About Turkey

Turkey is a transcontinental country in Eurasia, mainly in Anatolia in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. Turkey is bordered by eight countries: Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest; Georgia to the northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; Iraq and Syria to the south. The country is encircled by seas on three sides: the Aegean Sea is to the west, the Black Sea to the north, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles, which together form the Turkish Straits, divide Thrace and Anatolia; they also separate Europe and Asia. Ankara is the capital while Istanbul is the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Approximately 70–80% of the country's citizens identify themselves as ethnic Turks. Other ethnic groups include legally recognised (Armenians, Greeks, Jews) and unrecognized (Kurds, Arabs, Circassians, Albanians, Bosniaks, Georgians, etc.) minorities. Kurds are the largest ethnic minority group, making up approximately 20% of the population.

The area of Turkey has been inhabited since the Paleolithic by various ancient Anatolian civilizations, as well as Assyrians, Greeks, Thracians, Phrygians, Urartians and Armenians. After Alexander the Great's conquest, the area was Hellenized, a process which continued under the Roman Empire and its transition into the Byzantine Empire.The Seljuk Turks began migrating into the area in the 11th century, starting the process of Turkification, which was accelerated by the Seljuk victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.The Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm ruled Anatolia until the Mongol invasion in 1243, when it disintegrated into small Turkish beyliks.

In the mid-14th century the Ottomans started uniting Anatolia and created an empire encompassing much of Southeast Europe, West Asia and North Africa, becoming a major power in Eurasia and Africa during the early modern period. The empire reached the peak of its power in the 16th century, especially during the reign (1520–1566) of Suleiman the Magnificent. It remained powerful and influential for two more centuries, until important setbacks in the 17th and 18th century forced it to cede strategic territories in Europe, signaling the loss of its former military strength and wealth. After the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état which effectively put the country under the control of the Three Pashas, the Ottoman Empire decided to join the Central Powers during World War I which were ultimately defeated by the Allied Powers. During the war, the Ottoman government committed genocides against its Armenian, Assyrian and Pontic Greek citizens.

Following the war, the conglomeration of territories and peoples that formerly comprised the Ottoman Empire was partitioned into several new states. The Turkish War of Independence (1919–1922), initiated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his colleagues against the occupying Allies, resulted in the abolition of monarchy in 1922 and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, with Atatürk as its first president. Atatürk enacted numerous reforms, many of which incorporated various aspects of Western thought, philosophy, and customs into the new form of Turkish government.

Capital Ankara
Largest city Istanbul
Official language and national language Turkish
Area 783,356 km2
Total Water (%) 1.3/td>
Population 79,814,871
Currency Turkish lira (TRY)
Time zone FET (UTC+3)
Country Code +90

The Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling to Turkey

You should always exercise great respect for tradition and culture in Turkey. Even in a seemingly westernised city like Istanbul, people remain conservative. Turkish people are inherently hospitable and very appreciative of visitors who show importance for their customs. If you plan to travel to Turkey, consider these do’s and don’ts before you go.

DO’s

• Do remove shoes or sandals before you go inside any of the mosques in Turkey.

• Do wear modest clothing, meaning no shorts or strappy tops for women and no shorts for men either.

• Do cover your head if you are female.

• Do wear conservative clothing when visiting anywhere outside of cities. Short sleeved shirts are acceptable.

• Do remember that public displays of affection (even between husband and wife) are not looked kindly upon in Muslim countries.

• Do be courteous. Turkish people place heavy emphasis on good manners.

• Do learn some polite phrases or words such as, ‘tesekkür ederim’ which means ‘thank you’ and ‘lütfen’ which means ‘please’. A downward nod of the head means ‘yes’ whereas nodding in an upward manner with raised eyebrows whilst making a click sound with the tongue means ‘no’.

• Do remember ‘evet’ means ‘yes’ and ‘hayir’ means ‘no’ in Turkish.

• Do remember that alcohol abstinence is encouraged in Muslim countries, including Turkey. A glass of wine is tolerable but drunkenness is not.

• Do be aware that smoking is common in Turkish cafes and restaurants. It would be rude to ask others to refrain from lighting up in this circumstance so just select a restaurant of café with a no smoking section if you would rather.

• Do pay for the whole meal if you initiated an invitation. Splitting the bill if you invited your guest is considered rude in Turkey.

