Turkish newspapers are quite interesting, and I’m not just talking about what’s written in them, but how they look, their layout. If you look at some Turkish newspapers, the cover page has short previews of around twenty different stories with a big bold headline in the middle and lots of pictures- some even angled in various directions. It sort of looks like things were cut and pasted onto the cover page. When I asked why this was after visiting a news agency, they said that it is a result of the lack of interest in Turkey to read, especially when it’s about hard news. Which also answered my question as to why pictures of Kim Kardashian and Brad Pitt dominated the cover pages.
A lot of the newspapers here focus more on the entertainment and gossip instead of tackling politics because entertainment news is safe in a country where some journalists have been jailed for writing about politics.
When arriving at our hotel in Antakya, Hatay, we were all stunned by how beautiful it was. With its stone walls and elegant furnishings, The Liwan Hotel is far from modern.
The Liwan Hotel
According to the history provided by the hotel staff, it was built by Sekip Nakip in the 1920s. Information in the hotel brochure indicates the Liwan Hotel was first built as a home for a Syrian official, later became a French Embassy, and once housed a doctor who cared for patients inside his home. The building was abandoned for a long period of time until being remodeled in October of 2008.
Guests from all over the world come to the Liwan, especially from the United States, Germany, and France, according to hotel staff. Famous Turks such as writer Orhan Pamuk and Singer Hande Yener have also stayed in this hotel. Last year the Turkish film series, Asi, was hosted at The Liwan Hotel.
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Ahmet Sik, a journalist that was released from jail just two months. His interview has received a lot of press from social media and networking sites. It has been tweeted and retweeted over one-hundred times including tweets from Turkish press and news outlets. Check out an article I wrote about the interview in the International Herald Tribune:
We all know that smoking cigarettes is bad for our health. We also know most of the diseases that result from this habit. In America, cigarette packages have plain black and white health warnings on them that most smokers overlook and that some non-smokers don’t even know are on there. Ironically, it’s different in Turkey and warning labels are much more bold. I say ironically because not even a tourist could miss the warning labels on cigarettes here, yet 37.6% of male deaths are caused by smoking-related illnesses according to the World Lung Foundation and Turks are known for the saying ‘Smoke like a Turk’. To clarify what I mean by bold warning labels, these packages have distressing graphics to show people what happens when they smoke. The pictures cover pretty much the entire package and they range from showing a couple on opposite sides of the bed portraying that smoking ruins or hurts relationships to hospitalized babies. It definitely shocked me and made me more aware of the dangers of smoking.
I have yet to come across an unfriendly Turk. The Turkish people have been nothing but hospitable to us while on this trip, and I have realized that it’s not because we are foreigners, but because it is a part of their culture. From the poorest to the wealthiest, the Turkish people will go out of their way to make you feel welcomed.
Numerous times I’ve stopped people on the street to ask them for directions and in every instance they have either shown me the way or, if they don’t understand English, have searched for someone who does to help me. The surprising thing is that they don’t expect anything in return, they are genuinely doing this out of the kindness of their heart…they just want to make you happy and at ease.
Another thing I have noticed is, much like in the Arab culture, the Turks are constantly offering you coffee, tea, juice, or water. Today we had a meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Kocaeli. When we first arrived we were asked what we would like to drink from the choices of Turkish coffee, Turkish tea, water, and pomegranate juice. These are standard selections offered when you’re a guest. Don’t be surprised if you’re even offered these selections while shopping in a store.
As journalists in Turkey, wherever we go we seem to always have a notebook, a pen, a camera…and Turkish drink with us.
I’ve read in numerous travel guides that Istanbul is a very safe city, and though I have only been here for two days, I feel completely safe walking around Istanbul. Of course I haven’t totally let myself loose by walking around alone or giving in to being lured into shops. Just like any other populous city, you still have to take safety precautions.
Besides the occasional pick-pocketer and purse-snatcher (which are the most common dangers to safety), it is best to always walk on the sidewalk (if there is one) and be cautious and aware of traffic because trust me, at the speed that motor vehicles are going, you might not make it if you were hit.
While exploring the bustling streets of Istiklal and Taxim in search of clothing shops and flea markets, I noticed that police cars constantly drove up and down the street. Seeing them gave me a sense of security while venturing into this unfamiliar area of Istanbul. I especially loved seeing them because they were driving the same car that I drive, a Mini Cooper! I could hardly take them seriously in these little toy-looking vehicles.
After a long, but pleasant ten hour flight, we have finally made it to Istanbul, Turkey! While on board Turkish Airways, I was trying to learn a few words of Turkish by listening to the airline stewards and flipping through the inflight magazine. I didn’t notice too many words that looked like English, but, while reading the menu they gave us in order to select our preferred meals, I realized that a lot of words in Turkish resemble Arabic words! I knew that the Arabic language influenced the Turkish language back when the Ottoman Empire adopted Islam, I just didn’t realize the extent of this influence.
When first boarding the plane, I noticed that the Turks greet with the word “Merhaba”, similar to the Arabic version of “Marhaba.” Just a side note…a man that we met at a cafe this evening, told us that in Turkish, “a” is pronounced like an “e.” Just a fun fact! Anyways, so as I was reading the menu on the plane, I discovered that I knew what a lot of the words meant before reading the English translation. These are the words that are similar to Arabic:
Maybe I will be able to get by by speaking Arabic in Turkey after all!