Project Description

15. Sayı

Set in Stone


15. Sayı


Ocak 2006

A lively new year looks to be in store as far as Turkey’s internetional relations are concerned. Within the first ten days of 2006, Ankara played host first to the charismatic president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and then to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan, Whose genial conduct undoubtedly made a positive impression on Turkish public opinion.

The lively nature of Turkey’s international ties has also been underlined by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül. In an exclusive statement to DİPLOMAT this month, Foreign Minister Gül draws up a balance sheet of last years’s work, concluding that 2005 was a “good year” for Turkish policy. He goes on to explain his priorities, expectations and projects for 2006.

DİPLOMAT’s “Interview” page, meanwhile, introduces Dr Muzaffer Eryılmaz, mayor of the Çankaya urban district, which is home to all Ankara’s institutions of government and embassies. Mayor Eryılmaz gives details of the district in which most of us live, and speaks of the services which the municipality is providing and plans to provide. He does not omit to mention to co-operation between the municipality and foreign embassies.

On our travel pages we cross the Arabina peninsula to Oman to draw your attention to the unique attractions of a country which is starting to take great strides in the field of tourism, and which promises to become as sought-after destination before too many years have passed.

How much do you know about Hattusha? A place of settlement for 8,000 years and capital city of to Hittites between 1600 and 1200 BCE, it is on of Turkey’s nine World Heritage sites. Visiting the area today, it is impossible not to marvel at what remains of the achievements of this remarkable civilisation.

Hattusha is just 200km from Ankara. If you should find yourself there one day, why not push on for another 100km and take a look at Amasya? If you need any further persuasion, then turn to our article on this intriguing historic city.

Another of Turkey’s most famous painters, Mustafa Ayaz, is features under our Arts rubric this month. A master of abstraction, he is best known for illustrations of women.

Finally, on the gastronomic front, we take a leisurely trip in time to the kitchens of the Ottoman Palace and briefly visit a few of Ankara’s fish restaurants. Both articles may help you discover new venues.

Wishing you all healthy, happy and successful year in 2006

Kaya Dorsan
Publisher and editor-in-chief


Turkish Foreign Policy:

  • 2005 in retrospect
  • Prospects for the year ahead 

by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah GÜL

In the following article, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül outlines some of the main achievements of Turkish foreign policy in 2005, reviews the state of Turkey’s relations with its major partners. He goes on to explain some of Ankara’s priorities for the coming year, ranging from the Cyprus issue to the Alliance of Civilisations and from energy cooperation to the fight against terrorism.

2005 was a good year for Turkish Foreign Policy.

EU accession negotiations started as of 3 October 2005. This was a historic development towards the objective of full membership.

Turkey, together with Spain, has become the co-sponsor of the “Alliance of Civilizations” initiative launched by the Secretary General of the United Nations. The aim is to provide a significant added value to the ongoing efforts for promoting cooperation and harmony among different cultures.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline was officially inaugurated. It constitutes the first leg of the energy corridor that will link the East and the West via Turkey. The first oil from the pipeline is scheduled to be delivered to world markets from Ceyhan in early 2006.

The resumption of the Middle East Peace Process has provided us with new responsibilities and opportunities which we seized through several bilateral and trilateral initiatives. The new tripartite platform of Turkish, Israeli and Palestinian businessmen to promote economic and commercial relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a case in point.

The Democracy Assistance Dialogue which we co-sponsor together with Italy and Yemen has been put into action in Istanbul by a meeting on the empowerment of women in public life and it has since become a truly supporting element for the ongoing reform efforts in the region.

Turkey assumed the command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF VII) in Afghanistan for a second time between February and August 2005. Prime Minister Erdoğan paid a landmark official visit to Afghanistan, the first visit at this level in more than 30 years.

For the very first time in the history of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Secretary General was appointed through a democratic election process as a result of which a prominent Turkish professor has taken the helm of the Organization and started steering it towards reform and effective action.

Our policy of opening up to Africa started yielding positive results, as evident by a series of high level visits and the commemoration of 2005 as the Year of Africa in Turkey. The Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) established its first regional office in Addis Ababa.

This is not an exclusive list but it is indicative of the fact that Turkey has been an active player for peace and stability both in its region and beyond.

A prosperous New Year?

The first month of the new year is the best time to look forward and consider what further can be accomplished.

The primary objective of Turkish foreign policy remains to help secure a peaceful, prosperous and cooperative regional and international environment conducive to human development.

In addition to the relations with the countries of our immediate vicinity, the EU accession process, the NATO alliance and relations with the US have traditionally been leading items on our foreign policy agenda. They still are.

We are also well aware that the Asia-Pacific region will be the epicentre of economic and political dynamism in the 21st century. Our relations with the region are developing at a good pace. New horizons are also emerging in Latin America and Africa. 2006 will be the Year of the Americas in Turkey.

Turkey regards its EU membership as a milestone to confirm and consolidate the founding philosophy of the Republic. What Turkey has accomplished in this respect could not have been done if the Turkish public had withheld its overwhelming support. The democratic aspirations and demands of the Turkish people will guide us as the main driving force towards EU membership. We will continue our relentless work to fulfill the objective membership criteria through comprehensive reforms. The political, strategic, economic and cultural benefits of Turkish membership of the Union are also widely acknowledged today. In 2006, world public opinion will better understand that having Turkey as a member will be an asset for the EU in its quest to become a global actor.

Commitment to NATO

Our commitment to NATO and our close partnership with the United States remain as firm as ever. The U.S.-Turkish partnership has long served the interests of both countries. I believe that we will continue to share common goals, ideals and interests regionally and globally with the United States. Even if time tests us with new experiences, the ultimate direction manifested by common sense and realism points to a strong solidarity between our two countries. Turkey believes that there is an immense potential yet to be tapped in relations with the United States.

Turkey has been contributing to a culture of conciliation and cooperation with its neighbours by promoting closer political and economic ties in its region. As our improving relations with Greece explicitly attest, we will continue to aim at eliminating possible sources of tension and cultivate stronger relations based on a win-win approach. The steady rise in the trade volume with our neighbours is proof of the momentum that we have created in this sphere.

We think of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean regions as significant components of a prospective belt of stability surrounding our territory. This is the underlying principle behind our Black Sea Economic Cooperation initiative, which we still need to develop further and make more functional. One has to evaluate the advance in our relations with the Russian Federation from this angle as well as from a bilateral perspective.  Both countries are working for the jointly established goal of elevating relations to the level of an enhanced multidimensional partnership.

Cyprus proposals

Our recent initiatives on Cyprus, our support for the Annan Plan and our search for a tangible solution on the Island aim, inter alia, to help enhance stability within the Mediterranean region. Our positive contributions to the efforts of the UN Secretary General to achieve a comprehensive settlement were positively acknowledged by the international community in 2005. We will continue our efforts to bring a solution to this long lasting problem in 2006.

Details of my proposals, unveiled on 30 May 2005, for the mutual removal of all restrictions to pave the way to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus, were brought to the attention of the international community through a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General and circulated as an official document of the UN. Turkey hopes that the international community will build upon this initiative and provide significant support for a feasible and lasting solution on the Island. We believe that the unabated resistance of the Greek Cypriots will ultimately have to stop in the face of this strong aspiration.

Regional stability

Close historical and cultural ties with the countries of the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East serve to facilitate the constructive role Turkey can and does play in contributing to peace and stability in these regions. Stability in the Balkans, the peace process and reform in the broader Middle East, developments in Iraq and Afghanistan and frozen conflicts in the Caucasus will be some of the issues that dominate our agenda.

In Iraq, there is the need to construct a democracy based on social consensus with the equal participation of all groups in the country within a framework that preserves its territorial integrity and national unity. Turkey provides multi-faceted support to the present political process. We will thus continue to embrace all segments of the Iraqi population and maintain our principled stance in the time ahead.

Reform and dialogue

Enhanced regional cooperation, linking Europe and Asia through energy corridors and land routes will remain the main tenets of our Eurasian vision. With ongoing and new projects in the field of energy, Turkey will not only meet the domestic demand but also become a hub in the transportation of the Middle East and Caspian energy resources to international markets.

During the past year, Turkey has continued to be a strong and vocal advocate of reform and transformation for greater political and economic participation, democratisation, good governance, accountability and gender equality in the context of the Mediterranean and Middle East regions. It has shared its experience in democratisation with interested regional parties in support of their home-grown initiatives for reform.

The need for a true dialogue among different cultures is of utmost importance. If mankind is not capable of tolerating and accommodating cultural differences and plurality, there will be no room for a truly global society. The Alliance of Civilizations initiative is a direct response to that need. It aims at facilitating harmony and dialogue by emphasizing the common values of our cultures and religions. Our work in this field will continue with renewed energy in 2006.

Asymmetrical threat

Promotion of human rights, upholding the principles of sustainable development, combating organised crime and the illicit trade in drugs and the protection of the environment are high on our agenda. Humanitarian assistance to countries around the world in times of desperation as a result of natural or man made disasters also continues to be an integral part of our policies.

