“Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase.”
— Charles Caleb Colton
Unlike corruption, ethnic bigotry, national chauvinism or dubious coup attempts, snow is growing rarer in Istanbul, but one day in early 2015, it didn’t seem to interrupt the usual activities of the city’s birds, fish or fishermen. A few dogs seemed on edge, and cat sightings were rarer, but otherwise it was business as usual.
I spent about two months in Turkey in the winter of 2014/15, mostly because I wanted to visit while it was still hospitable for U.S. citizens. Numerous people I spoke with in Istanbul mentioned exiled-to-the-U.S. Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and the “parallel state” he was suspected of operating within Turkey. The eerily unvarying invocation of this exact phrase made me wonder then how manufactured or propagandistic a concept it was, and later, in 2016, to what extent Erdogan was exaggerating and scapegoating real and perceived enemies in order to orchestrate a political advantage for himself while whipping up unifying enemies for the country to hate.
Of course, a majority of Turks don’t need much help when it comes to being hypernationalistic and disliking other people and nations… Continue reading →
According to F., you can safely skip the much-recommended Turkish baths (hamam) in Suleymaniye. Besides the fact that they’ll cost you a minimum of 90 Turkish lira (about $45 right now), with scrub-downs or special treatments costing extra, the environment’s not particularly interesting. It’s a tourist trap. Other, less touristy hamams might be better.
Once you take your shoes off and give them to your appropriately covered partner to carry in her backpack, you can walk through and appreciate the 400-year-old Blue Mosque‘s majestic lapiz lazuli-lined interior design, or the sight of Muslims from all parts of the world coming to appreciate its grandeur and feel closer to their god. Though it’s not the point of the place, it’s also amazing to see how much personal style can be expressed in the modest yet highly varied dress of Muslim women.
Or, if you’re like the guy in the picture above, maybe you can get just the right selfie or check your text messages. Continue reading →