12 Ekim 2007 Cuma

Sulukule - worlds oldest Roma settlement?

A run-down district behind a decaying stretch of Istanbul's Byzantine city walls, Sulukule has been home to the Roma (Gypsies) for 10 centuries. It is thought to be the oldest Roma settlement in the world.

But the area has been earmarked for a regeneration project the Roma fear will force them out.

The local authorities plan to buy all the buildings and replace them with Ottoman-style villas, transforming the neighbourhood. They are offering current residents credit to buy the new houses or apartments to rent across town. But many Roma are extremely poor, and they call that unrealistic.

The earliest records of Roma settling in Sulukule date back to 1054.
"The whole westwards migration of Gypsies into Europe began here," says researcher Adrian Marsh. He believes this crucial piece of Roma history should be protected.

"The Gypsies practised fortune-telling then and all sorts of entertainment. They were acrobats, bear leaders, jugglers. They settled here near the city walls where it was dangerous. The walls are always where marginalised groups would be."

For centuries, the Roma continued to make a living through music and dance. Until recently Sulukule was home to nearly 40 entertainment houses. Hugely popular with Turks and tourists, they were the heart of the local economy and community. But the bawdy clubs were closed down in the 1990s. Unemployment now is high, the crime rate has climbed - and the area is descending into a slum.

The local council says the motive behind its urban renewal project is providing safe, hygienic housing for the 21st Century.

Activists are now going door-to-door, gathering information for an alternative proposal. They believe reviving the local entertainment houses is crucial to that. "Many musicians, many artists live here. This is Roma culture, it is very important," explains activist Hacer Foggo.
* By Sarah Rainsford - BBC News

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What to see and do in Istanbul

Aya Sofya (or Hagia Sophia) is the mightiest silhouette in a city of dramatic skyline shapes. Built in 532 AD by Emperor Justinian, it served as the cathedral of Constantinople until 1453, when it was converted into a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror (Fatih Sultan Mehmet). In 1935, Turkey's great secularizer, Ataturk, made Aya Sofya a museum. The dome was the world's largest until the dome of St. Peter's was built in Rome. Aya Sofya is located in Sultanahmet and very near to the Topkapi Palace. Open: Tues.- Sun., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

With its stained-glass windows, blue tiles and six (instead of the usual four) minarets, Sultanahmet Camii or the "Blue Mosque" is one of the world's most graceful buildings. Built by Mehmet Aga in 1609, it's still a working mosque, so you must remove your shoes and leave them at the entrance. There's also a Carpet and Kilim Museum inside. Open daily, 9-5.

The famous Grand Bazaar, also known as the Covered Bazaar, is a labyrinth of more than 4,000 shops, trinket stands and cafes. Built in the 1450s, it's full of fine carpets and gold jewelry plus plenty of pure junk. If you don't look Turkish, be ready for the shouts: "Hello, hello, my friend, let me help you spend your money!" It has many historical doors opening to various locations. One of the main entrances is in Çemberlitaş. Open: April-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Nov.-March, Mon.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

My wife and I liked the Egyptian Bazaar or "Spice Bazaar" better because instead of the stuff noted above, you get to squeeze past colorful bins of herbs, nuts, soaps, fruit and a million mysterious spices. Most stands will let you take a taste. Open: Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Topkapi Palace is huge and confusing but probably Istanbul's most visited attraction. Spreading out over a point of land in Old Istanbul, various sultans and their harems called the palace home until the mid-19th century. Open: Wed.-Mon. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Built by the famous architect Sinan in 1584, Cemberlitas Hamam (where my wife and I took our Turkish baths) has been in business as a traditional public bath ever since. There are separate sections for men and women; from what I've been told, the men's accommodations are slightly more luxurious. Admission: $9 for bath alone, $18 with massage. Open: 6 a.m.-midnight ( www.cemberlitashamami.com.tr).


One of those hotels where a splurge for a night or more feels worth it, the Çiragan Palace has a spectacular location and very good service. Comprising an actual 19th-century Ottoman palace plus a newer wing, it overlooks a garden and picturesque pool right on the Bosporus. Double rooms start at $200 (www.ciraganpalace.com).