Asymmetrical threats to peace and security are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and unpredictable. Terrorism stands out as the most destructive evil. Turkey will remain committed to the global fight against this scourge. This requires solid cooperation. Turkey is pleased to see that PKK/KONGRA-GEL is now included as a terrorist organization on the lists of many countries and international organisations. Cutting its main revenue sources, ranging from money extortion to trafficking in human beings and drugs is essential also for the security of international community. We must not lose sight of the fact that there is a linkage between organized crime and terrorism, especially in terms of financing. Increased efficiency in extradition requests is essential in combating organised crime and terrorism.

UN Security Council

Our efforts to make the world a better and safer place correspond to the ideals enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, of which we are a founding member. Accordingly, Turkey will persist in its endeavours to have a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council for the term 2009-2010 to assume a more active global role.

In summary, Turkey will continue to act as a stabilising power in 2006 to the best of its abilities. We will be hard working, honest and open to cooperation to deal with regional and international problems. In a world where our medicines have not done away with disease, our money has not bought bread for those dying from hunger and technological innovation has not done enough for environmental degradation, I believe the international community needs to act swiftly to bring solutions to these problems.

Up to the challenge

Turkey will also be strong on its positions in defending its national interests. We will support our friends and try to deal with every problem in its own context. As it has been in the past, Turkish foreign policy will be a symbol of rationality and wisdom in 2006.

Turkey’s economic and human potential, strong defence capability, active participation in international conflict-resolution and peace-keeping efforts as well as its unique ability in combining the best of different cultures and traditions are valuable assets that will enable my country to play a pivotal role in her region and beyond.

We certainly feel up to this important challenge and will continue to work closely with friends and allies in building a better world for future generations.


Muzaffer Eryılmaz: Towards a healthy Çankaya 

By Bernard KENNEDY 

As the home of the Turkish administration in Ankara, Çankaya is a household name not only for our many readers who live there but for everybody in Turkey. The administration of Çankaya itself is in the hands of urban district mayor Muzaffer Eryılmaz. The son of a military officer, Eryılmaz was born in Sarıkamış (Kars) in 1949, but attended school in Ankara and later graduated from the medical faculty of Hacettepe University. He became secretary general of the youth branch of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 1974 and director of health affairs at Ankara Municipality in 1978-1980. In the wake of the 1980 coup, he was tried but acquitted under the now-defunct, “anti-communist” articles 141 and 142 of the Penal Code. Eryılmaz specialised in radiology and became a professor in 2000. He has been an active member of innumerable clubs and associations in areas as diverse as sport, social work and the protection of animals. He was elected mayor for a five-year term in 2004. We talked to him about Çankaya and the work of its municipality. 

Q  Let’s begin by talking a little about your district, Çankaya. I understand it is Turkey’s largest district…

A  That’s correct. Çankaya is not an ordinary district. According to the 2000 census results, its total population is 769,331. This makes Çankaya Turkey’s sixth largest city, on a city centre basis, following Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Bursa. From the standpoint of its total population, Çankaya is larger than 54 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, including Bolu, Çanakkale, Edirne, Erzincan, Eskişehir, Muğla, Sakarya and Tekirdağ.

Çankaya is also important because it is home to almost all the major national institutions including the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Presidential Palace, the Prime Ministry and the armed forces commands. The great leader Mustafa Kemal, who made Ankara the capital of the Republic, entered the city from Dikmen, which is within the borders of our district. All the embassies are also located in Çankaya.

The cultural and commercial activities of the capital are also mostly concentrated in Çankaya. There are 800,000 taxpayers, which is more than the total number of taxpayers in the other three central districts of the capital. In the daytime, the population of Çankaya reaches two million.

Just to give one or two more figures, Çankaya has an area of 22,000 hectares and 104 neighbourhoods. There are 350,000 dwellings, 70,000 workplaces, eleven hospitals, 166 primary schools, 35 high schools and eight universities. Out of Çankaya’s population, 17 percent live in ‘gecekondu’ (squatter settlements).

Q  As a long-term resident of Çankaya, what do you personally consider to be the district’s biggest problems?

A  The biggest problem of Çankaya is the lack of empty space. The population is dense and every square metre is full of buildings. We would like to establish new parks – open areas which enable the city to breathe. The number of parks is just as important for Çankaya as for the other districts. The congested development has negative effects on the psychology of the people. If only there were fewer dwellings in Çankaya and more open spaces which we could turn into parks and green areas! We want Çankaya to be a place which has solved its basic problems, where arts and culture thrive and where tranquil, healthy and happy people live.

Q  You are a medical professor. Why did you choose to engage in politics and seek mayoral office?

A   I have been involved with the social democracy movement ever since I was young. Even though I became a medical professor, I never lost my interest in politics. To me, becoming a mayor was just a natural extension of my devotion to social justice.

Q  What was your basic aim when you became mayor of Çankaya, and to what extent do you think you have achieved your targets so far?

A   My basic aim is to run a social municipality. I wanted to recreate healthy ties between people and their environment. I still have more than half of my mandate ahead of me. But already I think we have had some success, particularly concerning women, children, the handicapped and the elderly. For example, we have opened training courses for people to render services for the old, the ill and the handicapped in their own homes. We have opened the ‘Çengel Café’ in order to contribute to the education of mentally handicapped people. We have established a Social Solidarity Center called TODAM. In principle we are dedicated to helping poor people. The TODAM market which we have set up gives the poor the opportunity to acquire all the clothing which they need in a way which does not offend their dignity or turn into an advertisement.

Q  You mentioned the importance of parks, but at the same time there seems to be a lot of tree-cutting and trimming going on. What are you doing for the environment?

A   I believe the environment should be protected in the best possible manner not only for the benefit of people but also for the sake of every living being. It is very important to create green areas, to raise the people’s awareness of the environment and to take measures to protect it.

Trees have to be trimmed so that they will live longer, but we do not tolerate cutting them down. We are very sensitive about this. In fact, together with the Ministry of Agriculture and TEMA – an organization set up to combat soil erosion – we have jointly established the Happiness Forest. This is an area where couples who are about to get married plant saplings. So far, we have had 1,600 plantings.

It is also very important for us that the city should be clean and that it should be kept clean in a systematic way. We are proud to be a member of the Healthy Cities Project. As you know, a lot of criteria have to be fulfilled. We did a lot of work in various fields before we earned the right to call ourselves a healthy city, and we continue to make very comprehensive efforts in this area.

Q  Are you doing anything for the street animals?

A  Yes we are gathering up street animals in our domestic animals shelter. Here we take care of them, neuter them and find new owners for them. We have also put a Mobile Care and Neutering Vehicle into service.

Q  What is the municipality doing in the field of culture and sport?

A  We have reorganized the Contemporary Arts Center. We have opened the Çankaya Municipality Show Centre, which is the biggest entertainment hall in Ankara with a capacity of 3,500. We organized a festival of one-person plays. Our Wednesday Concerts provide musical feasts for enthusiasts of classical music all year round. Then there are major concerts, there is the Çankaya City Theatre…

The Çankaya Municipality Sports Club is strong in many branches of sport, among them volleyball and handball. We channel young people towards a very wide range of sports.

Q  Where do the responsibilities of district mayors begin and end? After all, there is also a Greater Ankara Municipality. Are there any things that you want to do but can’t?

A  Recent legislation has practically turned the urban district municipalities into branches of the metropolitan municipalities. This prevents modern city administrations from spreading the initiative to the people. For years, the country has been debating the centralisation of government, but in practice our localisation efforts are being impeded by the new legislation. District Municipalities are unable to implement any project which is not approved by the Metropolitan Municipality Assembly. The implementation of major projects requires a budget. However, our budget is approved by the Metropolitan Municipality Assembly. Various restrictions and certain economic difficulties make it very hard to implement original projects. Even so, we can claim a number of “firsts”.

Q  Are you generally in favour of increasing the authorities of local administrations? Who do you think should be responsible for what?

A  We believe that the authorities of the local administrations should be extended. They should be given greater responsibility areas in the fields of health and education. In arts and culture, we consider that efforts made on a voluntary basis are insufficient, and that local administrations should be able to allocate serious amounts of resources. Provided the supervision mechanism functions properly, extending the authorities of local administrations will be very beneficial for our country.

Q  What kind of relationship does the municipality have with the foreigners living in Çankaya and with the embassies?

A  Like all people living within the borders of Çankaya, foreign nationals naturally expect services from us and benefit from our services. Every request which comes from the embassies is a priority issue for us. From our point of view, Çankaya is like a window opening up to the foreign world via the embassies. We carry out cultural and artistic work in conjunction with them, and at the Contemporary Arts Centre, we also organize exhibitions, panels and celebrations in order to make different cultures known to our citizens. There is a lot of cooperation with respect to marking national days. We also have twin city arrangements with many cities in many countries.

Q  What are your targets for the remaining period of your mandate? Do you have any special projects?

A  We will continue to do the things which we said we would do for Çankaya when we took office. Our work is ongoing. We attach due importance to basic municipal services such as asphalting, cleaning and maintenance. We have set up TODAM and we will now put our projects for women, children and elderly people into practice. We are going to open a hospital for elderly people and centres where women will be able to participate more fully in production. We will carry out work to ensure that our children develop healthily and receive sufficient education.

Q  Are you able to find time between your work for your profession and your hobbies?

