Turkish History and Culture
Turkish Culture is unique in the world as it reflects an unparalleled cultural richness and diversity and remains mostly shaped by its deep roots in Middle East, Anatolia and the Balkans, the cradle of many civilizations for at least twelve thousand years. Relics such as the Temple of Diana at Ephesus and the Roman theatres at Aspendos and Side are just a few of the great sights of present-day Turkey, also evidence of Turkeys fascinating history.
Originally the Turks came from Central Asia; however, they were forced to move west from this location more than a thousand years ago. Along the way, it has both influenced and been influenced in return by cultures and civilizations from China to Vienna and from the Russian steppes to North Africa for over a millennia and today�s modern Turkey is a diverse mix of many cultures.
The most powerful Turkish Empire, that of the Ottomans, finally dealt the Byzantine Empire its death blow when Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople now known as Istanbul in 1453.
However, most people believe that the greatest influence on Turkish life today is due to one man, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, who during the 1920's and 30's substituted the Latin alphabet for Arabic, brought in equal rights for women, prohibition of the fez and veil and other radical reforms.
The predominant religion in Turkey is Muslim with a very small Christian minority. However, Turkey is a secular state which in theory guarantees complete freedom of worship to non-Muslims.
Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting. Hospitality is very important and visitors should respect Islamic customs. Informal wear is acceptable, but beachwear should be confined to the beach or poolside. Smoking is widely acceptable but prohibited in all bars, restaurants, theatres, public buildings and on public transport.
Turks are famous for making people welcome. You will find that the majority of people you meet will be friendly and courteous to strangers, whether they're foreign or not. The way in which this manifests itself will vary, of course, depending on the situation you find yourself in but as a visitor it will probably be most obvious when shopping.
As a tourist you'll find yourself offered tea by almost anyone who is trying to sell you something. It's not rude to refuse and in most cases it's probably not a pressure sell tactic, a lot of people are more than happy to talk to you about where you're from, what you do, how much you earn, whether you're married (these are probably the four most asked questions). If you're comfortable in a shop and fancy looking at the stuff that's there then have a tea. This is common sense stuff anyway. No one's going to expect you to spend �500 on a carpet because you got a free glass of apple tea. If they do then you're better off out of there anyway.
If you find yourself invited to a home, which happens quite a lot, especially if you're out of the main resort areas, then you can probably play it by ear. It's more usual to take pastries, chocolates or flowers than something to drink. In the average Turkish home you will be treated as an honoured guest, as is any visitor, and it's an opportunity that shouldn't be turned down.