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   Turkish Culture

ART

A transition from Islamic artistic traditions under the Ottoman Empire to a more secular , Western orientation has taken place in Turkey. Turkish painters today are striving to find their own art forms, free from Western influence. Sculpture is less developed, and public monuments are usually heroic representations of Ataturk and events from the war of independence. Literature is considered the most advanced of contemporary Turkish arts. Many critics regard Kemal Tahir as the greatest modern Turkish novelist. Among authors translated into English is Yasar Kemal.


COMMERCE

Businesses are generally open from 9 AM to 5 PM , Monday to Friday. Some are open for a half day on Saturdays. Most people buy fresh produce at open-air markets or bazaars, but get other goods from supermarkets (in large cities) or local shops. From their own harvests, people in villages make preserves, dried fruit and vegetables, and other foods for winter. Women who live in villages are more likely to knit or sew their own and their children's clothing than women in urban areas, who purchase clothing from shops or employ tailors.


DIET & EATING

A typical Turkish breakfast, usually light, consists of tea, white cheese, bread, butter, eggs, marmalade or honey, and olives. The main meal of the day is eaten in the evening and may consist of several courses. Traditional Turkish cuisine includes meze , a tray or table of small dishes, including stuffed vine leaves, salads, and a variety of other items, as well as shish kebab grilled on a skewer.

However, white beans should be considered as national food as it is eaten by almost every Turk. Meat is often grilled. Fish is fairly plentiful along the Bosphorus and the coast , but tends to be expensive. Vegetables are usually prepared in olive oil, and rice pilav is common. Soups are an important part of the diet. Turkish desserts include baklava (a dessert of syrup and pastry), kadayif and muhallebi (milk pudding). Turkish coffee (kahve), a thick brew served in small cups, is served with nearly every meal. Despite being overwhelmingly Muslim, Turkish people enjoy locally made beer, wine, and spirits.

The national drink is Raki , an aniseed-flavored clear grape brandy, similar to Greek ouzo or French pastis, that clouds when water is added. Breakfast is usually eaten at around 7 AM , or earlier in rural areas. Lunch is at midday, and dinner, the main meal, is eaten at around 7 PM , when the family generally expects to sit down together. Eating habits vary according to the region and the food being eaten. Traditionally, many foods are eaten with the fingers, but cutlery is now widely used. To begin or end a meal, one might say Afiyet olsun ( May what you eat bring you well-being ). One may compliment the cook on the meal by saying Elinize saglik (roughly, Bless your hand).


EDUCATION

The improvement of education is a government priority and disparities between rural and urban facilities are being addressed with the building of more rural schools, and other reforms. Primary and secondary education is free and coeducational. Primary schooling lasts five years, secondary education three, and, in theory, schooling is available until the age of 17. Nearly all children complete the primary level, and an estimated 54 per cent (1992) go on to the secondary level. In Turkish secondary schools, it is the teachers (rather than the children) who go from classroom to classroom. Once children have completed secondary school, they take an exam to determine entry to university. Turkey has more than 29 government-funded universities, the oldest of which was founded in Istanbul in 1453. There are nearly 600 specialist colleges and institutions offering vocational and further training.


FAMILY

In rural areas especially, traditional family values prevail, and the father is the undisputed leader of the family. Members of large Turkish families, often living as an extended family , are loyal to the family unit. It is rare for a person to live alone, mostly for economic reasons, however particularly young generation prefers to do so. Polygamy , though banned in 1920s, may be illegally available in rural areas. Women gained the right to vote in 1927 and the right to divorce in 1934, when civil codes were introduced. Many women in urban areas work outside the home in the fields.

An estimated 38 per cent of labor force (1995) is female. In rural areas, families usually decide on whom a person will marry, but in urban areas the choice is generally that of the couple. A marriage is not permitted for women before the age of 15, and men before the age of 17. In cities, many wait until their education, and sometimes military service, have been completed before getting married. The average age for marriage is 24 for women and 26 for men. Most Turks expect to marry and have children.

Traditional wedding celebrations, although increasingly rare, last three days. They begin with the henna evening usually on Friday, called "kina gecesi" , which is an event for women only. The women decorate the hands and fingers of the bride with henna-leaf dye, and dance and sing together. On the second day, both sets of parents serve lunch and dinner to their guests. On the third day, the bride is taken to the groom's home on a horse after folk dances are performed.


