Monday, April 24, 2006

Istanbul "Çok Güzel"

(Beirut Notes Pictures)
Captions: All kinds of Olives in Istanbul's Spice Market, Views of Istanbul, Hassan and Hussein Medallions in the New Mosque and Attaturk banners.

Forget Dubai, Beirut should take its cue from Istanbul, one of the world's "çok güzel" (very beautiful) cities.

A few days ago when I entered the Aya or Sancta or Hagia (from the Arabic Hajj, according to my not-very-informed tour guide) Sofia in Istanbul and I saw the portrait of the Virgin Mary baring Jesus in her hands alongside black medallions with the names of Allah, Mohammed, Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman, Ali and Hassan and Hussein, I thought: that is it! That is the solution to our problems.

Attaturk understood. No church, no mosque but a museum. The Aya Sofia was a church for 900 years and a mosque for 400, and when Mustapha Kamel Attaturk wanted to resolve the claim of religious authorities to the superb edifice, he turned it into a public museum in 1935.

The mix of Shia, Sunni and Christian symbolism under the same secular roof is a great achievement. And Attaturk was great. He created a nation that will sooner or later become part of the EU.

Although secularism in Turkey is at risk today because of democracy and the re-emergence of political Islam, Attaturk’s presence, 38 years after his death, is still strong through the powerful Turkish army and his ever present portraits around the city. And compared to the ugly faces of Lebanese, Arab and Iranian leaders that decorate our streets and our psyche, Attaturk looks like a Hollywood movie star.

Istanbul is a European city in its architecture and its rich culture, even its mosques are European in character. Indeed all the ones I saw in Istanbul are totally different from the ones in our part of the world. The most famous Ottoman architect, Sinan, built the Suleimaniya Mosque based on the norms of the Aya Sofia and ever since religious architecture in Turkey has been heavily influenced by his style.

Although, the Attaturk airport was full of men in white towels and women dressed in white hijab going to the Hajj in Mecca, a Christian priest and an Orthodox Jewish couple looked completely at ease among them. The scene at the Airport is a small microcosm of Istanbul where I saw a lot of bearded men, veiled women and burka-clad ones in the market, but unlike their brothers and sisters in Riyadh, they were all smiling.

The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to get close to "its Muslim brothers" in the Arab world, one Turkish journalist told me, but she added that they were rushing into it. Indeed they received the Hamas leaders and the step was not thought through. It was a diplomatic disaster, according to the journalist. Furthermore, the new government is also bungling the Kurdish question.

Economically Turkey is doing great and that is what really matters. Investments are pouring in, people are getting richer and the only way is forward. I hope one day a Turkish tourist could say the same about Lebanon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Zadig, I usually agree with you, but in this case I vehemously disagree. The Hagia Sophia is the symbol of Byzance. It is one of the most important edifices of the Oriental Christians.

The fact that Ata Turk (a bloody dictatot might I add) turned it into a museum is simply an insult. It is one of the highest places of pilgrimage outside of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

In essence it is like saying that we should turn the Al Aqsa mosque into a museum. How would all Muslims react? how would the most moderate Muslim react? Quite angrily I would think. Hagia Sophie belongs to Oriental Christians, and I am glad that there are still covert pilgrimages that are still oganised at the Hagia Sophia.

25 April, 2006 17:12  
Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

25 April, 2006 18:16  
Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

Aya means saint in Greek, like in Aya Napa (saint Lazarus).

25 April, 2006 18:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Turkey doing great econonmically? You must be reading the Beiruti politicians outtake. If you were to take apeak @ their GDP you'll see that the sick man of Euorope is still SICK. As for the Christian sacred places being desecrated... way you Zadig.. Please learn your history. Ataturk and his followers massacred millions of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians to "cleanse" his population. I guess the Hizbullah could achieve the same goal with similar methods!!

25 April, 2006 21:10  
Blogger Doha said...

it's "cok" (with an inverted s at the bottom of c) not "cuk".

25 April, 2006 22:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to add to the chorus but you got the etymology of hagia Sofia wrong too. It is greek for 'divine wisdom' and is most certainly not derived from the arabic word 'hajj'.

26 April, 2006 20:40  
Blogger bech said...

yes me too i usually agree with you but to say that attaturk was a great guy is a bit going too far. He was a ruthless frustrated dictator that erased a history of universalism. Hell, he changed the alphabet how frustrated is that? do you know who wants to wish the alphabet in Lebanon? Said Akl the wacko, as much as he resents the fact that he belongs to his land.
Anyway, there are many points on which you can criticize attaturk that is clearly reflected in Turkey's contemporary political dilemma but i just have no time to expand on that. just think of the tension between the old attaturkian guard and the growing Islamicist population (not something bad but that shows the fragility of Attaturk's fascistic convictions).

28 April, 2006 17:33  
Blogger the perpetual refugee said...

The Turkish economy is booming. You're right. I do business there and can tell you that over the past 4 years (since 2002) they have seen substantial growth. That is more than what we can say in our great land.