A  My biggest hobby is animals. I love them a lot. We all know that there are many animals living on the streets. Some of them are now in our shelter, where they live in a healthy environment. I try to spend some time with my own dogs and with the animals in the shelter.

Q  Would you like to be a mayor once again? Will you return to your profession one day? Or will we see you in politics in a different capacity in future?

A   I can only give you a classic response. If your aim and intention is to be of service, then you will experience the same happiness whether you are a medical doctor, a mayor or a teacher. As long as people expect you to serve them, you continue to render services. We have done a lot of things in Çankaya but there are a lot of things still to be done. So for now I am seeking only to raise the quality of our services. It is difficult to know what will happen in the future. In essence, it is the conditions of the country which determine all our fates.

Human angle

The place of the teacher in modern society 

by Prof. Dr. Özer OZANKAYA

All developed societies were faced following World War II with very serious problems in the field of education. Aware of the vital importance of the issue, however, they made a serious effort to overcome them. An important element in the success of this effort was the policies adopted to improve the standing of teachers.

In Turkey, Republican education, with its secular and democratic content, had started to forge a scientific way of thinking. Yet although this was essential for the development and security of the pluralistic political-social structure that was being established at the time, it was not developed further, and its attentions were frustrated. The Republic had praised our teachers with the words, “The future generations will be your product,” but now they were downgraded and ill-treated. Educational institutions came to be smothered in the problems to which we have become so insensitive today, but which cause all citizens with a sense of responsibility to flinch.

What the Turkish nation, and especially its intellectuals, expect of the European Union (EU) is a reinstatement of the educational foundations on which the EU countries themselves rely – and which also constituted the basis of education in the Turkish Republic before they were undermined in the context of the Cold War.

This article is about the foundations in question – about the importance of the institution of education in today’s world, and about what is required in a contemporary society of the profession of teaching that stands in every respect at the centre of that institution. The standards referred to are none other than those which have been adopted by the Western European and North American countries ever since 1960, and turned into resolutions for achievement at the international level under the leadership of the UNESCO and ILO. They are the criteria enshrined in the report Teachers for the School of Tomorrow, published by UNESCO in 1969, and above all the norms effectively implemented for the Western nations by the Western countries.

Expectations of society 

In today’s social conditions, education has become the largest organisation in any country and takes first place among the duties of the state. In Turkey, for example, it involves 500,000 teachers and 15,000,000 students. Together with the family members and relatives of these students and teachers, it directly concerns the whole nation.

Accordingly, all citizens take a close interest in educational problems via organisations of all kinds, including professional associations, trades unions, political parties and scientific bodies. Concern is shown and responsibilities are shouldered for the success of the educational service not only by governments, certain public officials or those responsible for “operating” the schools and universities concerned, but by everybody who is interested in the future of his or her country.

It has become evident, moreover, that there are not only moral and social reasons but also direct economic justifications for allocating a privileged status to education. Sociologists and development economists in particular have demonstrated the need for “the full utilisation of human resources” in economic development. The productivity of natural resources is no longer regarded as sufficient for economic development, and it has been “discovered” that the labour force needed to engineer, manage and operate large investments such as ports, dams, communications and transportation networks, and industrial systems can be trained in educational institutions. There is thus growing acceptance of the truth that to open a school, laboratory, library or institute higher education institution is to contribute to the national wealth.

What kind of education?

Education is the most expensive among all national activities, and it is clear that it must yield abundant and qualified products. Requiring huge resources, the education system should be able to account to the public for the way in which these resources are used. This leads to the question: what kind of education?

In the modern world, the role of education is not so much to convey certain information to the students, but to awaken their interest about what is going on around them, and to increase their appreciation of and capacity for continuous learning. There is no room within the context of productive education for teachers who remain at their chairs and students who are merely listeners. The required education involves mutual exchanges of communication and views between the teachers and the learners, and participation in joint activities. Computers, voice and visual (CD) recordings, TV and radio broadcasts and all other kinds of teaching devices have necessitated important changes in traditional methods of education and training. One slogan used in France in this context has been to “establish the school of tomorrow” (rebâtir 1’ecole de demain!”).

In this rapidly changing era, only a selective use can be made of the cultural elements of the past, while it is essential to protect and foster cultural elements which are in line with the era. At the same time, it has become apparent that adherence to temporary fashions can yield particularly destructive results in the field of education. Even so, every society must try to foresee the form it will take in the future in order to survive and develop in the conditions of the present. Therefore, the education to be given to young generations should not be the education of yesterday but the education of today and even tomorrow.

The status of the teacher

All this can place great pressure on teachers, confuse poorly-informed parents and cause confusion in the minds of students, who may doubt the value of what they are taught. The answer lies in developing the professional capabilities and social position of the teachers. More generally, it is apparent that whatever measures are to be taken to tackle the hugely important and urgent issues of education, it is the teachers who will have to put them into practice.

To open an educational institution is not merely to provide a material resource. While the physical atmosphere and financial resources available to education are very important, it cannot be said that the best school is the one which is the most comfortable and best equipped; rather, what counts is the quality of education, and this depends on the qualifications of the people who are to teach there. This in turn requires that willing and sufficiently talented girls and boys should be attracted to the profession and given extensive training. And if there is to be a sufficient number of qualified teachers, then the profession must command respect within society.

One measure of the status and respect attributed to teachers within society is the extent to which the value of their work is appreciated and their capacity to perform it understood. Another is the working conditions with which they are provided, including the levels of their wages and other material benefits relative to those enjoyed by other professions. In a country where the value of teachers is not recognised, then neither will the most capable members of society desire to carry out the profession, nor can the existing teachers be expected to carry our their work with a high degree of motivation.

Multiple talents

In contemporary social conditions, teaching necessitates considerably more dynamism, joy and enthusiasm than other professions. If new generations are to display these characteristics, they must be present in their teachers.

It has been determined that no one should intervene in the direct relationship between the teacher and the student in the classroom. The productivity of this relationship depends on the exemplary behaviour and words of the teachers and the respect, confidence and interest which they arouse in their students. To this end, teachers should follow the latest developments in the profession and constantly seek to improve themselves.

It is difficult to find individuals who combine all the talents and capabilities needed for a contemporary education. It is equally true that such individuals are also required in other activities. However, the demands of education are huge when compared to other professions. Accordingly, continuous and determined efforts are needed to bring a well-trained young labour force into the teaching profession, while those who are already available should not be lost. Otherwise, there cannot be any improvement in education.

Rewarding talents

Teachers should be respected as distinguished experts who will develop the intelligence of new generations, train participating, democratic, individual personalities and take pains to ensure that young people acquire both knowledge and skills – in short, shape society according to the new conditions through their daily lives and work. In developed countries, teachers have often enjoyed this respect and the material rewards that go with it. But elsewhere, political authorities have sometimes suppressed the profession of teaching due to its potential effect on the masses. This was the case in Turkey after 1946. The Village Institutes which had made a very important contribution to the pedagogy and social-economic development of the Turkish Republic, were also closed around this time.

New educational arrangements have been made under all kinds of social conditions, but always without the participation of the teachers themselves. No effort has been made to correct the misperception of the profession of teaching in society as an easy occupation with long holidays and secure retirement. As for teachers’ material conditions, governments have cited lack of funds, and given the generally unequal distribution of income, the case for teachers has not been voiced sufficiently. With alarming frequency, teachers quit the profession at the first opportunity, and the essential contributions which an accumulation of knowledge and experience can bring to the teaching profession are foregone. The next few years will show whether the 21st century can reverse these trends.


Mustafa Ayaz: The fruits of sincerity 

by  Sibel DORSAN

Enter the studio of Mustafa Ayaz: a world of erotic women and cartoon strips, of chaos and composition, of work and rewards, of self and others. This is real life, in which poor boys become great artists – and go on to make their dreams come true.

Stacks of old brushes and empty paint tubes… Scattered here and there, sculptures of women of which even professional sculptors might be jealous… New paintings and a sharp smell of turpentine… Seated in his workshop, Mustafa Ayaz toils over the works which are destined to feature in his upcoming exhibition. At the same time, the famous artist is engrossed in the plans for the “Mustafa Ayaz Museum and Cultural Centre” – a dream he has elaborated since his youth, and which is now about to come true in Ankara’s Balgat neighbourhood.

Tired but happy, Ayaz talks eagerly about the Cultural Centre which is to be completed in 2007. And in almost the same breath he revisits – via all the twists and turns of his illustrious domestic and international career – the difficulties of his childhood in Eastern Anatolia.


Amid the financial problems of his family, it was the Erzurum Pulur Village Institute which provided the artist-to-be with the first steps of his stairway to success. The village institutes (‘Köy Enstitüleri’) were set up in the 1940s to provide the people of rural Anatolia with a progressive and practical education. Ayaz is a great believer in the importance of the role they played. In Pulur, he was successful at both painting and mathematics. When his teacher channelled him towards Istanbul Çapa Primary Education School, his future course was set: the path of art.

The construction of the Cultural Centre, one senses, is Ayaz’s way of repaying a spiritual debt to his country. Could this be the reason for his contentment and excitement? At the entrance to the Museum, he plans to place a large-scale sculpture of a woman, his most familiar theme. There will also be a sculpture of himself, to be executed in an avant-garde style consistent with the thrust of his career, making use of all those used paint tubes and brushes, which he has been collecting for the past nineteen years.

