Fact or Fiction: Turkey
It’s already been two weeks since I was in Turkey and I’m still digesting everything I did, saw and experienced. It’ll take a little longer to put together a post-trip guide, but there are a few things I wanted to share now while they are still fresh in my mind.
Beehive Houses in Harran, Turkey
Is it safe?
Many people thought I was crazy for wanting to visit to Turkey. Concerns ranged from the ignorant (“Aren’t you worried about going to a Muslim country?”) to the informed (“ISIS has a strong presence along Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq”).
In deciding whether or not to actually book the trip, I spent a lot of time researching potential tour companies, picked four that I felt were reputable and emailed each of them to ask for additional information. As it worked out, I only received one response. It was from Jodie at Turkish Heritage Travel, and we continued to correspond on a near daily basis until I finally left for Turkey.
While in Turkey, I can tell you that at no point did I feel any danger, and we were on a tour through the southeastern region not too far from the border. In fact, on a clear day you could see Syria from some of the places we visited.
If you are considering a trip to this region, I highly recommend joining a tour or hiring a guide. When you go this far east, English speakers were few and far between. Everyone we met was kind, gracious and hospitable, but I just don’t know how I would have managed without a local to lead the way. The decision is of course ultimately up to you. If you are really nervous given all the news coming out of the area at the moment, maybe this isn’t the best itinerary for you. The most important thing is to talk to the local guides and tour companies before booking anything. They can give you an idea of what the situation is like on the ground.
Each cultural group within Turkey has it’s own unique design and color scheme
Yes, it’s a Diverse, Muslim Country
The international community often uses Turkey as an example of a moderate, democratic, Muslim country and a model for other countries in the region. Like any democracy, Turkey has it’s share of problems for sure, but walk around any number of cities and you’ll see people from all walks of life, dressed in all styles.
In Istanbul, it won’t come as a surprise, but the same was true in Cappadocia and Nemrut. I spent the run up to my trip wondering and worrying if I had appropriate pants and loose, comfortable clothing. In reality, I probably worried more than necessary.
So what should you wear when traveling to Turkey? As a woman, wearing a maxi dress or skirt and capri or full length pants are perfectly appropriate. On top, as long as your shoulders are covered you are fine – short and long sleeved shirts are all perfectly acceptable. What about the guys? Honestly, it didn’t seem to matter. My best advice would be to avoid any overly flashy logos and brands, just so you’re not drawing unnecessary attention to yourself.
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Seeing burkas en Masse
This was my first time in a Muslim country. I understood that there would likely be many women wearing burkas. In fact, I have seen them from time to time here in New York. However, the sheer number of women wearing burkas was not something I was prepared to see before arriving.
The funniest part was that not one, but two tour guides I was with both made comments implying that most of the women wearing the burkas were actually either Saudi visitors or Syrian refugees. That somehow real Turkish women can feel free to express themselves with their clothing – whether it is Western style clothing or beautiful and colorful headscarves.
Seeing women walk around in burkas with nothing but their eyes visible while their husbands are in shorts and t-shirts – many of which were too small to fit over their round stomachs – ignited an anger in me that I never knew was there.
We could all probably benefit from dressing more modestly and practicing a bit more humility. Don’t worry, the irony that this is coming from someone who writes what is essentially a vanity blog has not been lost on me. Seeing all these women walking around in burkas, I got a very clear message that I should feel ashamed of myself and that just does not sit right with me and my admittedly Western values.
I’d rather not end on a sour note like that, especially because Turkey was one of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had to date. Instead, my final thoughts: Turkish people proved to be some of the most charming and hospitable people I’ve ever met and a country that is home to some of the world’s oldest and most important history!