Married to a Muslim

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675px-Islam_branches_and_schools.svgI confess, before I came to Turkey, I had no idea about the Muslim Faith. I assumed like a lot of people, that it was like Christianity, one size fits all. I had no idea then that there were many denominations of Muslim and not all follow the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.

Now I’m not a religious person, although sometimes I’d like to be. I mean, who wouldn’t want to believe in Paradise? I personally believe in the ultimate power of Mother Nature, she pulls all the strings around here you know. She is tangible. I believe in being kind and respectful and I do try very hard to live my life that way, even when others are not. I’m also a big believer in karma, which can be terribly frustrating at times, but eventually springs into action in ways you never could have imagined.

When it comes to convention, I don’t fit. I’ve not had the normal upbringing and without that, I’ve made my own mind up about what is right and wrong and how I deal with things. It suits me and I refuse to live my life in a box made of anyone else’s rules or conventions, even though I often feel frustrated that people don’t understand the way my mind works and I’ve always felt like the proverbial square peg in a round hole.  Perhaps these are some of the reasons that make me fit into this Muslim family I married into? I can’t educate you on the Muslim faith as I’m not a Muslim, of any variation, but I can tell you what it’s like to be part of a Muslim family.

One thing I have never felt in the bosom of this family, is an outsider and yet my own kind have made me feel like that my whole life. My Muslims have been totally accepting of me and never once tried to force their opinions on me. My Muslims have been kind and respectful. They include me in everything and they take care of me like one of their own. This occasionally makes me cry, but you’d have to come from where I come from to understand why.

I told you earlier that there are many denominations of Muslim. Mine are Hanafi’s which come under Sunni’s (as you can see on the graph).  I know that they pray five times a day and this, they can do anywhere.  It doesn’t have to be in private, or in mosque. It doesn’t even have to be in a quiet environment. My mother in law Dursun will whip her prayer mat out and lay it on the floor in any room, even if we are all sitting chatting in it. She will continue with her namas even when little Melisa runs up and nicks her prayer beads, albeit with a smile on her face. Dursun also goes to the mosque most evenings. The closest mosque is not even built yet, it’s just a shell, but the intention is there. Sometimes, when I’ve been to the village for dinner, I will drop her off there and in the twilight I can see the figures of other villagers as they gather to pray in this concrete husk, a makeshift curtain at the entrance.  You see, it doesn’t matter where you pray, as long as you are facing Mecca.

I remember when I first came here and I worked with Turkish men. They were full of warnings when I started dating Murat. You see, Murat is a Kurd and if you have read anything about Turkey, you may have come across articles that talk about the problem between the two. I have to say, I’ve never come across any Turk that has been nastily anti Kurd, nor any Kurd that has been nastily anti Turk. There has in some instances, been an underlying current, a shift in atmosphere during such a conversation, but I’ve not been subjected to any of that prejudice. Perhaps I’m lucky? Anyway, back to the warnings, which were more of a “be careful.”  Well, I don’t do prejudice in any way shape or form. I believe that all people are equal and if you want to bring colour into it, I know for a fact that our bones are all the same colour.  My judgement is what I trust in and I knew Murat was a good person and after our nine years together, I’m still of the same opinion. I did take Murat into the office and he sat down with my employers and drank cay. Their opinion changed after that. They told me, “Kym, he is very different” – But I already knew that. I’ve watched the same scenario repeat itself over the years, always with the same outcome. Murat is a product of his family and they are simply inoffensive, peace loving people….Apart from Crazy Uncle, but every family has one of those.

Slightly off tangent, but relevant I feel, is the huge problems caused by race and religion. I think it’s great to be proud of one’s own heritage and culture, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss anyone else’s as wrong. That is totally illogical. We are all only separated in our differences by the little matter of geography and that’s all it boils down to. You or I could have been born anywhere, to anyone.

