Gweedoe from Konya Turkey.
Konya, known around these parts as Mevlana city is the last resting place of Mevlana Celaeddin (Rumi). The museum and mausoleum attract visitors from all over the world. Most are Turks, of course. For many of the people, a trip here is a pilgrimage to one of the most holy sites in all of Islam.
For a religion that urges followers to fear Allah and shun non-believers, Mevlana broke the pattern by writing about love and acceptance. Where mainstream Islam expects conformance, Rumi called everyone of all faiths and quality of devotion to join in his presence and he did it with beautiful poetry. Tolerance, rather than conformity characterized his messages, and love.
There are beggars here in Konya, but they are never aggressive, always humble. I've even helped a couple of them, something I rarely do since learning that beggars make more money than a workingman in Bombay.
People everywhere in Turkey are unusually polite on trams. Younger people regularly give up their seats to an older person. Even a young senior citizen like me has benefited on occasion, though I feel guilty taking the seat when I am perfectly able to stand, maybe more so than a younger person.
History is everywhere apparent here in Turkey. Ruins, some reconstructed sit on every block in the cities and dot the landscape along the roads between cities. Some of the oldest sites are seven thousand years old.
High-rise residential buildings are painted attractive colors in Konya (I took a lot of pictures of these). It is much like going into the suburbs of a Californian city where pride of ownership is obvious. Some might consider the colors gaudy. I like them.
I know. I already sent a link to the photo album, but in case you missed the first message, here it is again. Several people using AOL have reported having trouble viewing the photo albums. I'm now wondering if it is hopeless or if others have had better luck with AOL browsers accessing jpg images. If you know how to make the AOL browser work with ofoto.com picture albums, let the rest of us know.
I also took a roll of 35mm film pictures, but have little faith in the Turkish postal system. One postal employee may already have scammed me and god knows what he did with the envelope containing pictures of Istanbul. Don't forget you can get 25 free prints when you sign up for an account at ofoto.com. I've had one for about 5 months now and see no down side to signing with them. They process your first two roll free in addition to giving you the 25 free prints of anything including some of my pictures, if you like. If you do decide to get an account, do it while looking at my stuff. That way I get another 10 free prints (got 20 so far).
This is a special landmark in my struggle to use a digital camera to record sights along my way. Got the pictures taken in Konya actually processed while I'm still here and may actually get the post card done before I leave (That didn't happen as I am now in Antalya).
When you get tired of my irreverent and parochial views of things, take a look at the magnificent and extensive site put together by my Turkish friend Serif Yenen and then visit this site for additional authoritative material about Konya. For more information about Rumi, go here.
I see a lot of women dressed in the traditional Kurdish long skirt-pants that billow at the bottom. There are plenty of other, mostly older women covering their faces - usually holding the edges of the black scarf "peçe" in their teeth. Makes me wonder if the cloth tastes good.
This is my fourth try to complete this paragraph. Today is Friday, the Muslim Sabbath. About noon the owner of the cyber cafe in which I was working took over my keyboard, pulled up the on screen translator and typed in a Turkish word. The English translation came up "ritual prayer" and he made me understand that he had to close down for a half hour. So, I walked a couple blocks to another place I'd discovered and tried to continue doing this section. Twice during the session the yahoo screen disappeared and I had to start over. It made me wonder if some religious censor was watching to see if anybody was working on the Sabbath, or worse if they were typing blasphemous material like mine.
Just before noon every Friday things get very crazy around here. First you see men scurrying around headed for the nearest mosque (the women are rushing too, but into the shopping areas). Around 11:30 loudspeakers begin projecting the sermons (or possibly the chanting of Koranic verses) of numerous emans so that people who can't make it to the mosque won't miss the exhortations. The problem is that they all seem to be competing with one another in loudness so the cacophony that results must be nearly unintelligible to even someone who understands Turkish (or is it Arabic?). Then, around noon the muezzins begin their vocal duels calling everyone to the most important "ritual prayers" of the week... right on top of all the other racket being made by the emans delivering their sermons. On occasion a police car officer will decide to use his loud speaker to chastise some motorist, and drivers constantly sound their horns to alert cars ahead that the signal lights will be changing in a couple seconds. This all lasts for perhaps 35-40 minutes. The men keep streaming into the mosques right up to the time some of the early guys start coming out. It looks like making an appearance is close to obligatory for most of the male population. Those ubiquitous ritual washing fountains scattered all over the place are for men only as well. On rare occasions I have seen women filling their water cans from them, but for cleansing the feet and soul it's a men only facility.