The urbane little Hotel Nomade is tucked away on a quiet street in Istanbul's old city. Owned by two sisters, and snazzed up by a French designer, the hotel has rooms that are small but chic. And it's hard to beat breakfast or drinks on its rooftop terrace, which has views of Hagia Sophia and the Bosphorus. Single rooms $72; double rooms $90 (www.hotelnomade.com).


Amedros is a charming spot for Ottoman food that comes with an extra bonus. Whenever someone orders the house special, Testi Kebabi (a stew of lamb and vegetables), you get a show. The sealed clay stew pot is dramatically cracked open right at your table. Soon the next table orders the stuff, too, and so on. Entrees start at $9 (Hoca Rüstem Sokak 7, Sultanahmet).

Pandeli Restaurant, in its odd perch just above the entrance of the Egyptian Spice Market, is famous for fish, and sea bass in particular. The bass in parchment that we ate was topped with a tomato slice and superbly light. The tiled walls are lovely to look at, and there's a good view from most windows. The restaurant is only open for lunch, from noon to 4 p.m., Mon.-Sat. (Misir Çarsisi 1, Eminönü).

Rumeli Cafe is a pocket-sized bistro owned by the Nomade Hotel with, among other pluses, a toasty fireplace and a cozy interior. On the menu are very reasonably priced traditional Turkish dishes and the service is informal and friendly. Entrees start at $7 (Ticarethane Sokak 8, off Divan Yolu, Sultanahmet).


For general information on Istanbul, these are some of the better sources: www.Istanbul.com is the official city website with the basics on hotels, restaurants, events, nightlife, museums, logistics, etc. Another site with fewer fancy graphics but with a bit more detail in places (plus capsule reviews of most of the major attractions) is www.americanairlines.wcities.com (search for Istanbul). The official site of the Turkish Ministry of Tourism is at www.tourismturkey.org. The site offers regional information for the entire country, tourism statistics, facts for visitors and a variety of other useful tips.

* By Peter Mandel- StarTribune.com

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6 Ekim 2007 Cumartesi

The Ritual of Sema

"The fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve. The shared similarity between all created things is the revolution of the electrons, protons, and neutrons within the atoms that constitute their basic structure. From the smallest cell to the planets and the farthest stars, everything takes part in this revolving. Thus, The Semazens, the ones who whirl, participate consciously in the shared revolution of all existence.

The Sema ceremony represents a spiritual journey; the seeker's turning toward God and truth, a maturing through love, the transformation of self as a way of union with God, and the return to life as the servant of all creation.

The Semazen (with a camel's-felt hat representing a tombstone and a wide white skirt symbolizing the death shroud), upon removing his black cloth, is spiritually born to Truth. The semazens stand with their arms crossed, ready to begin their turn. In their erect posture, they represent the number one, testifying to God's unity. Each rotation takes them past the sheikh, who stands on a red sheep skin. This is the place of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi , and the sheikh is understood to be a channel for the divine grace. At the start of each of the four movements of the ceremony, the semazens bow to each other honoring the spirit within. As their arms unfold, the right hand opens to the skies in prayer, ready to receive God's beneficence. The left hand, upon which his gaze rests, is turned towards the earth in the gesture of bestowal.

Fix-footed, the semazen provides a point of contact with this Earth through which the divine blessings can flow. Turning from right to left, he embraces all creation as he chants the name of God within the heart. The Sema ritual consists of seven parts:

1. It starts with the singing of the Nat-i-Serif, a eulogy to the Prophet Muhammed who represents love. Praising him is praising the truth of God that he and all the prophets before him brought.
2. Then follows the call of the drum and the slap of glory, calling the semazens to awaken and Be. This begins the procession known as the Sultan Veled Walk. It is the salutation of one soul to another, acknowledged by bowing.
3. Then begins the Sema ritual itself. It consists of four selams or salutes. The first selam is the birth of truth by way of knowledge. The second selam expresses the rapture of witnessing the splendor of creation. The third selam is the transformation of rapture into love; the sacrifice of mind and self to love. It represents complete submission and communion with God. The fourth selam is the semazen's coming to terms with his destiny and his return to his task in creation. In the fourth selam, the sheikh enters the circling dervishes, where he assumes the place of the sun in the center of the circling planets.
4. The Sema end with a reading from the Qur'an. The sheikh and dervishes complete their time together with the greeting of peace and then depart, accompanied by joyous music of their departure.