• Do return the gesture if someone else offers to pay the bill, and make sure you invite that person to lunch or dinner before you leave.

• Do remember that burping, picking your teeth and blowing your nose in a restaurant of café is considered to be impolite in Turkey.

DON’T

• Don’t visit any mosque on a Friday, the Muslim day for worship.

• Don’t talk or laugh loudly in a Mosque.

• Don’t walk in front of a person who is praying because, according to Muslim belief, the prayer will not be counted.

• Don’t sit beside or talk to single or young Turkish women if you are a male traveller because this is a threatening move to them.

• Don’t expect any Turkish male, such as merchandise sellers, to talk to a female traveller with a male traveling companion. Turkish men will only speak to male companions to protect the female’s honour.

• Don’t make the ‘ok’ sign as it is known in the West by putting the thumb and forefinger together to form the letter ‘o’, because this is considered obscene in Turkish culture.

• Don’t make negative remarks about Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish Republic’s Founding Father.

Demographics

According to the Address-Based Population Recording System of Turkey, the country's population was 74.7 million people in 2011, nearly three-quarters of whom lived in towns and cities. According to the 2011 estimate, the population is increasing by 1.35 percent each year. Turkey has an average population density of 97 people per km². People within the 15–64 age group constitute 67.4 percent of the total population; the 0–14 age group corresponds to 25.3 percent; while senior citizens aged 65 years or older make up 7.3 percent. In 1927, when the first official census was recorded in the Republic of Turkey, the population was 13.6 million. The largest city in Turkey, Istanbul, is also the largest city in Europe in population, and the third-largest city in Europe in terms of size.

Article 66 of the Turkish Constitution defines a "Turk" as "anyone who is bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship"; therefore, the legal use of the term "Turkish" as a citizen of Turkey is different from the ethnic definition. However, the majority of the Turkish population are of Turkish ethnicity. They are estimated at 70–75 percent. Reliable data on the ethnic mix of the population is not available, because Turkish census figures do not include statistics on ethnicity. The three "Non-Muslim" minority groups officially recognized in the Treaty of Lausanne are Armenians, Greeks and Jews. Officially unrecognized ethnic groups include Albanians, Assyrians, Bosniaks, Circassians, Georgians, Lazs, Pomaks (Bulgarians), Roma. The Kurds are the largest non-Turkic ethnicity, around 18–25 percent of the population. Kurds are concentrated in the east and southeast of the country, in what is also known as Turkish Kurdistan, making up a majority in the provinces of Tunceli, Bingöl, Muş, Ağrı, Iğdır, Elâzığ, Diyarbakır, Batman, Şırnak, Bitlis, Van, Mardin, Siirt and Hakkari, a near majority in Şanlıurfa province (47%), and a large minority in Kars province (20%). In addition, due to internal migration, Kurdish communities exist in all major cities in central and western Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, where there are an estimated 3 million Kurds, making Istanbul the city with the largest Kurdish population in the world. The minorities besides the Kurds are thought to make up an estimated 7–12 percent of the population. Minorities other than the three officially recognized ones do not have any minority rights. The term "minority" itself remains a sensitive issue in Turkey, while the Turkish government is frequently criticized for its treatment of minorities. Although minorities are not recognized, state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) broadcasts television and radio programs in minority languages. Also, some minority language classes can be chosen in elementary schools.

Largest cities or towns

1. Istanbul 2. Ankara
3. İzmir 4. Bursa
5. Adana 6. Gaziantep
7. Konya 8. Antalya
9. Diyarbakır 10. Mersin

Languages

The country's official language is Turkish, which is spoken by 85.54 percent of the population a first language. 11.97 percent of the population speaks the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish as mother tongue. Arabic and Zaza are the mother tongues of 2.39 percent of the population, and several other languages are the mother tongues of smaller parts of the population. Endangered languages in Turkey include Abaza, Abkhaz, Adyghe, Cappadocian Greek, Gagauz, Hértevin, Homshetsma, Kabard-Cherkes, Ladino (Judesmo), Laz, Mlahso, Pontic Greek, Romani, Suret, Turoyo, Ubykh, and Western Armenian.