Farewell to academia

After graduating from Çapa, the young Ayaz entered the Painting Department of Ankara’s Gazi Training Institute in 1960, from which he graduated in 1963. Three years later, he returned to the Institute as an assistant. He was to work here for the next eighteen years, a period during which his own style developed and his output grew. Between 1984 and 1987, he lectured in the Painting Department of the Fine Arts Faculty of Hacettepe University. He became a professor in 1987 and was later appointed to the Fine Arts Faculty of Bilkent University. Just a year into the job, however, he reflected that his long years of teaching were enough, and settled for the creative opportunities of his workshop.

Ayaz produced figurative works at Çapa but turned to abstract paintings as a student and throughout his early years at Gazi. Unfortunately, he has in his possession none of the paintings which he undertook before 1972. He argues that reality can only be emphasised through the use of abstract forms, and recalls that his canvasses of that period were concrete in essence if abstract in the formal sense.

Traces of calligraphy

Figurative expression re-appears in Ayaz’s work as of the mid-1970s, within a linear approach. In his paintings of the 1972-1982 period in particular, he is observed to deform the figure. In his canvasses executed after 1984, there seems to be a dichotomy, with a very evident contrast between ‘modelé’ (volume) and line. From time to time his paintings are marked by an approach which favours the use of lines or colour or stain modulation rather than the deployment of volumes.

Ayaz’s designs are no less significant than his colour paintings, with which they share a common language. His designs sometimes resemble cartoon strips or caricatures. He loves designing, believing that it enables him to convey his spiritual world – his fears, joys, sorrows and expectations, his views about art and life, and the events which affect his daily life – in a direct and simple way. He has created a total of 10,000 designs. His use of line extremely powerful, and among his designs are some which could easily be taken for a Picasso or a Matisse. However, the greatest influence appears to be the calligraphic strokes and abstractions of Ayaz’s teacher Adnan Turani.

Painting life

As for the paintings, the main motif is generally a nude or concrete object created with the modelé method. Subsidiary elements tend to consist of line-drawn human or animal figures or symbolic forms. These figures are sometimes located within a geometric background; sometimes placed side by side, or one behind the other, in an approach to composition that is reminiscent of chaos.

 “I like to paint the whole of life, not the stable forms of objects,” explains Ayaz. The fact remains that his paintings mostly have feminine themes dominated by the colours red, black and white. Does this reflect the view that woman symbolizes all that is beautiful in nature? Or is it a continuation of the cult of the goddess Cybele, which symbolizes the prolificacy and abundance that we come across in all Anatolian civilizations? Perhaps it is a bit of both. Stressing the innocent eroticism of women, the artist appeals to feelings which are present in every brain, and is thus capable of communicating individually with every member of his audience.

Getting involved

Almost Hitchcock-like, Ayaz involves himself personally in each one of his paintings in one way or another. Traces can also be detected of the philosophy of the Ying and the Yang, the golden rule of nature, which encompasses contrasts such as light and dark, good and evil, beautiful and ugly and heaven and hell, in addition to the concrete forms of the female and the male.

Dancing girls sometimes appear in Mustafa Ayaz’s compositions, calling to mind Toulouse-Lautrec. Sometimes there is a surrealism characteristic of Chagal. But none of this detracts from the originality of the style which the artist has created for himself. The power of his paintings depends only on his own hard work and sincerity. More than 400 Ayaz works are to be found in foreign collections, and as many as 4,000 in domestic collections. He has received a total of fifteen awards, and opened forty-seven individual exhibitions. He has also participated in joint exhibitions and biennials in countries as varied as Algeria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Kuwait, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom and the United States.

World view

China and its 55 minorities 

by Prof. Dr. Türkkaya ATAÖV

With a population of close to 1.3 billion on a land mass of 9,572,900 sq. km., China is a world on its own. It borders no less than fourteen countries all the way from Mongolia in the north down to Vietnam in the south, via North Korea in the east and Pakistan, Afghanistan and Russia in the west. Although relations with the former Soviet Union, Vietnam and India have been cool in some periods of the past, there is no hostility with any neighbour now.

The Han (Chinese), who constitute the overwhelming ethnic group, account for 91.96% of the population, compared to only 0.41% and 0.64% for the much-discussed Tibetans and Uigurs. The official language is Mandarin Chinese, and there is no official religion. The bulk of the population appears to be “non-religious”, including declared atheists, with some Buddhists (8.4%) and Christians (7.1%), but far fewer Muslims (1.5%) than anticipated.

The minority peoples of China, divided into 55 nationalities, account for only 6% of the total population. That small percentage nevertheless makes up a total of 54m people. Moreover, these minorities occupy over half of the land area of the country, much of it strategically vital and rich in resources. Most of the Han Chinese are either rice and wheat farmers crowded into the valleys of the Yangtse and the Yellow Rivers or live in the fertile coastal areas. By contrast, the minorities for the most part occupy the extensive grasslands, deserts and mountain regions of the extreme north, west and south.

1949: Rights and wrongs

The minority nationalities had been part of China for many centuries, during which they developed their own cultures, but there had been no effective central government until the Communist regime was installed in 1949. This regime also professed to support the favourable aspects of the minority cultures. One of the cardinal principles of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), since its very inception, had been to cultivate good relations with the minorities. Their status was defined in a number of basic documents, such as the 1949 Common Program, the 1952 Regional Program for Autonomy, and the 1954 Constitution. Article 50 of the Common Program stated that all nationalities would be equal and that China would be a big fraternal and cooperative family and that discrimination, oppression and chauvinism would be prohibited.

The CCP also realised that the different conditions in the minority areas would slow down change, and that local realities would necessitate a tolerant administration. This policy was generally adhered to, and political representation reflected local demography. While most government business was conducted in the widely-spoken Han tongue, all minorities developed their languages or dialects. The speed with which the ethnic minorities were integrated into the “big family” varied from one region to another. But there was some similarity everywhere both in the forward steps taken and in the problems that arose.

Among the negative aspects of the attempts made at change were the domination of Han officials, the failure of the Han to learn the local tongues, the introduction of the drastic commune system, and some damage to local economies. However, the lives of the minority peoples improved considerably. Living standards were incomparably higher.

The Tibet experience

Among the minority areas, Tibet was one of the most remote territories on earth. The size of Western Europe, it had a population of about two million. One-fifth of the males were monks living in 2,700 monasteries. Most of the land was owned either by these monasteries or by aristocratic families. The peasants on these estates were all but serfs, leading a prescribed life. Punishments for deviators included flaying alive. While it would be wrong to exaggerate the unpleasant aspects of past life, the museum in Lhasa, the capital, contained the skin of a man flayed from head to toe. Even the Dalai Lama wrote a poem, later the cause of some embarrassment, in praise of the new regime, describing it as “the timely rain.”

The Tibetan uprising in 1959, however, was the most serious resistance to the Communist rule.  Although the Chinese government now acknowledges that some errors were made after 1959, foremost among them the introduction of the overwhelming Han culture, the radical improvements in education, health, and prosperity are undeniable. Regardless of all the criticisms made in the past, the Chinese minorities have received been much more satisfactory, civilized, and democratic treatment than many minorities elsewhere, such as American “Indians,” Australian Aborigines, or Israel’s Palestinians. Today, local languages have been revived, and the practice of religion is permitted. Under the circumstances, one may safely assert that there will not be another Great Leap Forward, another Cultural Revolution, or another Gang of Four.

Preserving frontiers

I believe in the preservation of the existing frontiers in China, India, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere. There is a drive on the part of a few powerful countries to encourage secessions and the break-up of other states. But there can be no longer any doubt that the war in Iraq, for instance, was an unprovoked, unnecessary, and an unlawful invasion that turned into a colonial-style occupation. It is already a moral and political catastrophe. We cannot tolerate the emergence of similar threats to world security. China should stay as it is and prosper.

The overseas Chinese

The land mass in the Far East officially known as the People’s Republic of China is not only the homeland of the Chinese, but also of the 55 minorities. Conversely, there are also the overseas Chinese. For centuries, China had links with southern Asia, and consequently many Chinese reached out, mostly by sea, and settled abroad, constituting minorities and at times majorities.

Chinese Buddhist pilgrims went south as early as the 5th century, and trade developed accordingly. They were mostly attracted by business prospects. Wherever they went, they were, on the whole, hardworking, innovative and spirited. Trading Chinese communities settled and flourished during the Sung and the Yuan dynasties. A Muslim Chinese admiral led seven expeditions with large fleets, trying to conquer big islands like Java. He crossed the Indian Ocean and reached the east coast of Africa. Substantial Chinese communities were thus formed several hundred years ago.

Often, the Chinese became the leading spirit in their new domiciles, intermarrying in some countries but largely preserving their unique and developed culture, and in almost all instances contributing to the general wealth of their adopted countries. Some of the south Asian economic centres, such as Singapore, became overwhelmingly Chinese. Hong Kong was also a Chinese land but destined to be re-united with mainland China. Taiwan had been a part of China, but later found itself with a government different from the one that ruled the mainland. In Malaya, close to 40 percent of the population was Chinese. There were more than 2.5 million Chinese each in Thailand and Indonesia, and close to a million in the Philippines. Thus, in some countries, the Chinese were minorities in much bigger populations.

