Introducing Turkey

Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye) is a bi-continental republic: while the majority of the country is geographically in Asia, Eastern Thrace is part of Europe, and many Turks identify as European. Travelers can choose from a wide range of destinations in Turkey, including the dome-and-minaret-filled skyline of Istanbul, Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts, heavily indented coastline against a mountainous backdrop of Lycia and wide and sunny beaches of Pamphylia, cold and snowy mountains in the east, crazy "foam parties" in Bodrum, and Middle Eastern-flavored cities in Southeastern Anatolia, from verdant misty mountains of Eastern Black Sea to wide steppe landscapes of Central Anatolia, there is something for everyone's taste—whether they be travelling on an extreme budget by hitchhiking or by a multi-million yacht.

Although it might sound like a tourism brochure cliché, Turkey is a strange mix of the west and the east—you may think you're in a Balkan country or Greece when you're in the northwestern and western parts of the country (except that Byzantine-influenced churches have been replaced with Byzantine-influenced mosques), which are still partly inhabited by people from Balkan countries who immigrated during the Ottoman era. Influences from the Caucasus contribute to the mix in the country's northeast. Turkey is the most oriental of western nations, or, depending on your point of view, the most occidental of eastern nations.

Islam, the religion of the majority of the people, is also the one thing that unites the nation as a whole. However, how it is interpreted varies greatly across the country: many people on the northwestern and western coasts are somewhat liberal about the religion (being nominal Muslims to the point of being irreligious), while people in the central steppes are much more traditional (though don't expect to find a Saudi Arabia or an Afghanistan there). The rest of the country falls somewhere in the center, with coastal regions generally being more liberal and inland regions generally being more traditional. The Alevites are the country's largest religious group, accounting for up to 20% of the population and adhering to a type of Islam similar to the Shiite interpretation of Islam, with rituals heavily influenced by ancient Turk shamanistic ceremonies. Other religious minorities, such as the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Jews, Syriac Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, who have mostly settled in Turkey in the last 500 years from Western European countries, were once widespread throughout the country, but are now mostly confined to the large cities of Istanbul and Izmir, or parts of Southeastern Anatolia in the case of the Syriac Oriental Orthodox. Despite its Muslim majority, Turkey is officially a secular country with no declared state religion.

Written on 07/26/2017 - 03:47 by Shawn Blake

Last modified on 04/25/2021 - 13:40

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