Category Archives: turkey

Istanbul Street Style

Back again after a long time, but i had one very good reason to go missing, and its called istanbul street style!

About a month ago, by the power given to me by google search and email, i met an amazing person named Dano Alexander.

In a nutshell, for Dano everything about this project started with his blog,, on which he featured photographs of the many interesting figures on the streets of istanbul. He really captures the uniqueness of these figures without getting caught up on who they are, where they come from or where and how they get their clothes. The most important thing is that these people are capable of freely expressing themselves all the superficial details aside..
To make the long story short, the idea behind the blog gets bigger and bigger and ends up becoming a monthly event called Sahane* in which i as well am involved as a curator/art director.
Our first Sahane* event happened recently at the Hall. Now that I have mentioned the Hall, I need to give a little more detail about the space cause its even more sahane… The Hall is an event space located behind Emek Sinemasi, which used to be a church. Magnet Istanbul took this beautiful structure and turned it into an amazing event arena with multiple rooms, gallery space, main dance floor and etc.. So we really had to give its worth to this space and i truly believe that we did. Within the show, there were two catwalks that 12 extremely talented emerging fashion designers displayed their collections. Along with that the gallery space featured 25 new and established artists (photographers, illustrators, painters, stylists, painters, conceptual artists), which added up to about 200 pieces of beautiful artwork. Besides all the art and fashion, there was also Ari Alpert’s stencil performance, a live cooking show by Dilara Erbay, the creative showcase Magicbox and many more!







There is a lot I can say about this event but it wouldn’t do the justice.. Istanbul has been longing for events like this for a long time.. Come visit us at our May 12th show and share the experience…

If you are an artist reading this you can contact us at, preferably with a link to ur portfolio.

Those of you who missed this show, please see the continuation of this show at the Levi’s Gallery in Beyoglu.



Interview with Jake Olson

A while ago I got in touch with Jake Olson, he stumbled upon my blog, and like me he is foreigner in Turkey, writing about his experiences and reflections on life in Turkey. Jake invited me for an interview, and I thought it would be nice to do it vice versa. So we interviewed each other. Here you can read Jake interviewing me (in two parts/posts). An here is my interview with Jake:

Jake Olson

Jake Olson is a 28 year old American living in Adana Turkey. He has lived in Turkey for 2-1/2 years where he met his wife Rana (a Turk of Arab Orthodox origin.) Jake’s interests include exploring Adana and the surrounding area, reading, Outdoor adventures, pursuing his spiritual life, ultimate Frisbee, learning Turkish, making new friends, writing for his blog, and traveling. Jake and Rana are living out their first years of marriage in Adana. He’s currently teaches and authors The Foreign Perspective (; a blog about life as an American in Adana .

So, you’re living in Adana. My friends said Adana? What would someone want to do Andana! …. So I understand you got married with a Turkish girl. How did that happen? and how did it result in you ending up in Adana.

I originally came to Turkey on a summer adventure where the focus was spending a few weeks experiencing life in a different country. One of the values of the program was to visit a place where there aren’t a lot of other foreigners (tourists.) Adana fit that criteria. It’s not exactly a tourist magnet. Of course, we also saw Efes, Istanbul, Cappidocia, etc, but the focus was living in Adana. That summer trip motivated me to try to come stay for a year in Adana. During that year, I met Rana, and stayed to see what would happen. Before I knew it, we were married. We decided to stay in Adana because it’s ours. (i.e. Antakya is hers, America is mine, but Adana is ours.) It’s where we met, so it’s a great place for us to start our lives together.

What do you like about the ‘Turkish way of (daily) life’?

I love the fact that neighborhoods are still a living reality. They say in Turkey that you don’t rent/buy a home, but the neighborhood. It’s true. My neighborhood has been a big part of my experience. I leave the house and chat with people everywhere. I’m often offered tea by people working at neighboring businesses, other families in the building drop off extra food sometimes. In fact, today I just picked up some Lahmacun at the local oven, we dropped off the meat, and they cooked the lahmacun. They all know me by name there, it’s great. Most people here care what’s going on around them, most specifically about the people around them. You feel this most as a foreigner because you’re reached out to even more.