Wanted and unwanted

Regardless of their relative numbers, the Chinese were distinguishable from other peoples. They had commercial talent and the capacity to lead successful lives. They represented centres of commerce, technology, and wealth. Being talented, wealthy and at times exploitative, they incurred the hostility of others. As was the case in Java under Dutch rule, there were sometimes pogroms against them. However, Non-Chinese rulers also found them useful: their productivity and the riches that they would create were indispensable. Thailand was one of the countries which treated its Chinese community fairly.

Moreover, the overseas Chinese represented a great civilization. They had, in the north, a vast empire with a great potential. Irrespective of their personal tendencies, they were generally proud of the achievements of mainland China. Cultural consciousness was always strong among the Chinese diaspora, and they were proud even of those who were exiled – like the great Sun Yat-Sen.

Oman: A gentle awakening 

by David O’Byrne

The secret is out, investments are under way and in ten years’ time, Oman plans to be the leading tourist destination in its region. Considering the extraordinary natural and historical attractions with which the country is blessed, this is a modest target. But there is no need to wait ten years to check out the intriguing regions, tidy towns and hospitable habits of this country beyond the Gulf. Journalist David O’Byrne, a recent visitor, sets the scene…

“Unspoiled”, “paradise”, “oasis”, “backwater”… Such cliches are employed only too often by guide book writers and advertising hacks to characterise destinations which match up to none of these attributes. When it comes to describing Oman, the same familiar language trips effortlessly off the tongue. But for once, each and every word is entirely justified.

Oman – really – has it all: a heady mix of a long and fascinating history, breathtaking scenery and a unique climate. Its culture owes much to the Islamic Arab cultures to the north but at the same time reveals distinct African, Persian and Indian influences – a blend which makes the indigenous population particularly open and friendly to visitors. There is a growing slate of truly world class hotels and the 1,700-kilometre coastline boasts some of the best beaches on the Indian Ocean.

The country’s historically cautious approach to development suggests that the dolphin, camel and onyx have little to fear from the next round of growth. Oman looks set to remain one of the world’s most interesting and off-beat tourist destinations for many years to come, with more than enough of interest to engage even the most cynical of ‘seen-it-all’ travellers.

Sensible development

Oman’s tourism potential has long been one of the best-kept secrets in the travel world. And not without reason, as the country’s development is relatively recent. In 1970 when the current head of state, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, ascended to the throne, the country had one school and only ten kilometres of paved roads. Just 500 buildings in the capital Muscat were equipped with electric lights.

Visitors will find it difficult to believe that development has been so recent. But they will have no trouble appreciating that it has been conducted in a largely sympathetic manner. With only minor reserves of oil and gas, Oman has been spared the ‘architectural’ excesses of its Gulf neighbours and has instead ploughed its limited resources into preserving and restoring the hundreds of ancient castles which stud the landscape, and into constructing a modern road network, which allows easy travel between the main tourist sights.

Muscat and the mountains

The modern capital of Muscat, with its good selection of well-appointed hotels, provides the best base for visiting the north of the country. The capital itself is a pleasant, bustling place with innumerable good-value restaurants and a pleasant sweep of coastal promenade leading to a bustling souq. It has been named the cultural capital of the Arab world for 2006. As in all Oman’s cities, the mynah birds are noisily omnipresent.

Car rental is cheap and self driving is by far the best way to travel. Just a few miles inland from the coast and you enter the foothills of the Jebel Akbar mountains whose highest peak, Jebel Shams, rises over 3,000 metres.

The sharp crags give way to a barren moonscape of shattered rock baked in the unrelenting sun. At first glance, it seems that nothing could possibly grow here. But tucked away in myriad valleys and plains are a profusion of small fortress towns and oasis villages, where water gushes from among the dry rocks and flows freely in the cool shade of a million palm trees.

Tourists are still few enough to ensure a warm welcome from locals, who are quick to invite visitors into their homes for the traditional Arab welcome of cool fresh water, sweet tea and locally grown dates.

Swimming in history

Despite the appearance of modern concrete buildings and imported 4WD vehicles, life seems to have changed little in the past two millennia among the date palms and mud brick walls. In fact, the land may have been forgotten by time for long periods, but it still has a fascinating history. The first administration dates back thousands of years to when the area was known as Magun. By the fifth century BCE, the region was under Persian control. It fell to Arab tribes in the second century AD.

It was constant feuding between these tribes which led to the construction of the numerous castles and watchtowers which have made their mark on the region. Particularly impressive is the enormous pre-Islamic fortress at Rustaq, with its three labrynthine levels and four towers. Later came the golden age of Islam and the contact with the colonial empires. A 17th-century souk tumbles from the gateway of the restored fort in Nizwa.

With its honey and hot springs, goat and fruit markets, mud brick houses and mansions, the entire Muscat hinterland has a memorable atmosphere. In the mountains themselves, the so-called Balcony Walk, Grand Canyon and Hanging Village are easily-reached landmarks. Hikers and geologists will get the most out of the scenery. For off-road enthusiasts, there are many more sites to discover down among the endless stony ‘wadi’ (valleys) – dry for most of the year, but many of which conceal secluded pools ideal for bathing.

Charms of the South

Southern Oman – once the home of the Queen of Sheba – offers another dimension in unique experiences. The region is the only place on earth where the Boswellia tree, which produces frankincense, will grow. The trade in this commodity made Oman’s ancient rulers rich and powerful. Southern Oman is also the only place on the west of the Indian Ocean which receives monsoon rains. Every year between June and September the ‘Kahreef’ transforms the southern landscape from a barren desert into a verdant jungle as heavy rains and mists bring the temperatures down to a manageable 20-25C. Plants and wildlife endemic to the area spring from nowhere in a frenzy of growth, only to wither and disappear four months later.

Witnesses of this magical transformation struggle to go on believing that one of the most inhospitable deserts on the planet lies only 200km to the north. But in Oman, the “magical” comes as standard. Or as one ancient Islamic traveller put it: “Oman – what happens there, only God understands.”

Ottoman Cuisine: Delighting the sultans 

by Sibel DORSAN

While “foodies” are well aware of the revival of Ottoman cuisine, most modern Turkish homes owe their knowledge of the subject to Yasemin Türedi Özkan, presenter of the long-running Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) series ‘From the World Cuisines’. Özkan has never been so memorable as when broadcasting directly from Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace. DİPLOMAT spoke to the TV presenter about the rediscovery of a rich tradition.

Fish, fish-roe, including caviar, shrimps, oysters, chicken, geese, all kinds of game, cheese, oil and a wide range of foodstuffs which would now be considered unusual. Such are the items recorded, complete with their varieties, provenance, quantities and prices, in the register of ‘Foodstuffs Entering the Palace’s Kitchen’, belonging to Fatih Sultan Mehmet, dated 1468. Early Ottoman taste had been plain and simple – with the exception of special occasions and the preferences of individual sultans and their mothers. But the palace of the emperor who had conquered Istanbul at the age of twenty-three was clearly influenced both by the legacy of the Byzantine emperors and by the customs of his contemporary Renaissance princes.

As a source of information on the culinary traditions of the Ottoman palace, the register was to be followed by numerous others, many of them still preserved in the library of Topkapı Palace. Together with the accounts of western and other visitors to the Sublime Porte, these documents have attracted fresh attention within the past few years, casting light on the origins of the dishes now regarded as classical Turkish cuisine.

A meal at Topkapı

Let us visit Topkapı ourselves, and imagine a seventeenth-century Turkish sultan, let us say Murat IV – famous for his eating and drinking – sitting down for his meal in the private suite of the palace. Ottomans would eat sitting on cushions, either on the floor, or on low divans. According to celebrated TV food show host Yasemin Türedi Özkan, the Ottoman emperors had eaten their meals in company with their officials until the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Thereafter, it became the practice for rulers to eat alone, or with their families.

Sultan Murat IV is taking his main meal of the day, in the mid-afternoon. Until the westernizing movements of the 18th century there were only two meals a day. On waking, coffee was drunk, but the first meal was not eaten until the ‘kuşluk’ time, before noon. It was a light meal, with soup often forming the main dish. The second meal came immediately after the afternoon prayer and before the sunset prayer.

Silver service

Food is brought in by palace serving boys (‘iç oğlanlar’) and placed on a raised circular tray (‘sini’), with a cloth spread under it, in front of the diners. Hands were washed before and after eating using ewers and bowls (‘ibrik’, ‘leğen’), and dried with ring napkins (‘peşkir’). During the meal the diners used napkins 3–4 metres long. Sometimes these were shared. There were no knives and forks, but spoons were provided in various sizes, according to the dish.

In the palace, as in the richer mansions of the capital, the ‘sini’ tray was made of silver. Bowls were of silver or Chinese porcelain, and Topkapı Palace’s 10,358-piece collection of Chinese ware, on display in the Topkapı kitchens, is an impressive testimony to the sultans’ interest. İznik potters would follow palace tastes in imitating Chinese designs. After the 17th century, Sèvres replaced Chinese dinner sets, and the Topkapı collection includes more than 5,000 pieces of French, German, Austrian and Russian porcelain. The tradition of eating at table and using knives and forks began during the reign of Mahmut II, but these customs only became widespread during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit.

