy of a historical dead person" and should apologise to the public.

 At the time, Erdogan said the show was disrespectful, and “an effort to show our history in a negative light to the younger generations.”

Suleiman the Magnificient reigned from 1520 to 1566 is remembered as a brave warrior and astute statesman.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Arabs flock to Turkey for moustache implants

The Hurriyet Daily News has reported that Arabs are travelling to Turkey in droves in search of moustache implants. 

Coveting the hairy lips sported by actors in their favourite Turkish television programmes, hairless Middle Eastern politicians and businessmen are turning up to clinics with pictures of their favourite stars and demanding their moustaches.

Kadir İnanır and İbrahim Tatlıses sport two of the most sought-after mos in the Arab world.

Turkey's already made a name for itself with hair implants, with clients combining a new head of hair with a bit of light tourism.

Doctor Selahattin Tulunay, who has been working in the hair implant industry for three decades, claims that moustache implants are now as popular as hair implants. “Every month we have about 60 applications for beard and hair implants,” he said.

Tulunay says Arab policicians believe that moustaches add charisma - a valuable tool during election campaigning.

"Our patients book tourists packages and while they have the implants, their families are able to vacation in Turkey, thereby contributing to Turkey’s tourism sector,” Tulunay said, adding that his clinic had signed deals with Dubai and Iraq agencies, as well as opening offices in Europe.

“We have applicants from Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Germany, France and Ireland who move to Turkey for hair, moustache and beard implants. Whether they are from Western Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, or South Korea, we there is serious demand for hair and moustache implants,” he said. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

10 ways to avoid causing offence in Turkey

While Turks are generally friendly and welcoming to anyone holidaying in their country or buying a permanent home in Turkey, it’s good to be forewarned before you go about what’s culturally acceptable. Our handy guide lays out the do’s and don’ts of Turkish etiquette.

Experts believe that up to 90 per cent of communication is conveyed through body language, which is why it’s important to know the cultural differences in the way we use gestures.

1. No sole

In Turkey it’s considered rude to expose the sole of your foot so it’s facing another person. Turks tend to sit cross-legged in social gatherings, and Westerners who aren’t used to this may need to stretch a foot out now and again. If you do, make sure the sole of your foot is facing the floor.

2. Don't point the finger

It’s considered impolite to point at another person. Use your whole hand or nod politely in the direction of the person you’re indicating.

3. Yes, no, maybe

Just like we do, Turks nod their heads to indicate yes. However, shaking your head as we do to say ‘no’ tells people you don’t understand. Saying ‘no’ in Turkey involves tipping your head back once while raising your eyebrows.

4. Public displays of affection

Canoodling with your loved one will probably earn you a eye rolls back home. But in Turkey it’s inappropriate to show more than simple displays of affection (holding hands etc) towards a partner.

5. Personal hygiene

Don’t pick your teeth or blow your nose in public. Head to the nearest bathroom.

6. Visiting mosques

There are many, many mosques in Turkey, ranging from small places of worship to grandiose, beautiful structures. If you get the chance to visit one it’s well worth it. Don’t be intimidated – Turks will welcome you and tell you about their customs. However, make sure you remove your shoes before entering. Wear modest dress, with all limbs covered, and women must cover their hair. Speak quietly and do not walk in front of anyone who is praying. Don’t take pictures – it’s disrespectful. If in doubt, just watch what others around you are doing.

7. Come on!

In the western world we hold our hand palm up and waggle our fingers to say ‘come with me’. In Turkey, this gesture’s a little rude. Instead, turn your hand upside down so your palm is facing the floor, and make the same waggling motion.

8. Dinner time

If you’re eating at someone’s home, make sure you clean your plate. Leaving food is offensive. (This shouldn’t be difficult when Turkish food is so delicious). When finished, line your knife and fork up together on the plate. Never eat with your left hand, it’s not considered clean.

Make sure you have a full wallet if you’re inviting people out: it’s not traditional to separate the bill in Turkey, and the person who does the inviting picks up the check. If you’re taken out for a meal, it’s polite to return the gesture.