That you’re also a Turkish speaker gives you quite some more insights into the Turkish culture. Have you discovered some remarkable similarities with your own cultural background from the States?

Oh yea. Most of the core motivations in life seem to be the same. The more readily you can understand the language, the easier it is to see that we’re all a lot alike. We all want to be loved by a few and accepted by the crowd. Most of us believe that a better job or more money would make us happier, (even though we see many examples to the contrary.) We all have deep prejudices about others that are hard to change, and very few people are satisfied with life the way it is. The reality of who we are as people doesn’t change much from Turkish to American culture. When you can’t speak to people, Turks all seem so different, but when you can sit and talk in Turkish, you see more similarities than differences.

Have you come across Turkish cultural things that you just couldn’t get your head around, things you just couldn’t grasp?

I’m still struggling to understand what place religion has in peoples’ daily lives. You see marks of Islam everywhere. In some senses there is deep allegiance to the national religion, and in other senses there seems to be a deep distrust and rejection of it. An interesting paradox is in the total disdain for pork and the blanket acceptance of alcohol use.

You choose a Turkish woman to be your spouse, could you say anything in general (hard… but it’s always fun to generalize , right?) that you love about Turkish women?
As foreigners, we develop quick stereotypes about Turkish women; over emotional, irrational, submissive, etc. Marrying a woman who is level-headed, rational and assertive has made me reconsider my stereotypes to say the least. I will say though that my wife brings a deep loyalty and a depth of emotion into the relationship that I think is directly linked to her Turkishness. I love those things about her.

You’ve been quite a while now in Turkey, what was one of the hardest things to get accustomed to?

I think that by far the biggest adjustment has been adjusting to life without a car and without cheap gas prices. In American a big expression of my freedom was the freedom with which I got in the car and did anything I wanted any time I wanted, on my schedule. In Turkey, I’m constantly adjusting to the schedule of the masses, the bus/train/etc. schedule. It’s been a big adjustment.

And what was the easiest ?

In general everything gets a lot easier when you stop expecting things to be similar to life in your native country. When I stopped judging things by what I was used to, I started getting used to things the way they are here, at that point, you start to accept the good with the bad. For example, if you expect Nescafe (instant coffee) to taste like the standard coffee in America, you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you see it as a different beverage (not coffee) it’s fine.

What do you miss?

My family, winter, snow, my church, my friends, disc golf, clean cities, having a car, the wide assortment of microbrews and coffee shops we have in the states, pork.

The States are always in the news, especially if it concerns geopolitics. you’re an American. What kind of question do you sometimes get from Turks in the context of current affairs, where the US plays a dominant role?

I’m constantly asked about Bush and the war in Iraq. The thing that troubles me most about the way the questions are asked is the fact that people are all too willing to believe that others (Bush, his administration, the army, etc.) are willfully doing harm to others. Everybody knows Iraq is a mess and that many horrible mistakes have been made, but I don’t think anyone is intentionally doing evil over there. Of course, America’s denial of the problems and mistakes doesn’t help the world forgive them though.

I really appreciate though that people are open to me as an American person even though they are frustrated and angry with American foreign policy.

Here in Istanbul, the people around me tend to look more Westwards and don’t like to be associated with ‘the Middle East’. How is this in Adana?

I would say that it’s almost exactly the same. People I meet still believe what Ataturk taught about Turkey, namely that it’s aspirations and allegiances should be toward the West, not towards the Middle East.

Over they years you probably also learned Turkey has quite a complicated history and still is a complicated case of a nation state. What do you think has been one of the most positive developments you’ve seen over the past two years.

Wow, I wish I had something to say. I think the problems here are worked out over decades, not years. Anything that changes in 2 years is superficial at best. One thing I continually remind myself of when Turkey’s progress seems slow is that when Ataturk died in 1938, 75% of the population was illiterate (90% of women.) In 2000 93.5 % of men and 76.5% of women could read and write. That’s a pretty fast march to modernity. Not much changes in 2 years, but a lot has changed in the last 80.