Matbah-ı Amire

The sultan’s meal was cooked in the area called the ‘helvahane’ of Topkapı Palace, Yasemin Türedi Özkan goes on, before being tasted in the sultan’s presence by the chief taster (‘çeşnicibaşı’). The ‘helvahane’ was at the same time the area where not only ‘helva’ (a sweet made of sesame), but also ‘macun’ (sticky sweets), sherbet, jams and some medicines were prepared.

The palace kitchens, called the ‘matbah-ı amire’, were a series of much larger rooms, as meals were prepared here for the whole hierarchy of palace residents. Some 4-5,000 people were catered for every day. Visitors to Topkapı Palace cannot fail to be impressed by the size of these kitchens, with their twenty enormous chimneys. On the days when salaries were paid, soup, pilaf, and sweets were cooked for 10–15,000 janissaries, and on such days the kitchens were staffed by 500 people. The town of Bolu, with its market gardens and dairy farms, came to provide most of the palace’s chief chefs.

Soup and meat

Sultan Murat has begun his meal, as always, with soups. There was a wide variety of soups including ‘düğün’ (wedding) soup, ‘tarhana’ soup, yogurt soup, ‘yayla’ soup, vegetable soup and fish soup. Soups were usually enriched with broth, chopped meat, chicken, meatballs or yogurt. Fish and fish broth were added to the fish soups. Rice, ‘bulgur’ (cracked wheat), ‘tarhana’ and vegetable soups were boiled with vegetable roots.

Always a meat dish, usually red meat, followed. The most traditional was stew (‘yahni’) of mutton made with onions and vinegar. These heavy meat dishes were sometimes lightened with cinnamon. Yahni could be made simply with garlic or vinegar, or using more than one variety of meat: chicken and mutton; veal and lamb. Alternatives included fried lamb, buttered lamb cooked in a covered pot, skewered meat (‘şiş’), and other grilled meats, casseroles (‘güveç’), lamb or chicken kebabs, bowl (‘tas’) kebab, meats cooked with plums or quinces, rabbit yahni, game birds like goose, duck, pigeon and quail, fish such as sea bass and trout, liver meatballs, liver kebab in lamb, trotters, boiled sheep’s heads, and dried meats such as ‘pastırma’.

Pilaf and börek

Pilaf was not a garniture in Ottoman cuisine but a dish in its own right, cooked plain or with pistachios, almonds, grapes, peas, meat, chicken, spinach, green beans, or aubergines, not to forget chickpeas. Butter-cooked pilafs with chicken and aubergine are particularly thought of as inventions of the Ottoman palace. ‘Perde’ pilaf was baked in a pastry lattice.

Börek, a savory made with filo pastry, sometimes took the place of pilaf, or they could be served together. There are more than a hundred varieties of this typically Ottoman dish, distinguished by shape – ‘kol böreği’, ‘saç böreği’ – and by filling: cheese, mince, chicken, leek, aubergine… The pilaf or börek was accompanied by dried fruit, stewed fruit (‘hoşaf’), or a cold fruit juice dessert (‘pelte’). There was a tradition of serving ice cream or pelte between the meat and the pilaf.

Vegetable dishes

Vegetables in olive oil were unknown in early Ottoman times, although olive oil was used for frying. As today, vegetables like squashes, aubergines, onions and courgette flowers were often stuffed with meat (‘dolma’), but then they were rolled in egg and fried. Vegetables were pulped and blended to make ‘hünkar beğendi’ (of aubergine) and ‘mücver’ (of green beans or courgettes). At least 40 aubergine dishes emerged. Every Ottoman household would cook aubergines in the embers of the fire, and according to nineteenth-century author Ahmet Rasim, the vegetables acquired a reputation as a fire hazard, because they would fall off the grate onto the floors of Istanbul’s wooden buildings.

Salad, by contrast, is not characteristic of Ottoman cooking. Lettuce and mixed radish and carrot salads were made, and dressed with bitter grape juice and vinegar. Pickled vegetables (‘turşu’) were more common.

Sweets and desserts

Sherbets, made of fresh fruits and syrups, were another characteristic feature of the Turkish tables. Rose water, violets, pomegranate, grape and apricot sherbets are renowned, in addition to lemonade. Visitors were often offered sherbets, or other drinks like ‘ayran’ (a yogurt drink consumed in place of milk), ‘sahlep’ (a hot drink flavoured with orchid roots) and ‘boza’ (a fermented millet drink).

Desserts included varieties of ‘helva’, made of semolina and flour and served at religious holidays, weddings or other feasts. Rose-flavoured ‘Güllaç’ was made during Ramadan, and ‘aşure’ during Moharram (the first month of the Islamic calendar). Aşure, with its wide variety of ingredients, is an ancient dessert, also found in other Near Eastern cuisines. A sweet jelly served with saffron, known as ‘zerde’, could be served alone or with pilaf.

Milk puddings

Milk puddings (‘muhallebi’) includes ‘keşkül’ (of milk and almonds), ‘sakızlı muhallebi’ (flavoured with resin), ‘tavuk göğsü’ (made with shredded chicken breast) and ‘kazandibi’ (a ‘burnt’ milk pudding). There were numerous sweet pastries including ‘vezir parmağı’, ‘hanım göbeği’, ‘lokma’, ‘lalanga’, ‘şekerpare’, ‘kalburabastı’, several varieties of ‘kadayif’, ‘kaygana’ – served with walnuts, honey and cream – and the well-known baklava. Pumpkin with walnuts, and quince with cream, were other much-loved desserts.

Before the tradition of having breakfast began, jams made of fresh fruits were eaten alone or together with Turkish delights and coffee. Jams could also be served to visitors together with bread and butter.

Of all these desserts, what should Sultan Murat be offered at the end of his meal? In fact, the sultan is not offered dessert at all, because although all these desserts were made in great quantities, they were not served after meals. Instead they were eaten between meals or offered when there were visitors. The sultan finishes his meal with coffee and sherbet.

Fusion cuisine

Ottoman cuisine is based on synthesis, in contrast to cooking in the Anatolian towns, which preserved regional traditions. The multicultural structure of the empire and its capital were reflected in its meals. Olive oil dishes are thought to have entered Turkish cuisine through the cultural exchange with Istanbul’s Armenians, Greeks, Jews and Levantines. These include artichokes in olive oil, ‘imambayıldı’ (literally, “the imam fainted” – a cold aubergine dish), and meatless olive oil ‘dolma’.

Other parts of the empire provided the Circassian chicken (‘Çerkez tavuğu’), Albanian liver (‘Arnavut ciğeri’), Tatar böreği, ‘Şambaba’ dessert, ‘Papaz (“priest”) yahnisi’, mackerel, stuffed mussels, fried calamari, tarator, tarama, crushed goose liver, brain salad, Russian salad and many others. Even cream cakes took their place on the table as time passed. Could Turkish food be the original “fusion cuisine”?

Back to the present

For all this variety, the emphasis was not so much on new ingredients but on eliciting, and varying, strong flavours. The French have long been aware of Turkey’s culinary attractions, ever since Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III, came to Istanbul and was so pleased with a purée d’aubergine and diced lamb dish that it was given the name ‘hünkar beğendi’ (“the sultan was delighted”). Today, classical Turkish restaurants have appeared in many cities in the US, where Boston-based chef Özcan Ozan published his acclaimed ‘The Sultan’s Kitchen’. In London, where Turkish restaurants tend to mix traditional with modern, ‘Sofra’ has done well, and ‘Tas’ lies among the trendy eateries of Waterloo’s Cut.

This Ottoman “revival” is also well under way in Turkey itself. Palace cuisine is served at innumerable addresses in Istanbul, ranging from ‘Tuğra’ in the Çırağan Palace Hotel, to ‘Hünkar’ in Nişantaşı and the more modest ‘Hacı Baba’ in Beyoğlu. In Ankara, ‘Boğaziçi Lokantası’ in Ulus has a long-established reputation for its Ottoman dishes, the ‘Le Chalet’ restaurant at the Etap Altınel Hotel in Tandoğan presents impressive Ottoman dishes in a modern manner, and there is also ‘Ateş’ on Turan Güneş Bulvarı. Would a modern sultan be delighted? Rushed off his feet with cabinet meetings and consultations, he would probably be seen snatching a sandwich outside the conference room, like all the other politicians.

Hattusha: Hub of the Hittite Empire 

by Peter Starr

photos: James Woods

The most recent of our articles on Turkey’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, published in October 2005, took us to Troy. The proud ancient Aegean city inspired the first great story of Western literature. Yet at one time, it had to pay tribute to the Hittite Empire of Inner Anatolia – or so the cuneiform tablets appear to tell us. This month, we journey back in time to Hattusha, the once-mighty Hittite capital, located just 150 km east of Ankara.