I probably shouldn’t talk about it here, but I’m going to anyway; the matter of women laughing out loud in public. While this is a ridiculous statement to my European mentality, there is a part of me that understands what it’s really about.  There is a saying here that I think sums it up.

cift-magara

Roughly translated it means, “How you sit defines your character.” This is all about respect. Respect for yourself and those around you. In the context of loud laughter, It’s about being demure and the kind of woman a man wants to marry.  Now before you go all teeth and feathers on me, remember our own British history?  It was not that long ago when there were women of the marrying kind and women who were not and this was all down to their characters and how they behaved. The first were the ones that were respected and the second were the ones you would have fun with. Totally antiquated in this day and age I agree, but us Europeans have had years of evolution in this respect. Turkey hasn’t. We can’t move here and say, hey we’re right and you’re wrong and we know this because we’ve been through it. We can’t put the whole country into the Tardis, wake them up when they get to the 21st century and expect them to be of the same mind-set as us.  As with anything we learn, we need to go through the process ourselves before we can fully understand it and grow accordingly, otherwise it’s like trying to burn a hasp on an IPhone. (Computer peeps will know what I’m talking about.)

In the early days of my village visits, I would get on my soapbox and talk all about the things my new female relatives could do if they were in the UK. They would look at me with uninterested faces and say, “Why would we want to do that?” It took me ages to get it. Theirs is a simple life and that is how they like it. My Muslims have no aspirations to be anything other than what they are. They hold family values above everything and as long as there is a roof over their heads and food on the floor, (I would say table but they don’t have them), they are happy…they truly are.

So to answer a few common questions….

Are the females in my family subservient? Yes they are (shock horror) – were women not the same back in the day? Wasn’t it a woman’s role to keep the house, raise the children and bring the pipe and slippers? Are my Muslims bothered by it? Not a jot, so why are we?

Am I subservient? Sorry, can’t type for laughing.

Do I have to wear a headscarf? No, but I do. Whenever I go to the South East, I cover my head out of respect for the more traditional relatives, like Haci Amca. I don’t smoke in-front of him either. Why? Because I CHOOSE not to.

Do I drink alcohol? Hell yeah, but I wouldn’t do it in the village and If I want to go out on the lash with my friends, I do.

Do I hang my knickers on the line? Sure, at the back, behind everything else. It’s not considered polite to have your knickers on show. Anyone who thinks this is a big deal and revolts against it by pinning their scants to the flag pole in protest, needs to get a life. There are far more important things you could spend your energy on.

When it comes to being married to a Muslim, it works just the same as any other marriage. Compromise. It’s down to you both to choose how far you’re prepared to bend, but as long as you have respect for each other, you work it out.

My Muslims are loving and kind, protective and supportive, peaceful and generous with whatever they have to whoever needs it. This is my experience of Muslims. You may have a different one, which just goes to prove they are not all the same.

Fit For a Queen

Singing EarthI posted a photo on Facebook this morning, and after reading some of the comments, I realised, that my first article about Alinda, is not here on my blog! I’d actually published it somewhere else three years ago! I have been back since then, and blogged about it, but it is definitely worthy of two articles, so here it is!

The Magic of Alinda

I’m always searching online, trying to find day trip places, and I’d come across a place that had taken my fancy called Alinda.

In no rush, we set off around 11am, drive through Akkoy heading toward the Soke Road and into Aydin. I roughly know the way; toward Aydin and take the turn off for Çine, but, as we have plenty of time on our hands, we turn off the Soke road and take the scenic route through Koçarli.

Mu stops a young boy walking along the road and asks him how far to Karpuzlu? He tells us we are around 15km away but we both know it’s a Turkish 15km! We cruise along overtaking tractors as we go and making lazy stops for refreshments and ‘comfort’ breaks until we come to the town of Karpuzlu with its funky roundabout in the middle of which sit two huge brightly painted watermelons.

Al1At the end of the village we turn right and wind our way up the mountain as the landscape changes. Small village houses nestle in among the rock formations, their garden walls lined with old olive oil cans filled with brightly coloured flowers and lilac that trails like embroidery through the fabric of the landscape. I can’t help but exclaim ‘oh I love it here’. But I’ve seen nothing yet!

The higher we go the more scenic it becomes and the village melts away and merges into the plains in the distance.

At each and every turn I feast my eyes on natures colouring book and exclaim ‘oh I love it’, my insides churning with excitement. I really need to get out of the car and go exploring and its then I reiterate the comments I made this morning when Mu put on his shiny dress shoes!

Al2The landscape is littered with huge rock formations that are allegedly the result of long ago volcanic eruptions but, I can find no reference to that anywhere online.  Passing the Roman Viaduct, we continue until we come to a towering rock that sits high on the hill with a view to the fertile plain below. I just have to climb it!

