Turkey lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by Asia and Europe. With a land area of 300, 948 square miles, it has a population of 6-62 million, and our guide for this 1994 tour told us half are under the age of 21. Istanbul’s ten million people are four times that of the capital, Ankara. Istanbul’s is the only city in the world that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia. It was the capital of three successive empires- Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman- for over 1600 years, with over
120 emperors and sultans. In the past 40 years, the military has seized control three times, then relinquished it to civilians. Islam claims 99.9% of the population. Turkey exports textiles, metals, electrical equipment, fruits, nuts, cereals and tobacco.
Starting in the 11th century A.D., the Ottoman tribes were part of a general migration of people out of Central Asia. They fought the Byzantines in Turkey, and established the Ottoman Dynasty that endured for six hundred years through the reign of 36 sultans. Their most lasting conquest was breaking the resistance of Constantinople in 1453. In Turkey’s “Golden Age”, in the 16th century, under Suleyman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire reached west to the gates of Vienna (repulsed in 1529), from Persia (now Iran) to Algiers. When he died in 1566 in Hungary on his 13th campaign, the Empire was a major world power.
The Roman Constantine moved the emperor’s capital from Rome to Byzantium, a small trading town on a site jutting into the Sea of Marmara. In 330, he dedicated it and called it Constantinople. Constantine had vanquished three other contenders for the title Roman Emperor in 311; he assured Christianity legal status within Roman Empire. By the 7th century the Eastern Roman Emperor ruled over Greece, Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, Sicily, the Balkans and most of Italy. Constantinople remained the name until 28 March 1930, when the Turks renamed it Istanbul.
The successors to Suleyman the Magnificent (16th centuty) were a sorry lot, indulging in intrigue, plots and murders that destroyed large sultanate families. Hungry neighbors began to chip away at Turkey’s holdings, so that by 1853, the Ottoman Empire was describe as “the sick man of Europe”. Turkish nationalism grew in the early 20th century, changing the thinking from “I am an Ottoman”, to “ I am a Turk”. Wars with Greece, Russia and Armenians had left Turkey with only one ally, Germany. In World War I, a young Turkish officer, Mestafa Kemal, known as Ataturk, led the forces that defeated the Allies at Gallipoli. His star was on the rise.
During World War I, the Ottoman Empire still controlled neighbors to the south, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In 1916, the Ottoman sultan’s regents in Mecca launched an Arab revolt, supported by Great Britain, from their bases in Egypt. One of the English officers sent to aid the regents was a young man who seemed more Arab than British. His name was T.E. Lawrence, and he quickly exchanged his British uniform for the Arab way of dress, lived with the Arabs in the desert, rode a camel as though he had been raised on it and became known as Lawrence of Arabia. Before the war, he had spent time in that part of the world, learning the language and the customs. With the revolting Arabs, the harassed and dynamited the Ottoman railroad cars that ran on the tracks from Istanbul to the Arab holy cities of Mecca and Medina, significantly contributing to the victory of the Allies over the Germans and Turks in 1918.
Turkey was the only defeated power in World War I to negotiate as an equal. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne recognized
present-day boundaries of Turkey, and on 29 October 1923, the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed, with the capital at Ankara, and the Gallipoili hero, Ataturk, named as president. Ataturk made radical reforms, adopting modern ways, a Latin alphabet and guaranteeing all freedom to all Turks. He died 10 November 1938, and as the world rolled toward World War II, Turkey vowed to stay neutral. On 23 February 1945, however, it declared war on Germany, necessary to participate in the April 1945 UN conference in San Francisco. Turkey is one of the charter members, U.S President Harry Truman gave his name is 1947 to the Truman Doctrine, which sent aid to Turkey and Greece, greatly stabilizing both countries. The Turks sent infantry to Korea in 1950 and joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in 1952. Turkey was a crucial ally to the U.S. during the Cold War.
In Houston, some years back, I had attended performances of belly dancers. It seemed to me they were always dark-complexioned, usually slightly overweight dancers.
So, I was unprepared for this raven-haired beauty, her movements graceful as a swan’s. The pictures is made with only the lighting of the restaurant/night club, which required a wide-open aperture, with a very little depth of field. Our tour group was seated about 20-25 feet distant from the stage.
As she weaved and moved her stomach about, she swam in and out of my focus, which accounts for the fuzziness of the picture. Her gown clung to her like paint, never moving, regardless of how frenzied she became. Her demeanor and dancing prompted enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Every trip has certain high moments the traveler never forgets. For our Turkish visit, this was certainly one of them. And I was not alone in that appreciation.