City suspended between dream and reality
1. Some brief historical notes
A trip to Turkey is not just any trip, but the trip par excellence! Istanbul, then, is a magical place, a surprising and dichotomous city with its ultra-modern steel bridges suspended over the Bosphorus, like arched dancers, joining the two opposite banks on which it stands. Not any two banks, but of two continents (Europe and Asia), divided by the Bosphorus, an ancient river in a distant past, today a lush expanse of water with sumptuous palaces along its banks.
Istanbul: a dream suspended between East and West, once a crossroads of all paths caravan, which branched off from there towards the Silk Road. Still today spices, perfumes and merchandiseof all kinds are concentrated in its navel: the Old Bazar or, in Turkish, Kapalıçarşı.
With its history layered over the millennia, Istanbul has brought about a diversification of cultures heterogeneous, a jumble of religions and races, always in peaceful coexistence with each other.
Secularism was introduced in Turkey mainly by the revolution led by Mustafa
Kemal Atatürk (Thessaloniki, 19 May 1881 - Istanbul, 10 November 1938), a Turkish military and politician.
After deposing Sultan Muhammad VI (1922), he became Head of the Popular Party Republican, he founded the Turkish Republic, and was elected President of Turkey on October 29, 1923.
The so-called Kemalism, which took its name from him, is nothing more than a westernization of Turkey, a those times very backward and isolated from the European and world context.
Kemal, in fact, was the architect of some important reforms: gender equality; the prohibition of the use of the veil Islamic to women in public places (law abolished in 2000 by the AKP government); universal suffrage; the adoption of the Latin alphabet and the Gregorian calendar; of the metric system; the prohibition the use of the fez and the turban as connotating the past regime, as well as the beard for officials public and a squat mustache for the military.
In essence, his radical reform opposed the Muslim clergy placed under state control, thus securing the state with the abolition of the caliphate, but keeping Islam as the national religion for not to create political turmoil and discontent among the most fundamentalist population.
Considered the father of modern Turkey, as well as a Turkish national hero, celebrated in many monuments, like the one in the center of Taksim Square, today his figure has been partly clouded by the advent of RecepTayyip Erdoğan, current President of the Republic since 2014 and advocate of a more marked Islamization.
His request for Turkey's entry into Europe, however, was frozen due to multiple problems internal and external (Kurds, human rights, etc.) and non-compliance with the so-called "Copenhagen Criteria", established by the European Council of Copenhagen in 1993. It therefore appears very problematic that Turkey enter, immediately, to be part of the EU.
2. Uses and customs
How to dress so as not to offend the susceptibility of the more traditionalists
The coexistence of several cultures, often opposed, makes Turkey unbalanced between a sense marked by modernity and the need to remain attached to its historical roots.
In this hybridism, the spearhead for modernity is certainly represented by Istanbul in which, however, more souls and more facets coexist.
Immediately after Atatürk and before the advent of Erdoğan, it was forbidden for women to hold positions public wearing the veil. Today something has changed and more veiled women can be seen for
street and offices. The fact remains that many women, more or less young, dress to the west, especially in the more modern areas of the city, but it is true that a crawling one fundamentalism seems to have crept in almost everywhere, especially in the older neighborhoods and crumbling or in those with a more marked religious tradition, such as the neighborhoods of
Fatih, Vader and Balat.
The latter, certainly the most characteristic and rich in history of all Istanbul, are included in the list of Unesco heritage. But, nevertheless, the tourism machine that massifies everything and grinds between its stereotyped gears, it brings less than 1% of the tourists it usually does visit the city.
The image of the latter, which is proposed by most, is the tourist one, created and channeled along the obligatory tourist routes of the beating heart of Byzantine and Ottoman Istanbul:
Sultanhamet, Aya Sofya, the Hippodrome, the Cisternone, the Covered Bazaar, etc.
In the three districts mentioned, which are located within the walls of the old city, west of Eminönü and overlook the Golden Horn, different populations and religions have succeeded each other, blending into the urban fabric and giving life to various artistic expressions with architectural connotations juxtaposed in a labyrinth of alleys and unique landscape views.
From this hybridism of styles and customs an unmistakable wealth of cultural, gastronomic and architectural heritage has arisen. In a maze of streets and houses, the tourist: it is difficult for him to orient himself in identifying monuments or mosques if he is not accompanied by a guide or a local expert. But I invite you to look out, without fear of any dangers, in those neighborhoods, in particular in Fatih, certainly one of the most “conservative” in Istanbul, and wandering along its streets dreaming of the life of a past time.
I recommend venturing along its intertwining streets, entering the monumental mosque, to discover the true soul of Istanbul, not the one pre-packaged by mass tourism.
However, it is necessary to always respect the rule of common sense and not to dress in an eccentric or too low-necked manner in order not to attract the scowling glances of the most fundamentalist people.
The same rule also applies to any mosque, not just in Fatih. The other basic rules, I believe known, are to remove your shoes before entering the mosque, placing them on special external shelves placed in plain sight in front of the entrance; cover your head (only for women) with a veil or a Turkish scarf (beautiful ones are sold around, even in silk), and do not remain in shorts or bare arms (in this case it is advisable to wear one of those long dresses that are loaned to tourists before entering the mosque).
In short, one must let oneself be guided by prudence, without performing on useless catwalks in order not to hurt the susceptibility of more fundamentalist people.
The mosque is a place considered sacred by Muslims, like our churches, where no one would dream of entering with shorts or excessive necklines. Sometimes we cover our heads
with us, although it has long been the custom for women to go bareheaded.
Following simple rules helps us to circulate quietly in some more conservative neighborhoods, dispelling unnecessary apprehensions or clichés, ape by tourists by chance.
Article by Franca Colozzo
Taken from articles published on www.travelforbusiness (Turin) and on Amazon by Passerino Editore:
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