Am I safe in Turkey?

It’s a question I get askeTerrorism in Turkeyd often and right now I’m inclined to say:

I’m not safe in Turkey.

I’m not.

What I mean is, I’m not safe from other people’s fears and what they create around me.

The atrocities and struggles we see today – acts of terrorism, restricted freedoms of expression, divisions in society, hatred towards others – they’re products of fear.

People’s fear of losing power, or not gaining power.

People’s fear of the truth being told.

People’s fear of cultures they’ve never experienced, or countries they’ve never visited.

People’s fear of other people they’ve never met, or the religions they’ve never understood.

The truth is, if I ignore the fears of others, and focus on my pleasant day-to-day life in Turkey, I do feel safe – especially in Istanbul. In the very city that just yesterday was devastated by a bomb in the heart of the city’s tourism district of Sultanahmet.

You see, Sultanahmet is a place I call home. It’s where I spend most of my time. It’s one place in the world where I’ve always felt at peace, because it’s where East meets West every day and many friendships are formed.

My favourite thing to do in Istanbul is sit in a cafe in Sultanahmet, savouring a Turkish tea, whilst talking to tourists and locals. I’m always amazed with how easy conversations with strangers start here with anyone from Australia, Canada and America to Algeria, Syria and Saudi Arabia. We instantly have a common topic to discuss – Istanbul and all the magnificent historical attractions of Sultanahmet.

To hear of the bombing yesterday that killed and injured people in “my home” is something that is too difficult to comprehend – as it is for many with an affection for the city.

The fear now is that this dreadful event may tarnish tourism and many businesses may flounder. Inshallah (god willing), it will not be this way. Like New York, Bali, Madrid, Paris – any tourism hotspot that has overcome terrorist attacks and continues to attract world travellers – I intend Istanbul will too.

But, just how can we overcome this?

I believe, you become what you think. You become what you create. However, influencing this are the thoughts and act of others. What other people think and what other people create can shape our reality and collective thoughts are powerful. Another way of looking at this is, positive thoughts bring positive results. Negativity breeds negativity. Fears can breed negativity.

I’m in Australia at the moment and it’s been somewhat trying when the topic of “my home” comes up in conversation. I’m constantly asked to respond to other people’s fears about Turkey with the question: “Do you feel safe Turkey?” Instead of asking about the good things happening in my life in Turkey or what I enjoy about the country, people “auto-reject” within seconds to focus on the negative.

I’m growing frustrated because Istanbul is my home and I believe inflicting negative views, essentially invites further negativity. I don’t want that for my friends in Turkey or Turkey itself. Like a sensitive vampire lifting their cape to doom, I hiss back: “Do you feel safe in your hometown?”

The counter question is always met with silence or a stutter of random comments. “Well, do you?” I poke with my words, hoping they might come to the same conclusion I have. That is, a reality distilled from fears. The reality that threats to our personal safety and lives occur every day, everywhere in the world. We have perhaps become desensitised to many of them, because sadly, they have become to norm.

Alcohol and drug related violence, car accidents, homicides, drownings, falls, electrocutions, deaths by exotic animals and gun violence in America. Scan the morbidity and mortality statistics on these around the world and realise that the chance of succumbing to these issues are far greater than terrorism, but like terrorism, we cannot always predict when these afflictions will strike.

So, what can we do?

Be aware of your fears and how they may impact on you and others.

Question the sources of information around you – are they reliable and unbiased?

Choose positivity over negativity and put the right intentions out to the world for you, for others and the places affected by terrorism.

Mourn those who have lost lives and livelihoods in the terrorist attacks around the world, and remain defiant – never to let another person’s fears stand in the way of your life goals and happiness. (Waleed Aly says it best here)

And, for Istanbul’s sake, be positive. Be like a good friend going through hard times, come visit to help her heal.

Please don’t feed the fears.

Instead….

Love Life Istanbul is it safe in Turkey

My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed and injured in Sultanahmet on January 12, 2016. 

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Other articles on this topic by fellow bloggers and writers:

Don’t hide from Istanbul by  (January 12, 2016)

The New Normal by Janey in Mersin (January 13, 2016)

This isn’t chaos this is my home by Life in Istanbul (January 13, 2016)

Is Turkey Safe from Isis and Terrorism by Turkish Travel Blog (June 2015)

 

 

 

 

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Rubba-dub-dub it’s time for a scrub: The Hamam How to Guide

hamam

When visiting Turkey there is one experience not to be missed – the Turkish Bath (the hamam).

I admit it. I’m a self confessed hamam junkie – I go at least every two months to have my skin ex-foliated, soaped and oiled. There is something so unique about the hamam – I’ve never felt so sparkling clean and relaxed. I’ve tried hamams in Istanbul, Fethiye, Antalya, Damascus and Selcuk. I’ve had interesting experiences like having the hamam attendants break out into operatic musical, sharing a hamam with a nude Hollywood celebrity and I’ve survived the greatest error of taking a hamam with Turkish men in a country town – so I have learnt a thing or two about what to expect and what not to expect since my first hamam many domes and scrubs ago.

Here’s my guide to enjoy one of the best tourist attractions in Turkey.

1) Most hamams have separate male and female baths, whilst others are unisex. Find a hamam that will suit you. If you’re unsure, always ask the reception if the attendant will be a male or female so you know how to ‘dress’ (or not).
2) Hamams can be over 600 years old, with bathing methods just as old. Don’t expect modern staff uniforms – underwear or towels are it. For the ladies, female attendants are often topless and hanging low so don’t expect a glamorous attendant like your day spa back home.
3) Hamams were once where business deals were made and mothers sought wives for their sons by checking out the goods of local girls. Bathing is therefore for all ages, shapes and sizes. Leave body hang ups at the door – the hamam is quite a liberating experience if you allow it to be.
4) Bring a hairbrush and anything else you use after bathing. Hairdryers are available. If you use your underwear in the hamam be sure to bring a dry spare…the tram ride home commando style could be awkward!
5) On arrival, you will be given a locker, a scrubbing glove, tokens for your treatment and a towel. Make sure you lock your belongings and (if provided) take the key with you.
6) Wear what is comfortable for you under your towel – bathers, underwear or nudity is acceptable. Some hamams like Çemberlitas will provide underwear which everyone wears.
7) Enter the hamam wrapped in a towel and wear slippers provided to avoid slipping in the wet.
8) Be prepared, the hamam is warm, so before lying on the dais, drink water to hydrate and pour water on yourself.
9) Take your time. Lie on the dais for 10 – 20 minutes. An attendant will gesture you for your scrub, but it’s ok to tell them to wait if you want to relax longer.
10) The hamam will usually include a 10 minute scrub with splashings of water, followed by a lathering of soap and bubbles combined with a massage for about 10 minutes – finishing with a wash down. You can exit the hamam sparkling clean and radiant in your own time. If you purchase additional treatments you will be shown where to go next.

If you’re a resident of Turkey, ask your favourite hamam about memberships – there are significant savings for us locals. Relax and enjoy!