And while Ataturk may not have been a saint, he at least had a vision. If they enter the EU then his vision would have been prophecy. Again, that is more than I can say about the leaders of our great land.

And as for seeing the Virgin Mary carrying Jesus next to Arabic inscriptions of Allah, Mohammed, .....well, wouldn't that be the day in the Levant.

We talk alot about an end to sectarianism. We must realize that action is not as easy as talk.

06 May, 2006 07:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Turkey is a very nice country, I went there in 2000, Alanya, Antalia and Marmaris, reminded me of Syria and Lebanon in terms of nature and other things. The majority of people were very friendly and tourist welcoming. European tourists were everywhere, I could not believe it, I felt like in Spain or Germany.

The Mediteranean region is amazing for tourism, Lebanon has always been a star. Syria has a lot of potential to achive but not with this corrupt oppressive regime...and unlike ataturk Assad has no vision except to keep power and crush any hope of freedom
Free Kilo Now
Hoping for a Better Syria and a shining Lebanon

20 May, 2006 02:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link above is wrong I guess

20 May, 2006 03:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Atatürk is well-respected because he saved Turkey from being occupied by 4 different European nations after 1st world war, remember Gallipoli and War of Independence, the nations colonizing Northern Africa and the Middle East? He draw a map that keeps the Arabic land out because he thought these lands deserved their own rule of people. He established reforms, the alphabet included, because Turkish language was hardly expressed in Arabic alphabet and the nation was mostly illiterate- simpler alphabet would improve that. Nice words on massacres, but careful with dates: in 1920, the parliament is founded and Atatürk became the president in 1923, after the republic was founded. In 1915, the date for the Armenians, it was the Ottoman Emperor ruling and Atatürk also released this country from the sultan rule and founded a republic. Etatism, together with nationalism, should be understood within its context of 1930s, not 2000s. Plus, th guide was totally ignorant on the word Hagia because everybody knows that it is of Greek origin, not Arabic- like the building itself. At least Hagia Sophia is well preserved unlike the mosques in eastern europe- destroyed or left to deteriorate. Comparing Atatürk, an elected and recognized leader of a nation, a savior for 70 million people, with Hizbullah and calling him a "bloody dictator" only reflects your lack of knowledge- which I am unfortunately not able to cover up here. What really happens is not what is on the media generally and I thought you'd know this fact yourselves. Above all, a leader well-appreciated by world history would not be offended by a few comments in a blog, so don't mind. Last words-- Turkish economy is experiencing a fake boom: privatization and FDI-related growth with increasing unemployment and deappreciation of the currency. Income distribution is getting worse every day and we need strong structural developments in education, health and social security. The government is bounded with popularism and the pressure for an early election, plus they possibly lack the neccessary vision for the future of the country. That's it, thanks.

20 May, 2006 03:13  
Blogger mike said...

hello evryone israelis and lebenonis
hello evryone there who is reading this letter. first of all i want to apologaize if my english not so well but ill try o.k. i bealive that u will understand evrything.
so, here it is, first of al my name is Mike and i am from israel from Nahariya. as u know Nahariya has boombed all the time even now thia city got the most boombs from all the citys. me myself thinking that its not good and not healty to enyone. alot of peaple dying ther both of sides a lot of destruction and its very bad. but u know what and i know deep in my heart that u r lebenonis who lives ther in the south u hate the Hizbala and dont want them there at all couse they r destroy your life there and threat u that hey will kill u and your family and i thing beacouse that u cant do nothing. so what i advising u to all the lebenonis that against that hizbala write here in the internet as more ull write as many peaple will indentify with us and maybe like that we will get out the fucking hizballa to syria!!!!! i know that u r not guilty at all, maybe a little that u dont fight with syria, maybe u r afraid from them but if u all will go and ull be against syria evrything could change. syria and eran r guilty with evrything eran suplay the money and syria the man to hizbala, this 2 countrys r need to "fix" them and kill al who threaten on the world.
and this is a big message to syria and eran, u r so week, so week that u already start to talk like chikens before someone came to u and talk with u, yes yes and remmember one thing and save it into your head for on's and all: israeli army is the best in the world it was always we r the best and we dont afraid nothing at all!!! maybe we r not suicide and not fanatik like u (hizbala) beacouse its not in our religene that "fanatik" word and even not in yours its something that u made it up, but dont worry this time its for real and this time its to the end and dont worry syria u r not so threat like u r show your self, and we and i and i bealive all the lebenonis pray that israel army will bombed u for once at all. dont worry it will come and when it will come..... u will see and u will cry so many tears will fall from u like the our and lebenonis tears that falling now at this days.

u know what i realy dont understand but all the world and i mean al the world have problem with the muslems why for got sick only with u? something is wrong with u gugs, maybe u want to rull of all over the world and if u cant so u go to other option to suicite, tis is good? ha?

20 July, 2006 13:21  

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