GREETINGS & GESTURE

When greeting friends or strangers, one shakes hands and says "Nasilsiniz" (How are you?) or "Merhaba" (Hello). A typical response to Nasilsiniz is "Iyiyim", "tesekkur ederim"(Fine, thank you). Among friends, greetings are followed by polite inquiries about one's health, family, and work. Among close friends of the same (and sometimes the opposite) gender, Turks clasp hands and kiss on both cheeks when greeting. To show respect, an older person's hands may be kissed and brought to touch the greeter's forehead. The young often greet each other with "Selam" (salute). Someone entering a room, office, or tea house might say "Gunaydin" (Good morning) or "Iyi gunler" (Have a nice day).

When parting, it is customary to wish for blessings from Allah "Allahaismarladik", to which the response is "Gule gule" (Be on your way with a smile). Upon joining a small group, one greets each person individually. When addressing others formally, professional titles are used. Among peers or with younger persons, the title "Hanim" is used for women and "Bey" for men. These titles follow the given name for example, Leyla Hanim or Ismail Bey. With older people, one uses "Abla" for women (Fatma Abla) or "Agabey" (Ahmet Agabey) for men. These terms mean sister and brother . If there is a great difference of age, the terms aunt and uncle are used, again after the first name: "Teyze" (Fatma Teyze) for women and "Amca" (Ahmet Amca) for men.

Turks generally use their hands a great deal during conversation, forming gestures that add meaning as well as emphasis. Social courtesies are valued in Turkey, and Islamic conventions are observed by many. For example, it is offensive to point the sole of the foot toward another person, and it can be seen as an insult to pass an item with the left hand; it is best to use both hands or just the right one. Deference towards older people, or those with higher status, is customary, and it is considered disrespectful for young men and women to cross their legs in front of an older or more senior person. Public displays of affection are not acceptable. The word No can be expressed by either shaking the head or lifting it up once quickly.


HEALTH & WELFARE

The government provides limited basic health care to the public and is engaged in a program to increase health-care provision. Urban facilities are generally modern and adequate, but rural facilities are not as well equipped. Various institutions (military, state-owned enterprises, and so forth) also provide health care for their personnel. The government aims to reduce the relatively high infant mortality rate of 68 deaths per 1.000 live births (1990) (attributed to poor education about childcare and the lack of family planning) to below 30 by the year 2000. It is also determined to improve the country's record on, among other things, child immunization, prenatal care, and general health education.


HOLIDAYS & CELEBRATIONS

Islamic holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and vary from year to year. A major Islamic festival is the three-day holiday called "Seker Bayrami" (Sugar Holiday), which comes at the end of the month-long fast of Ramazan (Ramadan). A favorite treat at this time is rahat lokoum colorful gelatin cubes covered with powdered sugar, known in English as Turkish delight. A four-day Islamic holiday called "Kurban Bayrami" (Sacrifice Holiday) honors Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son,Isaac, at Allah's command. It also marks the season of pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca).

An animal is usually sacrificed on this day to symbolize Allah's allowing Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son as a reward for his demonstration of obedience. Secular holidays in Turkey are calculated according to the Western calendar. Other official holidays include "New Year's Day" (1 January); "National Sovereignty Day" (23 April, coinciding with Children's Day), "Ataturk's Memorial Day" and "Youth Day" (19 May); "Victory Day" (30 August); and "Republic Day" (29 October). The day before Republic Day is also a holiday in some areas. August is when most people take their annual holiday.

National Sovereignty Day commemorates the Grand National Assembly's inauguration on 23 April 1923. Since it coincides with Children's Day, 400 students are given the chance to take seats in the national government in the nation's capital for the day. Ataturk's Memorial Day and Youth Day commemorates the beginning of the national movement for independence in 1919, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. On Victory Day, military parades are held, the world's oldest military band the Mehtar band plays, and fireworks are set off. Republic Day celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the republic in 1923.


LANGUAGE

Turkish, is the official language of the country, that is related to the Uralic-Altaic languages spoken across from Finland to China. The language has undergone major reforms during the 20th century. Arabic and Persian scripts were used during the Ottoman Empire period, but a modified Latin-based alphabet, with some extra letters, was introduced in 1928 which has been spoken since then. The Turkish alphabet doesn't contain the letters Q, W, X of the English alphabet. Most of the Kurdish minority speaks Kurdish which also has some common words with Turkish Language. Arabic is also spoken especially in the Southeastern provinces. English is also becoming a popular foreign language probably as third language.


LIBRARIES

The Sultan's Palace (Topkapi Sarayi), in Istanbul, is now a museum housing the imperial treasures and relics of the prophet Muhammad. Ankara's Museum of Anatolian Civilizations has outstanding Hittite, Phrygian, and other exhibits. Among the largest of Turkey's many libraries are the National Library in Ankara and the Beyazit State Library in Istanbul.