9. Meet and greet

Shake hands with the elders of a group first, and keep going until you’ve shaken the hand of everyone in the room. Relatives and friends get a kiss on the cheek. When you’re invited to someone’s home, make sure you turn up on time and bring an inexpensive gift (flowers like roses or carnations always go down well). Remove your shoes before going inside.

10. Business matters

When meeting someone for business matters, be careful not to schedule anything inside Ramadam, or during Turkish holidays (see herefor 2013’s public holidays). 

Becoming acquainted with the person you’re working with is crucial, and the first meeting will be devoted to getting to know each other and discussing subjects like family, Turkish history and sports. Make sure you avoid politics.

Maintain eye contact as it shows honesty. Print out all information in Turkish as well as English, and supply lots of visual aids. Prepare to wait for any big decisions – Turks don’t like to decide important matters quickly. Something else to watch out for is that an outrageous suggestion may be made in the early stages of discussion to see how well you’ll respond to negotiation.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

1000 fanatic Turkish fans greet Man U at airport

Around 1000 Galatasaray football fans crowded into Istanbul's Ataturk Airport to greet the Manchester United team ahead of their match.

The enthusiastic fans attempted to force their way to the team, who had to leave the building through another terminal. Police subdued the crowd with tear gas.

Galatasaray's enthusiastic fans.
 Galatasaray's director Abdurrahim Albayrak urged the fans to stay on their best behaviour. "We had to welcome our opponents warmly, not in that way. After my reminder, our supporters understood the importance of welcome and calmed down. "[Manchester United] hosted us with respect and our first aim is to repay their hospitality." 

Alex Ferguson commented that the greeting wasn't as "frightening" as 1993's entrance, when Man United were welcomed with banners proclaiming "Welcome to Hell".

"We have been here a few times now, though, and are now used to the Turkish atmosphere. It is fanatical, but it is no issue for us."

Friday, 16 November 2012

Internet = Apocalypse?

A Turkish university rector has claimed that the Internet is "The Beast of the Last Days" and is a sign that the judgement is on its way.

Nevzat Tarhan, of Uskukar University, came out with this bonkers assertion during a speech to Marama University's Theology Faculty - who are probably all at home hiding under their beds right now.

This multiple-headed beast has nothing on the Internet.
Tarhan drew parallels between the Internet and the Beast of the Last Days, saying that they both "exist everywhere and writhe on the ground", referring to the way internet connections pass through fiber-optic cables.

The phrase "Beast of the Last Days" appears in the Qur'an, and theologians are divided as to what it actually looks like.

However, the Beast is supposed to appear after the sun rises in the West. So I think Mr Tarhan could do with a cup of tea and a lie down.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Turkish TV shows 'aren't real', says scholar

And the award for the most patronising statement of the week goes to: Professor Erhan Afyoncu, who has informed Turks that historical dramas may not be 100% accurate.

Professor Afyoncu was speaking about the hugely popular television series Muhtesem Yuzyil (The Magnificent Century), which fictionalises lives of some of Turkey's most famous sultans. 

Historical dramas, such as ‘Muhteşem Yüzyıl’ (The Magnificent Century), are fictionalized accounts of the lives of sultans rather than historically accurate documentaries, according to academics.
The Magnificent Century may not actually be 100% factual.

“Turkish people confuse the idea of TV series and documentary. A TV series is a different thing than a documentary,” the professor stated. 

Afyoncu, who is a professor on the board of the Ataturk High Institute of Culture Language and History, as well as a former consultant for 'The Magnificent Century', said that it was necessary to "create a fiction" around the known events from history.

Despite saying that there wasn't enough historical material to work from, the professor said that TV shows needed to respect the secrets of the past. "Otherwise, it is disrespectful to the private life of the Ottoman sultans." And if anyone needs protecting, it's those who have been dead for hundreds of years. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A feel-good Fethiye story

This very sweet story from the Fethiye Times is a reminder that there is good in the world amongst the bad.

Another reason to move to Fethiye - as if you needed one!