Turkish Plate with Turbans

turban plate1Souvenir plate from Turkey

This is not actually mine; it was a gift to my sister-in-law.

Mother and I traveled to Turkey on a tour. Loved the country, such a variety of ancient and modern. In addition to Turkish wonders (Pamukkale, the beaches of Bodrum, the Blue Mosque), we were taken to many Greek sites, Epheusus, Troy, Didyma but my favorite site was not famous.

We went by bus to a tiny town on an estuary and from there hiked up a hill with our guide. When we reached the top, the view was spectacular – everywhere aqua sea sprinkled with sails. The guide took out a whisk broom and dusted away a layer of dirt to reveal a mosaic floor. He then showed us the outline of the house, well hidden by bushes. The reason for the concealment? Pirates (his word) came by sea, climbed the mountain searching for antique treasures. When found, they were dug up and taken away to be sold. They had lost quite a bit of their heritage this way.

220px-Grand-Bazaar_ShopThis was bought in the famous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. A veritable warren of shops that goes on for miles. Research tells me that the shops within employ 26,000 people and visitors number from 200-400K daily. There are no restrooms, but there are ATMs!

I got lost there returning to an ATM. I couldn’t see the shop where I’d left Mother. I must have looked distressed; a man stopped to ask if he could help. When I told him the problem, he shrugged and said, “Good luck.” Fortunately I realized the way back as THRU a shop, not on the main path.

turban suspicious men1turban two men
I loved the colors and detail. I think the pair of men on the left look suspicious. Perhaps one has taken a bite of food from the other. But what a feast.

Turkish Whirling Dervish

A whirling dervish, or samazen. The whirling is part of a Sufi ritual begun by Rumi, famous poet and mystic. Evidently he heard some apprentices beating gold and speaking a dhikr – “there is no God but Allah” – and it made him so happy, he spread his arms and started twirling for joy. My understanding is that the hands are bent to receive God’s kindness and channel it to earth.

This doll is part of a small collection. When I’m travelling, I usually buy one as a memento; (the carved doll on the home page was my first). This one, which is about 5″ and made of plastic, I got in Turkey (see my other Turkish souvenir). It’s a fascinating country — lots of ancient ruins from Greek and Roman times, temples, statues, mosaic floors. At the remnants of Troy, which we visited on a rainy day, I remember a big, hulking stone ramp up to what was the main citadel. It certainly exuded the power and darkness of the old legends.

I had an experience in Istanbul that I will never forget. We were out in the evening, going to the main square – Taksim. Crowds everywhere. Many women in full length black dresses, heads covered, but faces revealed. Occasionally I would glimpse colorful socks above black shoes as they walked which made me smile – a flick of fashion mostly concealed. We came to a tiny girl at a street corner selling packets of tissue. She was crying and trying to leave but her older sister pushed her back out into the crowd. Something was said that made me understand she wouldn’t be allowed to go home until all the packets were sold. I immediately bought one from her. BUT, and here’s my ongoing regret, why didn’t I buy the remaining 2 packets? They were ridiculously cheap. It was late, the child was in tears; with all of her packets sold she could have gone home. My stomach turns even now as I write this. Why I didn’t do the kind thing? A real failure of compassion.

On a more cheerful note – Taksim was fascinating. A huge market. I saw piles of a nut honey concoction advertised as “Viagra”, fish lined up perfectly on ice with their fins all facing the same direction, and a man pushing a wheelbarrow full of dead goats destined for the ubiquitous shawarma stands, and women in windows of little restaurants demonstrating the making of pita bread, working with long wooden rolling pins. I want to write about my experience with the cotton pickers, but that will save for another post…

Turkish Box

Turkish Box w/ painted feast
Small treasure box. Camel bone, hand painted with a feast in a tent. 2 ¾ by 1½ inches. Bought in the Istanbul Grand Bazaar.

This particular box belonged to my mother and came to me when she died. We had toured Turkey together and in Istanbul, we each bought one on these tiny treasures. Mine, however, had been ruined.

You see, the boxes are carved of camel bone and my dog didn’t differentiate between her bone and a souvenir. The little box was well chewed when I discovered it.

The same dog once destroyed a small painting by my next door neighbor, Stephen, a well-known Colorado artist. My husband called me at work to say the dog had eaten the painting. Not the entire paper, mind you. Just the area that was painted. Huh?

Turns out the dog wasn’t an art critic; Stephen had used egg tempura. Just the thing for a doggy snack.