MUSIC

A long history of influences from both Europe and Asia is reflected in the complexity and diversity of Turkish music. Turks are proud of their centuries-old musical tradition, which is similar to the music of nearby Islamic regions such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and northern India. There is also a lively tradition of folk music, with many regional styles and contributions from ethnic minorities, including the Roma (Gypsies).

A cosmopolitan nation, Turkey has also adopted classical and popular music from the West, and developed genres that combine Western, Asian, and Arabic elements. One kind of unaccompanied folk singing is the long melody, consisting of heavily ornamented songs influenced by Islamic chant, sung in free rhythm. The shattered melody style is in strict rhythm and is more suited as an accompaniment dancing. There is also a tradition of balladry and epics accompanied by the "baglama" (a lute; also called a saz) and performed by itinerant musicians.

Folk rhythms are often irregular, in a kind of limping pattern important to the coordination of group dance. Folk instruments include the "zurna", a double-reed oboe, the "kemence", a bowed violin, and the "kaval", an end-blown flute similar to a Bulgarian instrument of the same name. Many of these instruments are capable of producing drones, a musical aesthetic found both in western Asia and in much of the folk music of Europe. Melody instruments include the ney, an end-blown flute; the kanun, a trapezoidal plucked zither; the 'ud, a short-necked lute; the tanbur, a long-necked lute, similar to the folk baglama; and the rebab, a spiked-fiddle.

When played in ensemble these are often accompanied by a small drum, called the def, and kettle drums, as well as vocal choruses. Music like this is often used by the Sufi Medlevi cult for sacred ceremonies, often accompanying their famous whirling dervishes . Centuries ago the music of the Ottoman Janissary bands, which is no longer played, greatly impressed Europeans, who incorporated several Turkish instruments, such as the cymbal and kettle drum, into European music. Composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven also imitated the music in a style called alla Turca.


RECREATION & SPORTS

Soccer is the most popular sport for both spectators and participants, but Turks also enjoy a variety of other sports, including volleyball, basketball, wrestling, and swimming. Wrestling has been the national sport for many centuries since the Ottoman times, and a traditional competition has been held in the town Edirne for over 600 years. Other principal recreational activities include family picnics, watching television, going to the cinema, and socializing in the home or in cafés and restaurants, although women are less likely to socialize in cafés and restaurants, especially in rural areas. Folk dancing and other cultural arts are also popular leisure activities.


RELIGION

About 98% of Turkey's population is Muslim (about two-thirds Sunni, one-third Shia). But the Turkish government makes it very clear that Turkey is a secular state with complete freedom of religion. The Turks had converted to Islam on their way to Anatolia from Central Asia. Islam is not the state religion, its status as such was abolished in 1924. Before the declaration of the republic, Turkey was the home of the "caliph", the leader of the world's Muslim community. Although Turkish laws and other social structures are not based on Islamic principles, Islam maintains some influence on society especially in the rural areas. Traditional dress which was widely used during the pre-republic period differs from region to region and may still be worn in rural areas or for special occasions.


SOCIAL LIFE

Hospitality is an integral part of Turkish culture. Friends, relatives, and neighbors often visit each other. In large cities, people usually try to telephone in advance, but in places where this is not practical they may visit without notice. The tradition of hospitality dictates that visitors are always invited in and offered something to drink, such as tea, coffee, or soda water, and sometimes something to eat, such as crackers or biscuits. It is impolite to decline the offer. Turks go to great lengths to make their guests feel comfortable and may even tolerate behavior that they consider inappropriate.

However, they are naturally more responsive to guests who display a sensitivity to their customs. For example, in homes where the inhabitants remove their shoes and replace them with slippers, hosts expect their guests to do the same. Guests should avoid asking their hosts personal questions and, because a visit to someone's home is an occasion for harmony and enjoyment, bad news or accounts of problems should be saved for another time and place. First-time visitors to a home may bring a small gift, such as confectionery, fruit, or flowers.


TRANSPORTATION & COMMUNICATION

Around major urban areas, the roads are paved and in good condition. In rural areas, the infrastructure is generally adequate but not always well maintained. Taxis, buses, trams, dolmus (shared taxis), and ferries (in Istanbul) provide public transport. Rail and air services connect major cities. The principal airports for international scheduled flights in Istanbul and Ankara. The communication system is fairly good, although telecommunication services (both domestic and international) are best in urban areas. There are several national television and radio stations. There is a wide selection of daily newspapers, but government reaction to criticism can be harsh.

 

 
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