In the middle of October, we had a total of 10 days away from school for the observance of Kurban Bayrami, the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice, perhaps more commonly known in the States by its Arabic name, Eid al-Adha. I had a lot of fun discussing the holiday with my students, who are continually surprised by even my most rudimentary knowledge about Islamic and/or Turkish social, cultural and religious practices. My students have a full range of spiritual/cultural/religious backgrounds, including staunch atheists and/or secularists, those who are nominally Sunni or Alevi, and some who are quite pious. In any event, it was interesting hearing from them about the relative importance of the holiday for them, what cultural practices they follow during the holiday (such as visiting family, gifting sweets or money to young children, hand-kissing of elders, etc.) and their impressions of the holiday’s theological importance. I actually had a rather mischievous student attempt to trick me into reciting the Shehada (Islamic profession of faith, recited, among other things, for conversion to Islam). He was a little taken aback when I swore that I knew all the words, refused to “repeat after me, teacher!” and then taught the class the meaning of the word “intention” and its importance as a theological concept in Islam.
Kurban Bayrami is one of the most important holidays of the year, and most everyone travels to be with their families during the week. We continually made the joke that it was Christmastime; the visibility of the holiday in media and everyday life was similar, with politicians placing billboards expressing holiday greetings, special TV advertisements focusing on family, fliers advertising special prices for livestock, especially around mosques, etc. Though opportunities existed, I opted not to participate in the holiday festivities with a Turkish family, and instead took the chance to do some major traveling with one of my K-town Krew Kohorts. This post will cover the first part of trip, to the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya; the next leg of or trip will be covered in a separate post or two.
Our Bayram road-tripping began on a long bus ride to Antalya, the capital city of the province of the same name, in south-central Turkey, along the Mediterranean Sea. Antalya is just one coastal city among many that make up what is known as the Turquoise Coast; resorts and beaches abound, crusie ships come through frequently, and one can enjoy a traditional boat ride in the Akdeniz (Mediterranean) (we didn’t… yet?). Some background on the city, courtesy of Lonely Planet:
“Antalya was named Attaleia after its 2nd century founder Attalus II of Pergamum. His nephew Attalus III ceded the town to Rome in 133 BC. When the Roman Emperor Hadrian visited the city more than two centuries later, in 130 AD, he entered the city via a triumphal arch (now known as Hadrian’s Gate), built in his honour.
There followed a succession of new ‘landlords’: the Byzantines took over from the Romans, followed by the Seljuk Turks in the early 13th century. The latter gave Antalya both a new name and a new icon—the Yivli Minare (Fluted Minaret).
The city became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1391. After WW1, the empire collapsed and Antalya was ceded to Italy. In 1921 it was liberated by Ataturk’s army and made the capital of Antalya province.”
The sites pictured above are located in and around Kaleçi,the historical district in the city; we visited the area in the afternoon of our first day there, following at morning at the beach. One of the first sites you see approaching the area is called Kale Kapısı (Fortress or Tower Gate), which was built in 1244 AD.
That evening we found ourselves at the waterfront:
Though a major tourist destination, signs of Bayram were visible across Antalya during our visit:
Fulbrighters were criss-crossing the country all week, and we managed to assemble big crews for meals (including piyaz, a famous Antalya dish, pictured below,) drinks, and a peaceful evening on the beach at sunset, re-connecting and swapping teaching tales.
In Antalya we were also blessed with some beach time- soaking in those Mediterranean rays before the Central Anatloian winter chill hit (how I’m missing that beach now!)… to paraphrase Vonnegut, if this isn’t lovely, I don’t know what is: