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Turkey Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Turkey
Modern Turkey is an interesting mix of ancient traditions and contemporary trends, resulting in a unique cultural identity unlike anywhere else in the world. Turkey's geographic position ensures that it receives influences from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and its culturally diverse history adds an extra dimension to an already fascinating country. Travellers will find Turkish people to be polite and quite formal in their greetings, kind and hospitable as hosts and friendly as new acquaintances. It's important to remember that while most Turkish cities are modern metropolises, Turks can still be quite traditional. With Islam being the religion of the majority of the population, Muslim holidays (including Ramadan) are observed, as are other Islamic customs and rules - so acting modestly is essential (especially when visiting mosques and people's homes), as is dressing conservatively. Frequenting hamams (Turkish bath houses) and coffee houses are popular past times of Turkish people, although contemporary hangouts like bars and nightclubs are the standard entertainment for most young people in the big cities, with Istanbul having one of the world's hottest nightlife scenes.
Geography and Environment of Turkey
Sharing borders with Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, Turkey also has a wide stretch of coastline along the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Seas. Blessed with large tracts of fertile soil, Turkey is one of the world's biggest agricultural producers, and visitors can expect to see many farms, orchards, plantations and areas of permanent crops occupying certain regions. Due to its location, Turkey is home to a wide variety of landscapes, from the rocky, forested coastline of the Black Sea region, to the rolling plateaus of the Marmara, the white sand beaches of the Aegean and the limestone formations of the Mediterranean. Adding further environmental diversity, the Anatolia highlands (considered the heartland of the country) feature rugged mountain ranges, snow-capped peaks and crystalline lakes.
History and Government of Turkey
For thousands of years, classical Greek culture thrived in Turkey despite Roman invasions and Byzantine development. Between the 6th and 11th centuries, what is known as the 'Turkic migration' occurred, seeing millions of people migrate across Central Asia into Europe and the Middle East, thus forming the beginnings of Turkish society. The Seljuq Empire rose to power in the 11th century, giving way to Mongol rule after being defeated by the Mongol armies in the 13th century. By the 14th century, the Ottoman Dynasty had taken over the region, with the Golden Age of the empire occurring between the 16th and 17th century. This marked a period of expansion and growth until territorial losses forced its eventual decline in the 19th century.
The Ottoman Empire participated in World War I, aligned with the Central Powers. Some parts of Turkey were then occupied by the Allies after the war, which lead to resistance and the creation of a new parliament and abolishment of the Sultanate in 1922, thus ending six centuries of Ottoman rule.
The Turkish Republic was formally declared in 1923, with Ankara being named as the new capital and Mustafa Kemal 'Ataturk' becoming the republic's first president. Turkey remained neutral during most of World War II, but sided with the Allies towards the end of the war as a gesture of support. Turkey joined NATO in 1952 and more recently, has enjoyed increased stability, prosperity and economic growth fuelled by tourism, mineral mining and agriculture sectors.
Turkey at a glance
- Ankara (population 2.9 million)
- 78.7 million
- (GMT+02:00) Athens, Bucharest, Istanbul
- Type C (European 2-pin), Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)
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