You are walking on sacred ground: a terrain chosen not just for the seat of an empire, but also for the worship of the “thousand gods” of what the Hittites called “the Hatti land”. The ruins occupy the northern slopes of a range of hills and rocky outcrops, bounded on one side by a gorge, through which a stream runs down to the wheat and sugar-beet of a fertile plain. From the “Lower City”, the city reaches upward amid massive rock faces. Each one of these must have had its own significance for the Hittites – whose writings frequently refer to “rock-crest houses” with ritual functions – before their empire mysteriously collapsed in around 1180 BCE.

The gorge (‘boğaz’ in Turkish) has given its name to the adjacent village of Boğazköy (or Boğazkale). The area is easily reached from Ankara by car – or by coach to Sungurlu and a 20-lira taxi ride. The visitor’s appreciation of the dramatic setting is only enhanced by the four-kilometre walk around the site.

Diplomatic history

It was on this spot in 1906 that Hugo Winckler made one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of all time, digging up 1,500 cuneiform tablets containing the archives of the Hittite kings. Historians reading Latin and Greek already knew much about the ancient cities of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Yet the ancient Greeks did not venture far beyond the mountains or across the plateaus of Anatolia. There is nothing in Ancient Greek about Hattusha. The Boğazköy tablets ushered a vast empire into a gaping hole in the jigsaw of history – and mainly in its own language, the earliest well-documented Indo-European tongue.

One of the cuneiform tablets, now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, is of particular interest to diplomats. It is the Hittites’ version of a treaty dating back to around 1259 BCE. “It is concluded,” the text begins, “between Reamasesa-Mai-Amana (Rameses II), the Great King, the king of Egypt, and Hattusili (Hattusili III), the Great King, the king of the Hatti land, his brother,… in order to establish a good peace and fraternity forever among them…” A copy of the tablet hangs on the wall of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It is reputedly the earliest peace accord in history.

Gods and kings

The foundations of the largest building in Hattusha, the Great Temple, are to be found in the Lower City. The Great Temple would have contained statues of Teshub, the storm god, and his consort Hepatu, a matronly figure who came to be identified with the sun goddess, in sanctuaries beyond a central courtyard. Numerous storerooms and impressive pottery storage jars show that the temples played an important role in the Hittite economy, with a priestly class owning farmland and administering offerings.

Close behind the leading gods in importance was the king and the royal family. Hittite records describe the king as “favourite of the storm god”. He would command his officials and army to ensure that proper devotion be paid to the gods in all outposts of the empire, from the arable lands of the Anatolian plateau in the west to Carchemish and the rich pickings of the fertile crescent to the south; on this depended the success of the Hittite military campaigns.

The king’s palace (‘Büyükkale’) has an outer courtyard, once home to officials and the “bearers of the golden lances” – the royal bodyguard. Before arriving at the royal chambers, one passes a square hall, where grand court ceremonials would have taken place. Crows now perch on the remains of the twenty-five columns which formerly supported its wide roof. Similarly, little remains of the viaduct which would have allowed the king to ride his chariot home.

The Upper City

Up the hill beyond the palace stands the Upper City. In the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BCE, extensive walls were built in order to incorporate this higher land into the capital. In contrast to the fragmented city wall below, the fortifications of Yerkapı, on the crest of the hill, and the walls running down to the Lion Gate and the King’s Gate on either side, are well preserved and very memorable. The gates are named after the fine carved figures which guard them. At Yerkapı the visitor can pass through the characteristic Hittite ‘postern’ tunnel, then climb steps over a massive rampart to the Sphinx Gate.

This whole expansion into the Upper City was intended for divine inhabitants. It was a cult site, enclosing the foundations of thirty temples. These temples were for the main gods; other members of the crowded Hittite pantheon were worshipped at sacred pillars or groves.

Engineers and artists

What remains of the temples, palace and administrative buildings today are low stone walls, often built of ten-ton limestone blocks precisely fitted together by Hittite engineers. In the top course of the stones are tell-tale holes into which wooden dowels were inserted to brace the mud-brick upper walls. The latter, and the timber roofs they supported, have long since disappeared. Within the last few years, however, researchers studying building techniques have made an impressive reconstruction of a section of the Lower City fortifications.

Hattusha never disappoints. Those whose appetite has been whetted by Hittite bas reliefs at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations will enjoy the beautifully preserved carvings of gods and Luvian hieroglyphs in situ in one of two chambers which stand near the city’s reservoir, between the palace and the Upper City. A two-kilometre walk or drive eastwards leads to the rock-cut temple of Yazılıkaya (Turkish for “inscribed rock”). Dating from about a century after the Upper City, Yazılıkaya served as a private royal temple. The innermost part of this temple contains two galleries carved into fissures in the rock. And arrayed along the walls are all the chief gods of the Hittites, standing upon the backs of lions or straddling the rocky mountaintops of the Hattusha landscape.

What’s in store?

Hattusha and Yazılıkaya together constitute one of Turkey’s nine UNESCO-certified World Heritage Sites. Some pottery and metal finds from the excavations, as well as later Phrygian, Roman and Byzantine artefacts, are on display in the small Boğazköy Museum and the larger one in Çorum. Current research at Hattusha concentrates mainly on its economic foundations: underground grain silos excavated along the ridge to the east of the city were airtight, proof against fire and vermin – and large enough to sustain the empire through years of drought or war.

The German Archeological Institute has consistently recorded major finds in this area. 2006 has already witnessed the announcement of the discovery near Sivas of new tablets relating to Hittite and Assyrian trading colonies. Yet Hattusha’s burial grounds have yet to be located and excavated. Nor will the story of fourteenth century BCE power politics be complete until some 21st century Winckler stumbles in northern Syria upon the cuneiform archives of the Hittites’ great rivals, the Mitanni.

Amasya: The flow of history 

by Asst. Prof. Dr. Fatih MÜDERRİSOĞLU

Wrapped in the inland folds of the Central Black Sea region northeast of Ankara lies the picturesque provincial centre of Amasya. It is one of the few Anatolian towns to be situated on a major river, and at the same time a treasure trove of ancient, Seljuk and Ottoman monuments just waiting to be visited.

The Oxford of Anatolia, the Mysterious City of the Crown, the City of Princes… It is not surprising that Amasya has earned so many epithets. For few of Anatolia’s provincial centres are so at peace with their natural surroundings. Built along the winding Yeşilirmak, or Iris, its houses drink from the river and take shelter from the valley walls. To one side rises Harşena Mountain, with a castle atop an elevation; on the opposite side appear the spectacular terraces of Çakallar. This was the birthplace of the ancient geographer Strabon. Later it became a staging post on the Silk Road, and even today it boasts dozens of architectural structures of monumental importance.

Amasya’s fruit is the apple which bears its name, its vegetable the okra and its literary legend the tragic love story of Ferhat and Şirin. Its fertile soils are believed to have been settled for the first time in the Chalcolithic Age. Since then, the Hittites, the Kingdom of Pontus, the Roman Empire, the Seljuks and the Ottomans have all left their cultural imprints on the city.

Ancient structures

During the period when Amasya was capital of the Pontus Kingdom, graves were carved out of the rock on the slopes overlooking the river. These rock graves were the resting places of kings. Today, they are illuminated with purple light at night – a beautiful addition to the striking Amasya skyline. By day, visitors can drive up to the castle, built over the rocks so as to dominate the city, and take in the magnificent setting of the settlement known in classical times as “Amaseia” or “Amasselas”.

The river divides the city into two parts and the narrowest part of the valley forms the old city centre. A number of ancient structures can still be seen and visited here, including the arches of the bridge and some ruined city walls. Other relics that have defied earthquakes, floods, fires, invasions and human damage are on display nearby in the provincial museum.

Seljuks, Mongols and Ottomans

The city centre is dominated by Seljuk and Ottoman buildings. Outstanding Seljuk works include the Gök  Mosque and Dome, the Torumtay Dome, the Halifet Gazi Dome, the Burmalı Minare Mosque and Dome, the Künç Bridge and the Tomb of Sultan Mesud. This last is also used as an extension to the museum, where Mongol mummies are on display. The Mongols took control of the settlement at one time, and were responsible for the construction of its 700 year-old hospital, which is now in use as the municipal conservatory.

The Ottomans conquered Amasya in the 1390s and were quick to turn it into a busy commercial centre, a cultural melting pot and a focus of artistic activity. The cosmopolitan environment was enhanced by architects, artists and merchants arriving via the Silk Road from Iran or the Baghdad Road from Iraq. The Müşeyemeş Family from Damascus produced experts in coloured stone embellishing, the Kapıağası Medrese was built with inspiration from Iran, and locally-born Sheikh Hamdullah was a leading master of the art of calligraphy. Another fine example of the cultural atmosphere of the day is the hand-written medical manuscript of Şerafettin Sabuncuoğlu, also born in Amasya, illustrated with miniature paintings.

Age of the princes

Only a few remains are visible today of the Palace of the Princes, which was built below the rock tombs during the Ottoman period. Under the Ottoman system of administration, especially during the 15th and 16th centuries, the sons of the Sultan were sent away to govern certain provinces, selected by the state, in the company of their hodjas, mothers and attendants. Thus the ‘şehzade’ gained their first experience of administration. Among the provinces singled out for this purpose, Amasya was of special importance. Bayezid I, Mehmed I, Murad II, Mehmed II, Bayezid II, Selim I and Murad III all succeeded to the throne while acting as governor at Amasya.