And what has been negative?

I wish I could say that I see Turkey getting more stable, but the more I learn about Turkey, the more I realize that economic and social catastrophes come and go regularly. My biggest concern about living here long term is related to the constant threat things like earthquakes, military takeovers and financial crises. It seems like these people and this country needs stability.

What hold’s the near future for you in Adana?

We’ve decided to spend the first phase of our married life here (5 or so years.) If I can find a niche where I can keep doing work I enjoy for a livable wage, I think we’ll be here for a long long time.

We”ll that’s it I guess. Thanks a lot.

The New Turkey (review)

the new turkey

I finally finished ‘The New Turkey’ by Chris Morris a book I bought at the start of my stay here in Turkey in an effort to grasp what Turkey is about. Although it’s still hard to exactally put your finger on it, Morris gives to the western outsider quite some handles to get a good start. Without taking position in favor of the Kemmalist point of view (as one might easily expect from a foreigner).

I finished the book a month ago or so (2006), but last weekend my ‘quest’ for understanding Turkey has been crowned with a visit to Anitkabir, the grave of Ataturk in Ankara. A visit to this monument makes you deeply realize what Turkey as a nation state means and how it’s people relate to it. A friend of mine putted it like this; Where Western Europe experienced evolution followed by revolution, in Turkey it was the other way around. First revolution and after that, up to today and tomorrow, Turkey is experiencing an evolutionary process of coming to terms with this. In that sense Ataturk really is pivotal in what Turkey is. When the Ottoman empire demised and was defeated in the First World War, and the Turkish Republic (founded in 1923) in the Second. The European Alied forces where all to eager to devide the lands of the former Ottoman empire among themselves. Through the Turkish Independence wars, Turkey re-conquered much of it’s land up unto it’s current borders. After that Ataturk ruled as an Enlightened (in the French meaning of the word) dictator and put through so many reforms in such a staggering pace that, even if people would want to resist to one form legistlation put through the other one was already in the making. Ataturk founded a republic and a people and left an enormous legacy.This is everywhere, from simply encountering his portret at a local restaurant to the language Turks speak, write and the names they have. What it means te be Turk is pratically founded by one man. You won’t realize it fully untill you go to Anitkabir. As a western European you’ll probably feel uneasy, walking through an architecture strongly resembaling Albert Speer’s, wandering by panoramic battle scenes of the Independence War, accompanied with sounds of gunshots and screams, this all carried on the proud pulse of pompous classical music themes. All this is bordering to the best national socialist propaganda. But this is different, although the legacy of Ataturk is maybe not shared by everyone, as Turk you also need to ‘believe’ in what this man represents, because he practically constitutes identity of the Turkish people (this is important because there is really no such thing as a Turkish ethnic group, practically everyone is of mixed blood and background).

Anitkabir, Ankara

Turkish history maybe starts at Ataturk, but it certainly doesn’t end there. This is also what Morris quite effectively shows. The recent reforms in the perspective of joining the European Union (one day…) and how Turkey will deal with Islam mixed with a western republican democracy is now being put to the test with Tayip Erdogan at the helm. Where the sacred unity of Turks under the flag of the republic has also been a argument much used for violently crushing any sounds countering this (of course reffering to the Kurdish issue) concept, Turkey now is opening up slowly to other sounds, also the ones in a Kurdish tongue.

Now that entering the European Union seems further away than ever since negotiations started. Turkey finds itself (as always) in between, a Europe that has to decide if Turkey really matches with their European ambitions and a Middle East that is in turmoil. Turkey is presented with her final challenges of making the Turkish project a succes if it joins the union or not. It mostly depends on how the hybrid political system will evolve from a democratic-authoritarian-tribal amalgamtion to something close to a republican democracy and how Tukey can make the differences between the “relatively rich progressive west” and “traditional conservative poor east” smaller in terms of education, governance, business and living conditions. If anything is sure, than it is that Turkey is still a nation in the making, a work in progress. In any case I which them all the best with this project, because it’s a beautiful country with wonderfull people…. I know 😉