Photograph by Eda Kaya,The ritual dance of the Sufi sect, a mystical branch of Islam, was created in Konya 700 years ago by the Persian poet Rumi. Practitioners, dubbed "whirling dervishes" by early European travelers, believe the act of repeatedly spinning allows them to forget their earthly body and move closer to God. "Dervish" is an adaptation of darwish, the Arabic word for Sufi.
Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Photograph by Wilfried Krecichwost/Getty ImagesThe Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Old Town Istanbul is better known by its nickname, the Blue Mosque, given for the thousands of azure tiles that cover its interior. The famed structure, with cascading domes and six minarets, was built beginning in 1609 by the 19-year-old Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I. He died just one year after its completion in 1616.
Fashion Show, Ankara
Photograph by Yoray Liberman/Getty ImagesThe religious headscarf, or hijab, has been a polarizing item in Turkish society. Since the end of World War I, the post-Ottoman government has been fiercely secular, enforcing, among other edicts, a ban on headscarves in state institutions. But a renewed popular desire to embrace the nation's Islamic past has led to high-profile ideological clashes over the garment. Here a model at a fashion show in Ankara displays an outfit from Setrms, maker of fashionable Islamic clothing.
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Photograph by Murat Taner/Getty ImagesSprawled along a promontory between the Bosporus and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul's Topkapi Palace was, for more than 400 years, the Ottoman imperial residence and its seat of government. The structure was first built in the mid-1400s but was added to and renovated nearly continually over the centuries, eventually reaching a footprint of some 170 acres (69 hectares). Its decor, including the exquisite tile work shown here, matches the grandeur of a great empire and reflects the individual styles of each sultan.
Ruined Church, Ani
Photograph by Associated PressDubbed the "City of 1001 Churches," Ani was once a spectacular metropolis whose grandeur rivaled that of Byzantium. Situated on the uneasy border between Turkey and its historical adversary, Armenia, Ani endured centuries of war and earthquakes before being left to the desert plateau. Now all that remain are the scattered ruins of churches and mosques.
Library at Ephesus
Photograph by Didier De Pauw,Most of the ruins of the great city of Ephesus are from its time as a Roman provincial capital. Evidence still stands, however, of its rule by the Greek and Persian empires more than 4,000 years ago. Situated near the Cayster River in western Turkey, the ancient city's most famous edifices include the Temple of Artemis and the Library of Celsus, shown here.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Photograph by Murad Sezer/Associated PressBuilt in just six years by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the mid-sixth century A.D., Istanbul's Hagia Sophia stood as Christendom’s largest cathedral for almost a thousand years. After the city fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, it was converted to a mosque and outfitted with four slender minarets. In 1935, with the advent of the modern Turkish state, it became a museum.
Photograph by Palani MohanHaggling over carpets is an age-old pastime at the legendary Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. Rug weaving arose in Central Asia more than 2,000 years ago, and Turkish tribes were among its first practitioners. Centuries of refinements to please Ottoman rulers helped them hone their craft. Turkish weavers still produce the world's most coveted handmade rugs.
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Photograph by Gavin Hellier/Getty ImagesThe Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, has been a blur of activity for more than 500 years. Built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 1460s as the last stop on the Silk Road, this maze of stone and marble is one of the world's first and, despite the advent of the megamall, still among the world's largest covered markets. It occupies 75 acres (31 hectares) and houses more than 3,000 shops
Cave House, Cappadocia
Photograph by Apurva Madia,What is now Cappadocia in central Turkey was once buried beneath a deep blanket of volcanic ash. Millions of years of wind and water erosion then sculpted the soft rock into forests of mushroom-shaped peaks, dubbed "fairy chimneys." For more than a thousand years people have dug them out and converted them into houses, churches, and even subterranean labyrinths where residents hid from invading armies.
Photograph by Marge Botten,Until quite recently, the famed cave dwellings of Cappadocia stood empty and the region attracted only adventurous tourists. But infrastructure improvements and posh accommodations, including new and refurbished cave homes, have turned it into a luxury tourism destination. Among the diversions available: hot-air ballooning over Cappadocia's breathtaking landscape of volcanic spires and fruit orchards.
Galata Bridge, Istanbul
Photograph by Wilfried Krecichwost/Getty ImagesThe first bridge across Istanbul's Golden Horn waterway was a temporary structure erected by the Ottoman army in 1453. It wasn't until the late 1830s, though, that a permanent bridge was built. The current span, connecting the modern Galata neighborhood with Old Istanbul, is the bridge's fifth incarnation. Built in 1992, it houses shops, restaurants, and coffee houses underneath the roadway.
