Friday, October 22, 2010

Touring Turkey a Country of Differences

Turkey is a lovely country of differences not found elsewhere.

For example, it is populated by an almost majority muslim population, but has managed to remain democratic and secular thanks to it's greatest leader, Mustaffa Kamel Attaturk and those who have followed.

Sharia Law hasn't taken over in Turkey as it has elsewhere, much to the detriment of those countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.

Some areas, particularly in the less advanced, traditional country areas are more Islamic than the more modern parts such as Ankara and Istanbul. There, women wear the typical head scarves and dress more modestly than those in the more enlightened areas. The enlightened population wears Western dress and conducts itself very much as we do, however, I did note that almost everyone smokes. The health message about smoking has obviously not been delivered in Turkish society.

Noted Islamic historian, Daniel Pipes discusses Turkish Islamism and why Turkey is a modern, advanced society (unlike most other muslim countries) in his excellent address at Perth, Australia in August 2010.

Turkey is a geographically large country with a population of around 73 million. Most people seem to live in apartments and very few stand-alone houses were visible during our extensive trip of about 3,000 km. The cities were much cleaner than those in Egypt, Syria, or Jordan, but less clean than most Australian cities.

The food in Turkey was excellent and plentiful and the Turkish beer, Efes, was also nice once I became accustomed to it.

When you live in a "new" Western country like Australia, it's humbling to visit a country with a history as long and complex as Turkey's.

At Cappadocia (see photo one) there are thousands of sandstone mounds which ancient peoples have carved into to make dwellings. Mosques are plentiful, as would be expected and the Blue Mosque at Istanbul is one of the more historic mosques. Christina is seen entering the Blue Mosque in photo two. I had seen enough mosques and didn't want to take my shoes off yet again, so I remained outside to take the photo.

We made some new friends during our tour which included several other Australians, some Americans and Canadians. The photo of me (Robin) with Alec, a police officer from the USA, was taken at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, another excellent historical site that is huge.

Overall, the tour of Turkey was excellent. Our Turkish guide was well organised, very personable and humorous and had an in-depth knowledge of Islam, Turkish society and history. Our coach driver was miraculous being able to zoom between cars, park in spots just a tad bigger than the coach, and remain safe while taking us from place to place.

Of all the places, the Ataturk Memorial at Ankara was my favourite. It's huge with hundreds of artifacts and of beautiful stone construction. It demonstrates the love Turkish people have for their great leader who was obviously not only a leader, but a visionary. We need more people like him today.

We visited Gallipoli while here and remembered all the Australian and NZ men who had died defending the British Empire during the First World War. So many graves. So much wasted potential on both sides. It was a bit sad, but the saddest thing is that we haven't learnt from our mistakes. It seems that we are destined to keep creating the same mistakes over and over ... man's inhumanity to man seems to have no bounds.

Now of course, Australia and most other Western countries have a new enemy, one that works from within and without and must be defeated if we are not to lose our freedom and democracy.

I wonder what historians will have to say about those of us who live in the 20th Century once we have all returned to the dust from whence we came? Sadly, you and I will never know.


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