We leave the car at the roadside and make our way up the grass verge through the wild lavender and to the base of the rock. Strewn around are lumps of rock shot through with silver streaks that glint brightly in the sun. Naturally some of these make their way into my pockets.

At the top of the rock we both sit in silence revelling in the tranquillity of this place. April in Alinda, Mother Nature is having a ball and she is wearing all of her jewellery!

The grass is emerald green, the hills are covered in a dark and velvety wild lavender, small natural stone walls wind through the landscape and in amongst it all are round and oval rocks that glint with silver and are covered in a red & white moss. It all sweeps away into the valley below, on top of which rests a clear blue sky. It is achingly beautiful.

Al4This is the stuff of Disney cartoons. All I need is a cute bird to land on my hand and I will sing to it ‘tra la la la’!

We make our way back to the Viaduct so we can soak up a bit of history. Well, I’ll be doing the soaking, Mu will just accompany me in his shiny shoes!

Alinda historically, is the Anatolian City of Caria, a fortress which held the exiled Queen Ada. It was a commercial city with a Viaduct, market place, numerous temples and a 5,000 seat amphitheatre. It was even important enough to mint its own coins.

Al3We wander through the Viaduct toward the castle, the path glints in the sunlight and is a mixture of earth and flakes of silver rock. If you have ever spilled a tube of kids glitter all over the carpet you will know, no amount of hovering will remove it completely and this rock has the same effect.

Ahead are a family of cows grazing, mother and child to one side and daddy standing directly on the path facing us with a look of ‘don’t come any further or else’ on his face! We respect his wishes and follow the path behind the trees.

Al9Here we stumble upon the Necropolis. The Carian Tombs sit, in the majority, under the olive trees and all of them that we see have been opened, I assume by treasure hunters. The tombs are spread throughout as you make your way toward the castle. As far as final resting places go, I can think of none better than this.

On reaching the castle walls, Mu sits and rests while I, still very much a tomboy at heart, start climbing. It’s not too high and the views again are spectacular. Well worth the climb.

Al7As it’s now around 4:30pm, we decide not to venture any further this time. We will shelve the rest of our Alinda Adventures until the next spare Sunday.

Again we take the scenic route home, this time through the mountain road of Mila. The only stop we make is one just past Labranda where a natural mountain spring cascades onto the road where we fill up our water bottles.

My pockets are filled with silver streaked rock and rose coloured quartz; my camera is full of beauty and in my memory will remain our wonderful day at Alinda, an ancient fortress that was once truly fit for a Queen.

If you want to read about my next trip here and see some more gorgeous photos, follow the link: On The Road

The Bakers Kitchen

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Now that Ramazan is over, life has returned to normal. Breakfast in the village, at the regular time, has commenced and I love nothing more than falling out of bed, jumping in the car and turning up at my mother in-laws just as breakfast is being laid on the floor.

We do make a stop on the way though. We stop at one of the village bakers and pick up some fresh warm bread which can be used to wrap cheese, aubergine or peppers, then rolled up to dip nicely into bowls of freshly made tomato sauce – Delicious.

I especially like doing this on a Friday because Friday is the holy day, and on this day Murat leaves money with the baker to pay for the bread of village families that can’t afford any. I love that he does that and I’m sure there are others that make the same gesture.

The bakers, or ‘firin’ as it is known, is nothing fancy. It’s just a shop type building with a large counter behind which stand men in aprons holding paddles. I say paddles as I don’t know the real name for them but for the sake of your imagination, they do look exactly like paddles. These are used to place the bread deep into the fiery furnace until it turns golden.  Families also use the firin to prepare meals like ‘Tepsi Firin’ (oven tray) – They fill a large stainless steel dish, a bit like a flan dish but bigger, with tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, and sometimes adding onions, then send it to the bakers to be roasted in the oven – It costs just one lira for this service and of course, more bread is bought to accompany it.

I love the simplicity of this cheap and nutritious food and the simplicity of the village lifestyle. There’s a lot to be said for it.

Tomatoes, Peppers and Aubergines are such a staple of the nations diet that there is even a song about them. If you don’t believe me, here’s a video of the late Baris Manco singing Domates Biber Patlican :-)

 

 

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