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4Corners
“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Constantinople,” marveled Alphonse de Lamartine, the 19th-century French writer and politician. Sixteen centuries as the legendary capital of the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman Empires, Istanbul has long entranced the civilized world. The sole city to span two continents, it physically and metaphorically bridges the cultures and philosophies of Europe and Asia, Occident and Orient. Historically a tolerant melting pot—as the center of Christendom for over a millennium and Islam’s seat for another 500 years—it remains home to the Patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Sephardic Jewish heritage sites, and legacies of numerous ethnic groups. It sits at the crossroads of human history, a sprawling 700-square-mile (1,812-square-kilometer) hilly metropolis studded with nearly 20,000 cultural sites from the sixth millennium B.C. to present day. Flanking 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the Bosporus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, it is a linchpin for trade routes in all directions. Though no longer a capital, Istanbul is the cosmopolitan heart of the Turkish Republic, its financial center and most populous city. The mushrooming population exceeds ten million, crowding cobbled-lane waterfront villages and glass-and-steel corporate districts, spirited premier soccer matches and haute couture boulevards. Byzantium, New Rome, Constantinople, Old Stamboul. Its name has changed, but the glory endures.
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4CornersThe fluted minarets and domes of Istanbul's commanding Sultanahmet Mosque, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque, overlook the Sea of Marmara.
Photograph by Phil Weymouth/Getty ImagesWhite-robed dervishes, members of the Sufi Muslim religious order, demonstrate their hallmark "ecstatic whirling" in Istanbul's Galata Mevlevihanesi, or Galata Whirling Dervish Hall.
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4CornersA blur of motion, a Turkish belly dancer performs at one of many dance venues in Istanbul.
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4CornersLuxuriating in the warmth of a heated stone platform, a patron at the Çemberlitas Bath, built by the famed architect Sinan in the 1500s, indulges in a time-honored Turkish tradition.
Pouring Water at the Çemberlitas Baths
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4CornersBracing himself, a patron at the marble-walled Çemberlitas Bath enjoys a personal cleansing.
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4CornersSweet treats: Flavored Turkish delight, hard candies, and savory almond pastes are just some of the highlights at family-owned Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir Confectioners, which began making its popular delicacies in 1777.
Cherry Juice Vendors
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4CornersResplendently attired juice vendors demonstrate pouring techniques near Istanbul's Hagia Sophia mosque (in background).
Grand Bazaar Vendor
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4CornersA produce vendor arranges his wares at Istanbul's Grand Bazaar while two men wash up at a city fountain.
Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4CornersSunset-gilded Sultan Ahmet Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque because of the many bluish tiles that decorate its interior, boasts no fewer than 30 domes.
- Ankara; 3,428,000
- 779,452 square kilometers (300,948 square miles)
- Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, Greek
- Muslim (mostly Sunni)
- Turkish lira
- Life Expectancy:
- GDP per Capita:
- U.S. $7,300
- Literacy Percent:
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The Asian part of Turkey is dominated by the dry plateau of Anatolia; the coastal areas of Anatolia consist of fertile lowlands. The country, especially northern Turkey, suffers from severe earthquakes. Mount Ararat, the highest point in Turkey at 5,137 meters (16,854 feet), is the biblical resting-place of Noah's ark.
Turkey joined the UN in 1945 and NATO in 1952. Although Turkey and Greece both belong to NATO, disputes over the Aegean Sea and Cyprus strain relations between the two countries. Turkish forces invaded Cyprus in 1974 to protect the Turkish-Cypriot community during a military coup—it still maintains some 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. UN peacekeepers remain on the island.
Southeastern Turkey saw years of civil war in the 1980s and 1990s between Turkish forces and Kurds from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who wanted to form an independent Kurdish state. Relations improved when the Turkish parliament passed laws giving more rights to Kurds, but Turkey has used cross-border operations to quell Kurdish insurgents located in Iraq.
In 1990 Turkey supported the West against Iraq following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and in 2003 allowed U.S. forces to use Turkish air space in the Iraq war. In 1999 Turkey gained approval as a candidate country for membership in the European Union. Turkey hopes to be able to join the EU by 2015, but the road has not been smooth. Questions about the role of religion in public life occupy Turkish discourse, notably seen in the state's ban on wearing headscarves in government buildings and schools, which has been a focus of protests.
There are some five million Turks working and living in EU countries—most in Germany. Most trade is with Europe, and many European vacationers come to Turkey for the climate, fine beaches, resorts, Roman ruins, and Crusader castles.
- Industry: Textiles, food processing, autos, mining, steel, petroleum
- Agriculture: Tobacco, cotton, grain, olives; livestock
- Exports: Apparel, foodstuffs, textiles, metal manufactures, transport equipment