cult of hospitality

Istanbul Travel Blog

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It only seems fitting that my first topic about life in Turkey as a foreigner is the incredible culture of hospitality I've encountered just about everywhere.  Maybe it's the fact that I know some people in Istanbul and so have already have a slight 'in', but I feel like I've been welcomed with open arms more so here than any of the other places I've been.  In my first few days in Istanbul I was without a cell phone (having unintentionally taken mine swimming in Malta), meaning I was dependent on finding public phones in order to get in touch with people; on multiple occasions I stopped in small restaurants or shops to try to ask where the nearest telephone was, and rather than being gruffly pointed in a vague direction, instead found myself being personally escorted there.  This friendliness toward guests has manifested itself a myriad of other ways, from friendly banter to suggestions of where to go and how to get there to invitations to dinner.  It's an ancient tradition which has been reinforced by the influences of islamic teaching, but it has held out remarkably well in the face of Turkey's 20th century modernization (especially compared with what seems to me the dying art of hospitality in many other post-modern Western countries).  There are stories of prisoners-of-war captured and held in provincial Turkey during WWI being made to ride donkeys while their captors trudged alongside on foot, because after all, what self-respecting host would make his 'guest' walk while he himself rode beside him? And just before the pope made a 4-day visit to Turkey in November, a trip greeted with widespread consternation and protest due to some of his previous comments interpreted as criticism of Islam, the Turkish Prime Minister appealed to Turks simply to uphold and display the long-standing tradition of hospitality shown to guests.  Despite being deeply rooted in traditional Turkish culture culture, the treatment of guests in modern Turkey is also very closely tied to a tremendous sense of national pride.  Almost without exception Turks are proud (and justifiably so) of their history, their cultural heritage, and their country in general, and so there's a genuine desire for visitors to see and experience the best that Turkey has to offer.  I'm certainly not complaining...
dodge says:
They sound like good people there. Thanks for sharing. Did you have difficulty about the direction and English signage there? I might be there alone so pretty scared of living there.
Posted on: Feb 21, 2008
arlene0725 says:
I agree. I love Turkei when I was there. The shop owners always offering me tea was just GREAT. Its more relaxing to shop with sipping tea. gule gule, Arlene
Posted on: Dec 19, 2007
Eric says:
Sounds like the people there are great! Good idea for a blog!
Posted on: Jan 03, 2007
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Istanbul
photo by: Memo