The 15th and early 16th centuries constituted the most brilliant period in Amasya’s history. The sultans, the princes and their mothers, the grand vizier, the ‘kapıağası’ and the religious leaders vied to endow the city with works of charity that would immortalize their names. The most important of these works was a complex of buildings consisting of a mosque, medrese (theology school) and almshouse built near the river opposite the rock tombs by Şehzade Ahmed for his father, Sultan Bayezid II. The complex is still in good condition, and the mosque, located in a large garden full of plane trees, is still in use as the biggest religious structure of the city, well worth a visit for its rich architecture and decoration.

Living in style

Other Ottoman works worthy of attention include the Kapıağası Medrese, the Bedesten (market place), the Hatuniye and Yörgüç Pasha mosques, the Çilehane (Yakup Pasha Lodge), the baths and the Ottoman houses built along the bank of the river. These riverside homes are known as the ‘Yalıboyu’. Some have boathouses, probably in an attempt to emulate the Bosphorus-side ‘yalı’ of Istanbul. The Hazeranlar Mansion, which has been converted into a museum, is an interesting example of the prosperous, gratifying aristocratic lifestyle once associated with the city.

In recent years, busts of Bayezid II and the other sultans who governed the province as princes have been erected on a platform adjacent to the river. They are joined in this souvenir setting by busts, statues and reliefs depicting Strabon, Ferhat and Şirin and the visit of Atatürk.

Staying over

The attractions of Amasya cannot be appreciated in a single day. Fortunately, a number of old houses along the riverside have been turned into hotels and guest houses. By way of an alternative, the hotels in the Çakallar area offer views of the city’s unique silhouette, which is illuminated by night. Don’t forget to ask for the facilities where local flavours are served. Those with a little extra time on their hands may wish to visit Lake Boraboy and the spas and town centres of the Merzifon and Gümüşhacıköy districts – all within the borders of Amasya province. Also in striking distance are Ballıca Cave and Tokat.

Fish in Ankara: A winter tradition 

by  Bernard KENNEDY

Seafood from Turkey’s extensive shoreline is nowhere better appreciated than in the more affluent districts of the country’s land-locked capital. Among the apartment blocks, a plethora of small fish houses pursue both quality and custom. And January’s cold winter evenings provide the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast just a few of these “theme restaurants”.

Eating fish is one thing; eating in a fish restaurant is another. Here, the scent of salt air filters through the decor as well as the menu. The fruits of the Sea are displayed at the door, prepared by specialist hands, and served in all their variety from the mighty swordfish to the simple sole. Bustling sanctuaries from the bitter winter nights, the ‘balık lokantaları’ preserve their own language, culture and rituals. A procession of lovingly-selected hot and cold starters, salads, side-dishes and cheeses, collectively known as ‘meze’, initiates the long and liquid ceremony. And long after the night has ended, the flavour lingers on.

Pick of the catch

Although far from the coast –  or perhaps because of it – Ankara has much to offer the discerning fish eater. By tradition, the capital claims the pick of the Black Sea catch -displayed at its freshest on Kızılay’s Sakarya Caddesi, which bulges with shoppers whenever a chill wind blows and sturdy bonito (‘palamut’) or  flickering anchovy (‘hamsi’) burst the nets. In bygone decades, the bounteous side-streets spawned a shoal of eating places designated after seas and ports – or after the trail of light which the moon casts on the waves: ‘Yakamoz’.

In the half-light, friends and families would await the multifarious ‘table d’hote’ – calamari, shrimps, octopus, stuffed mussels… – or order ‘meze’ and grills to a theatrical backdrop of starfish and shells. The smoke rose unhurriedly past mesh-draped walls, and the scent of rakı drifted out into the cold.

Today, “Sakarya” remains a by-word for revellers and good company, but the best of the eateries have spread uphill and upmarket. Among the ground floors of villas and apartment blocks, provisions arrive daily from all of Turkey’s four seas. The names on some of the signboards are familiar, and larger parties still sign up for long drawn-out fıxed menus, but today the fare and presentation are more sophisticated. Meanwhile, new airy centres of marine cuisine are appearing in the suburbs, with car parks and Anglo-Saxon trade marks, such as the ‘Blue Marlin’ in Oran or the ‘Bilkent Fish House’.

Popular fare

Among the venues better known to foreign residents, ‘Evim’ (“My Home”) has been laying on a genuine Black Sea atmosphere for the past eight years at its prime site a stone’s throw from the EU Delegation and numerous embassies. Evim serves not only fish – including the characteristic anchovy ‘tava’ (pan) – but also other Black Sea specialities and homely Turkish vegetable dishes. Its home-cooking ethos has earned it a “special” touristic licence.

Descend the arteries of Gaziosmanpaşa and double back towards Çankaya, and you will find yourself taking a virtual journey, anti-clockwise, around the Turkish coast. ‘Trilye’ takes its name from a town on the south coast of the Sea of Marmaris. It made its name almost overnight when it opened in 2002, and has remained popular ever since. “Trilye” is also another word for the rightly popular red mullet, an Aegean speciality more commonly known as ‘barbunya’ or ‘barbun’. Like Evim, the restaurant it is an all-year-round destination with outside seating for the summer. But its menu is modern and health-conscious rather than traditional, featuring marine specialities from all over Turkey and throughout the Mediterranean basin.

Attention to detail

Just minutes away is one of Ankara’s most accomplished and exclusive venues: ‘Agora’ – a modern restaurant designed in an ancient style. An olde-world fireplace, white walls and dark wooden furniture and fittings quickly put you at your ease. There is a pleasant garden too, and as the many ornamental urns suggest, a strong Hellenic influence is apparent in the cooking. At, you can peruse the menu in advance. Agora stays open until midnight; reservations are ‘de rigeur’.

The right unintrusive music, the right wine, the right olive oil – these secrets are also shared by the ‘Yosun’ (“Seaweed”) Fish House, whose narrow portal looks out on Embassy gardens and whose canopied garden backs onto Arjantin Caddesi nightlife. Reds are more popular than whites these days, explains English-speaking chief waiter Halil Akkuş, and properly decanted. They come from Chile, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Moldova, Turkey and Georgia. Ten years of experience goes into the dishes they accompany.

‘Akdeniz Akdeniz’ (“Mediterranean Mediterranean”) is an up-market yet popular restaurant, whose Bodrumesque decor defines both the atmosphere and the food: a favourite place for fun and celebrations, with a catering service to match. There is a hint of Ankara’s older fish-eating traditions among the life-belts at ‘Lagos’ – named after the grouper, possibly the most relished item on everybody’s menu.

A taste of Mersin

At the more formal ‘Liman’ (“the harbour”), situated half-way up Cinnah Caddesi, the diner encounters one more endless list of meze and middle courses. Yet it would be a pity to exit the warm saloon without tasting one of the more demanding of Mevlut Usta’s main dishes – say a marinaded open sea sea bass (‘levrek’) in foil, or a steamed turbot (‘kalkan’) stew.

Meals here are accompanied by live piano and vocals including Turkish ‘Sanat’ music. The kitchen is open until late, attracting members of Parliament and the business community as well as family and business groups. Mevlut Usta hails from Mersin – thus ending our virtual tour. Şanlıurfa, however, provides the peppers, Cappadocia the wines and Gaziantep the walnutty baklava that presages your coffee.


Fifty years of European stamps 

by Kaya DORSAN

It is not yet clear whether Turkey will become a full member of the European Union. However, Turkey has long been a full member of many other European institutions. One of these is the Europe Public Post Administrations Union, officially known as the ‘Conférence Européenne de Postes et Télécommunications’ (CEPT).  Last month, the Turkish Post Office celebrated the 50th anniversary of this institution by putting out a series consisting of 4 stamps and 2 miniature sheets.

CEPT member states have issued stamps with a common theme in every year since 1956. Until 1973, the stamps carried the CEPT emblem, and a common design was used by all the countries concerned. Subsequently, it was decided to select a common topic and to allow each country to choose its own design. In place of the CEPT emblem, the ‘EUROPA’ logo came to be used.

Turkey started to issue stamps with the common CEPT design in 1960, and ever since 1973, it has regularly issued ‘EUROPA’ stamps on the selected common theme. Particularly since 1973, most of the stamps issued have had cultural, historical, social or touristic themes.

A stamp in a stamp

The stamps and miniature sheets put on sale to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the European stamps feature images of the “CEPT” themed stamps which were issued in the past. Philatelists are particularly attracted to such “stamps on stamps”. Indeed, there are a considerable number of thematic collectors who are trying to accumulate all the stamp-on-stamp issues ever made in the world.

Turkey’s new ‘EUROPA’ stamps were printed in 600,000 full series at the Ajans-Türk Printing House. For each of the miniature sheets, 700,000 copies were printed. One of the miniature sheets is perforated and the other imperforated. The graphic design is by artist Bülent Ateş.

If you wish to use these stamps on your letters, you will have to be quick. There are collectors all over the world who collect stamps on the theme of “Europe”, and thanks to their orders it will not be long before stocks are exhausted.