One of the beauties of this seven-centuries-old ritual is the way that it unifies the three fundamental components of man's nature; mind, emotion, and spirit, combining them in a practice and a worship that seeks the purification of all three in the turning towards Divine Unity. But most significantly, the enrichment of this earth and the well-being of humanity as a whole."

* Source: All About Turkey - The Whirling Dervishes

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22 Ağustos 2007 Çarşamba

The historical Cagaloglu Hammam

The Cagaloglu hammam (Cağaloğlu Hamamı) is one of the oldest and most famous hammams in Istanbul. This hammam is more than 300 years old and is considered as one of the oldest hammams in Istanbul with its almost completely preserved traditional hammam architecture. It has seperate parts for men and women. The Cağaloğlu hamamı also has a cute restaurant cafe in the garden. A very cozy atmosphere and you can sit, eat and drink there even if you didn't enter the bath. Also I must say that they have very hospitable people working there.

History of the Cağaloğlu Hammam

The Cağaloğlu hamam was constructed in 1741 and is the last hamam to be built after a long period during the Ottoman Empire. When we take a look at the names of the head architects of that time we can say that it was begun by Süleyman Ağa finished by Abdullah Ağa. It is the last example of its kind to be built in İstanbul and is a successful hamam that is still operational in our time. The door of the women’s section is on a side street called Hamam while the mens' entrance is from the main road (Yerebatan Caddesi) with two marble columns with classic stalactite capitals on both sides.

King Edward John VIII, Kaiser Wilhelm, Franz Liszt and Florance Nightingale have all been here for a royal experience. Besides today's well known personalities King Fahd, Rockefeller, Tony Curtis, Richard Harrison came to Cagaloglu Hamami during their visit to Istanbul. In this excellent three hundred year old Turkish bathing temple one hundred and thirtyeight TV films have been shot. Six of them were productions for German TV. Seven of them were Thematic Films (Indiana Jones) and one of them a commercial for visa card. The world press has written about the wonderful arthitecture many time. Four times in the New York Times and Three Times in the pages of Geo. The press has much praised this bathing maabit.
There is Mikveh for Jewish ladies.

You can get extra information and see photographs of the interior of the Cağaloğlu hammam from its official website.

Visiting the Cağaloğlu Hammam today

The Cağaloğlu hammam is open everyday including sunday. There are seperate parts for men and women: its open for men everyday from 08.00 am to 10.00 pm and for women from 08.00 am to 08.00 pm.

Prices can vary, because there are different packages you can choose from but they are very affordable, especially when you compare it with the delightful and freshening experience you live in a traditional hammam.

The Cağaloğlu Hammam (8) is a short walk away from the famous Sultanahmet Square on Yerebatan Caddesi on the cross pavement of the Iranian Consulate. As you can see on the map above it is also very near to the Grand Bazaar - Kapalı Çarşı (1) and Topkapı Sarayı (6).

Address: Kazim Ismail Gurkan Caddesi, number 34, Cağaloğlu, İstanbul.

Phone number: +90 (212) 522 24 24

mail address: info@cagalogluhamami.com.tr

For more information and personal experiences of foreigners of the Cağaloğlu hammam and Turkish hammams in general, I found these great sites, I'm sure they will give you a much more thorough idea:

* CyberBohemia.com: Visiting the Modern Hammam in Istanbul and Ankara
* TripAdvisor.com: My Favorite Place in Istanbul- Cagaloglu Hammam
* It's All So Turkish!: Famous Hammams To Visit in Turkey


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19 Ağustos 2007 Pazar

The history of lokum (Turkish Delight)

The story of the creation of Turkish Delight (lokum) begins in the late 1700s (1777), when Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir, confectioner to the imperial Ottoman court in Istanbul, listens to the sultan rant:

"Hard candy! I'm tired of hard candy!" the sultan growled as he cracked a tooth on yet another sourball. "I demand soft candy!"

Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir had come to the imperial capital of Istanbul from the Anatolian mountain town of Kastamonu in the late 1700s to hear his emperor's plea. His mountain-man blood rose! His face turned grim with conviction! He set his jaw with determination! He was going to take bold and decisive action!

He marched into his confectioner's kitchen and thought up a recipe: he mixed water, sugar, corn starch, cream of tartar and rosewater, cooked it up, poured the mixture into a flat pan slicked with almond oil, and let it cool. Then he sprinkled it with powdered sugar, cut it into bite-sized chunks and...his hand trembling, his eyes bright with anticipation, his mind fraught with trepidation, his lips quivering to receive the morsel...he bit!

What? No crack of candy crunched by his mighty alpine jaws? No shower of sugary splinters scattering through his oral cavity? Why, this new confection was soft and easy to chew, a pleasure, a treat for both palate and teeth! It was... it was...a comfortable morsel!

Rahat lokum ("comfortable morsel"), nowadays called simply lokum, or Turkish Delight, was an instant hit, especially at the palace. Ali Muhiddin became a celebrity overnight as palace bigwhigs (or, more usually, their lackeys and gofers) traipsed down the hill from Topkapi Palace to Eminönü on the Golden Horn to buy boxes of Comfortable Morsels to thrill the jaded palates of Ottoman potentates.

You can still buy lokum at Ali Muhiddin's shop in Eminönü today, almost 250 years since the intrepid confectioner saved his sultan from sourballs. It's on Hamidiye Caddesi at the corner of Seyhülislam Hayri Efendi Caddesi, two blocks east of the Yeni Cami (New Mosque).

Over the centuries Ali Muhiddin's descendants (the shop is still owned by the family) fiddled with the recipe, adding good things like walnuts, pistachios, oranges, almonds, clotted cream, and of course chocolate. (The plain rosewater original is still a favorite, however.)

Lokum (Turkish Delight) is now made and sold in thousands of shops throughout Turkey, and enjoyed with Turkish tea or coffee, or just by itself. A favorite place to buy it is Afyon, where the rich local clotted cream is used to make kaymakli lokum.

You can make your own Turkish Delight at home. Here's a recipe.

When you visit a shop, don't be afraid to ask for a free sample: say Deneyelim! (deh-neh-yeh-LEEM, "Let's try some!")

* Source of article: Turkey Travel Planner

* Painting of the Court Confectioner Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir in his Bahçekapı shop done by the Maltese artist Preziosi, the original picture can be seen at the French Louvre Museum.

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Where does the name "Turkish Delight" come from?

When Hacı Bekir manufactured lokum, it was called "Rahatu'l-Hulkum" which meant "comfort of the throat" in Arabic. The name "lokum" comes from there. You really feel a delicious comfort after you eat the lokum. The "rahatu'l-hulkum" name becomes Rahat Lokum in time. And after a while the "rahat" is forgotten, "lokum" is left to be used even centuries later.

In the beginning of the 18 th century, Bahçekapı was not only the center of Istanbul but also the center of the whole Ottoman Empire. After arriving to İstanbul in 1777, Hacı Bekir had also opened his first lokum shop in Bahçekapı. Kapalıçarşı (Grand Bazaar) is there, Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Bazaar) is there, Babıali (the bureacratic center of the empire) is also there, the Sirkeci Train Gar. When the tourists come, they go to Bahçekapı straight.
Misbah Haydar, the daughter of the military commander of Mekke wrote in her book titled "Arabesque" these words: "Everyone who claims to know Middleeast, must know lokum manufacturer Hacı Bekir. "
Again in those days an Englishman comes to the Hacı Bekir lokum shop in Bahçekapı, tastes it, finds it delicious and takes some back to his country with him. Of course, because the English can't pronounce "Rahatu'l-Hukum" he says "Turkish Delight" to those who want to learn what it is. And later on its name stays to be "Turkish Delight". The French call it "lokum", but the English speaking world continues to call it "Turkish Delight" until this day.