Every morning starting about 05:15 and lasting about 45 minutes and then repeated four more times throughout the day, everyone is bombarded by what any sane person would have to call noise pollution. From birth to death every day every person hears the messages whether they want to or not. I suppose it might be like living next to a railroad. After a while your mind just shuts off the sound and you simply don't hear it any more. For one year I lived not more than thirty meters from railroad tracks with trains passing two or three times a day, so I know what I'm talking about. Most people on the streets do indeed seem to totally ignore the call to prayer; not even pausing in their conversations to acknowledge the message. Talk about brain washing: true or false, you get the party line message five times a day from the cradle to the grave. No wonder most Muslims I've met are such true believers.
"Allah is great. There is only one Allah. Time to pray to him again." As I contemplated this message Muslims hear five times a day, it occurred to me that in the West our religion of consumerism does the same thing and not just five times a day, but five times and hour... sometimes five times a minutes. "Coca Cola is great. There is nothing else quite like Coca Cola. Time to drink some more Coca Cola!" See what I mean? Just as surely as the believers in Islam are brain washed, so too are those of us immersed in the consumer oriented world. Who is to say which is better or if either is beneficial? I must wonder what would happen if all of humanity were to practice the Grand Silence.
I have always considered the advice to avoid dark alleys at night as prudent. If you did that here in many parts of Turkey, you would miss some of the most interesting places and experiences. There are an awful lot of narrow shopping streets in most towns I've visited. To be truthful though, they rarely are deserted and I never feel unsafe.
There are barbers for men and there are barbers for women and never the twain shall meet. So, when a guy with shaggy hair like me needs a haircut there is a big problem. The shops that are set up to pamper women are shocked when a man appears in their door. The men's shops on the other hand give only two types of haircuts: the standard Army cut and the modified Army cut, neither of which would satisfy me. Finally, after much searching and protracted negotiation I did find a very up-scale women's salon that rushed me into a back room out of sight and with the help of the owner, a male translator and a (gay?) male hair dresser plus a half dozen spectators proceeded to give me one of the best haircuts I have ever gotten anywhere, complete with eyebrow epilation using a twisted pair of threads. The fee: about nine dollars (three times what the other salons were quoting!). It was an elegant experience.
In something I wrote earlier I characterized the tall pointy towers you see all over Muslim countries as lightening rods. A couple of my readers questioned whether or not they do indeed serve that purpose. Here in Konya I took a long careful look at several of them and sure enough, discovered that every one has a ground wire snaking its way down to ground from the top. There are so many of them here it makes the landscape look like an aroused porcupine. Of course I do know the religious importance of the minarets and no one can miss their function unless they are stone deaf. For anyone interested in an academic description I draw their attention to a great link Richard Houghes, a friend of mine found.
I have had occasion to take note of the fact that naming things always gives them qualities not inherent in their basic nature. A tall pointy tower with loud speakers on it becomes a religious object only by consensus of some group of people. A mass killing of Armenians by Turkish mobs a century ago becomes genocide only when some group chooses to define it so. When the French parliament recently condemned that incident as genocide, the Turks were enraged. I got enough of the debate to know once again "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and ugliness. During my stay here in Konya the American-British bombing of Iraq occurred. Right after that some of the staff in my hotel started treating me with contempt. Of course I can't be sure of the connection, but I have my suspicions. There is the possibility that they were just ticked off that a rich American like me wasn't tipping better. Who knows?
This country is badly in need of an anti-smoking campaign. Everyone smokes everywhere... especially in the cyber cafes I use a lot. There is no consideration for the health of others, not to mention the possibility of offending non-smokers.
Everywhere I go in Turkey the streets are like a giant outdoors version of my favorite store, "Ross - Clothing For Less." I have never seen so many clothes at such ridiculously cheap prices. This would be a good place to start a vacation naked, especially if you like shopping.
Things still are cheap here: Coke in a can 38 cents, watch battery 75 cents, meals in a restaurant are never more than 8 dollars and some as little as 3 dollars! Winter 4 star hotel rates vary from 30 to 50 dollars for a single. The flight from Konya to Istanbul is 71 dollars (or $50 for seniors), etc. While I write, the Turkish Lira is in crises. A few days ago I got 650000 TL per dollar; today I got 800000! It means foreign goods and services become more expensive for the Turks, but most things are 20% cheaper for me. They already were pretty cheap before the devaluation.
I have carried a Swiss Army Officer's pocketknife for thirty years. During a change of planes in Zurich last month I lost the darned thing while going through the security check process. What an irony: loosing my Swiss knife while in Switzerland!
My several psychologist friends may be able to tell me what it means to be dreaming so much. Every night, as well as during short naps I dream wildly... about ordinary stuff. Occasionally I'll catch myself nodding off into a daydream about the same subjects. I do not recall ever dreaming so much before.
For my computer crazy friends I have suddenly started to realize the importance of the new peer-to-peer technology. It is difficult to stay on top of it out here in the wilds without regular access to the Internet and the ability to save links. If anyone comes across anything particularly radical, let me know. I think it is another development that has the potential to change civilization.
That is more than enough for now, so I'll sign off.
Konya Turkey: Another view from the back.