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17 Ağustos 2007 Cuma

A real turkish delight recipe (lokum)

This is one great Turkish Delight recipe! There are many recipes for Turkish Delight on the web. But when you read deeper you generally see that it is not the famous traditional Turkish Delight (lokum), instead they are either Greek or Arabic recipes. You can be sure that this one is the real Lokum recipe. Because I found it among Ruki's traditional Turkish sweets recipes. He has many great recipes on his site. You can add rosewater or food colorings as you wish. Plus you'll be able to add nuts, pistachio (fıstık), walnuts to this recipe too. But first you have to roast them. Now here are the ingredients for this delightful real Turkish Lokum:

* 4 cups (800 gr) of granule sugar
* 4 1/1 cup (1.125 lt) of cold water
* 1 desert spoon full of lemon juice
* 1 cup of (250 ml) cornstarch
* 1 desert spoon of white cream tartar
* 1-2 spoon full of rosewater (if you wish)
* also if you wish you may add a few drops of red food coloring to make it pink.
* 1/2 cup (125 ml) hazelnut, almond, walnut first roasted in a pan or owen and cooled off.
* 3/4 cup (190 ml) powdered sugar - sift it.
* 1/4 cup of additional corn starch
* a bristle brush
* a sugar thermometre
* a little pot with cold water
* and a tin tea filter

You should use a heavy saucepan with a thick bottom for cooking syrup. Plus a cup of water and a tin tea filter should be near you. While the syrup is boiling you'll use the tea filter to collect the bubbles formed on the syrup and then you should dip it into the cold water pot or hold it under the tap to clean it before dipping it back in the syrup.

Preparing the syrup of Turkish Delight

(800 gr) Sugar + 3 1/4 cup of water (875 ml) + lemon juice, blend them before you place it on the stove. Stir the sugar with a wooden spoon continuously while it is boiling and help it melt. Also while the syrup is boiling use the bristle brush to scrape the inner upper sides of the saucepan by drawing circles and pushing down the left around sugars- so that the sugar doesn't cristallize- do this often. After the sugar melts completely stop stirring and let it boil. Once the boiling syrups' heat reaches 240F/115C (you'll use the sugar thermometer at this point) take the boiling sugar off the stove at once.

In another deep and thick bottomed saucepan, blend the cornstarch, cream tartar and the rest of the cold water (1 cup - 250 ml) with a whisk until it becomes smooth enough. It should form a white liquid that isn't so thick by the time it's blended. Put it over the stove. Stir with a wooden spoon.
Beware, for it can thicken easily and unwanted pores can form. It may even be easier to stir with a whisk.

Now take the hot sugar syrup and add it to this cornstarch mixture over the stove, meanwhile keep stirring with the whisk. When it comes to boiling point, let it boil for 10-12 minutes over a half lit stove.

Wait in front of it while keeping on stirring with a wooden spoon. Stirring is very important in the whole process of preparing Turkish Delight. It will become a golden colored, thick and sticky mixture.
If you add rose water and food coloring it will become pink.

Also if you wish, now is the time to add nuts, pistachio, almond or walnuts. They should be roasted in a 350 F/180 C oven and cooled. You can put them as a whole or minced.

Pour the thick mixture into a 25 cm x 25 cm pyrex or pot (you should first butter the pot or pyrex by hand) Then wait for the mixture to cool and thicken.

Mix the powdered sugar and 1/4 cup of cornstarch in a flat plate. Cut the Turkish Delight in squares with a oiled knife (just carefully spread grapeseed or an oil of your preference on the blade). Then smear the powdered sugar mixture all over by hand. Lay them in a glass or tin box, in between the lines again sprinkle the sugar powder +cornstarch mixture amply.

* You must take some caution before working with sugar which means high temperatures. For example, a little pot with some cold water and a bristle brush should be under your hand so that while boiling the syrup, you can scrape the upper inner parts of the pot downwards to prevent the sugar from sticking on the side of the pot and crystallizing. Plus the pot should be good quality, thick bottomed, because you will be working with high temperatures.

* To use a sugar thermometer, attach it to the side and lower the thermometer so that the bottom is touching the bottom of the pot. Then raise it about an inch or two. Never let it touch the bottom of the pot, but don't get it so high that all you get is superficial heat. You want it to be inside the substance itself so that you can get a true reading of its temperature.

* Source of this Turkish Delight recipe: I translated it from Ruki's "Bayram Lokumu recipe". He has many other great recipes for all kinds of traditional Turkish sweets.

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