Religion

• Sunni Islam (65%)

• Shia Islam (4%)

• Unaffiliated Muslims (14%)

• Christianity (2%)

• Irreligion (7%)

• Spiritual but not religious (6%)

• Other religions (2%)

Culture

More than 1000 festivals are held in Turkey every year. Along with festivals of local scale held in almost every city of the country, cultural events and other festivals of international reach are also organized in major metropolitan centers such as Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Antalya. Istanbul is the most important center of festivals. In the summer months, a number of music festivals are held in Istanbul. Many are organized by and associated with prominent names in Turkey's private sector. The Pamukbank Dance Days brings world famous dance groups to Istanbul. The Efes Pilsen Blues Festival, which celebrated its 10th year in 2006, hosts well-known blues and jazz groups. The Akbank International Jazz Festival provides the opportunity of improvisation and jam sessions between Turkish musicians and jazz masters of the world. The Yapı Kredi Art Festival with its concerts ranging from rock and roll and pop music to classical music and jazz is actually a series of events around the year. Fuji Film World Music Days is yet another important music festival.

İzmir is notable for hosting the oldest festival activity in Turkey, within the frame of multi-theme İzmir International Fair held in the first days of September, and organized by İZFAŞ, a depending company of İzmir Metropolitan Municipality. The musical and other cultural events that take place at the same time as the commercial fair had started out as an auxiliary activity to attract popular interest for the fair, but over the years the festival became a school by itself.

Festivals

Celebrations in Turkey include religious festivals, observed throughout the Islamic world on dates determined by the Muslim Hijra calendar, as well as annual cultural or harvest extravaganzas held in various cities and resorts across the country.

Religious festivals

The most important religious festival is Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish), the Muslim month of daylight abstention from food, water, tobacco and sexual relations. Otherwise, life carries on as normal during Ramadan, despite the fact that half the population is fasting from sunrise to sunset. Some restaurants close for the duration or severely curtail their menus, others discreetly hide their salons behind curtains, but at most establishments you will be served with surprisingly good grace. The Koran allows pregnant and nursing mothers, the infirm and travellers to be excused from obligatory fasting; immediately after dark there’s an orgy of eating (the iftar yemeği) by the famished in places public and private, and restaurants sell out of everything within an hour of sunset.

Kadir Gecesi (The Eve of Power), when Mohammed received the Koran from Allah, takes place between the 27th and 28th days of the month of Ramadan. Mosques – brilliantly illuminated for the whole month – are full all night, as it’s believed that prayers at this time have special efficacy. On Arife, the last day of Ramadan, it is customary to go to the cemeteries and pay respects to departed ancestors; many rural restaurants close that evening.

The three-day Şeker Bayramı (Sugar Holiday) immediately follows Ramadan, celebrated by family reunions and the giving of presents and sweets to children, and restrained general partying in restaurants; on Arife eve, the night after Kadir Gecesi, you will have to book well in advance for tables at better establishments.

The four-day Kurban Bayramı (Festival of the Sacrifice), in which the sacrificial offering of a sheep represents Abraham’s son Ishmael (a Koranic version of the Old Testament story), is marked by the massive slaughter of sheep and goats. Only wealthy families can afford to buy a whole animal, so part of the meat is distributed to the poor of the neighbourhood.

During the Şeker and Kurban festivals travel becomes difficult – reserve well in advance for a seat on any long-distance coach, train or plane. If you travel by road in national holiday periods, note that the already high traffic accident rate soars. Many shops and all banks, museums and government offices close during these periods (although corner grocery stores and most resort shops stay open) and when the festivals occur close to a national secular holiday, the whole country effectively grinds to a halt for up to a week.

Religious festival dates
As the Islamic calendar is lunar, the dates of the four important religious festivals drift backwards eleven days each year (twelve in a leap year) relative to the Gregorian calendar. Future dates of festivals given on Islamic websites are provisional, owing to factors such as when the moon is sighted and the international date line.

2013 Şeker Aug 8–10; Kurban Oct 14–20
2014 Şeker July 28–30; Kurban Oct 3–7
2015 Şeker July 17–19; Kurban Sept 22–28
2016 Şeker July 6–9; Kurban Sept 11–18

Cultural festivals

Cultural festivals are most interesting in cities and resorts that have the resources to attract internationally renowned acts. Almost every town has some yearly bash, though many are of limited interest to outsiders. Folk-dance festivals provide an opportunity to see Turkey’s best dance troupes perform a sample of the varied repertoire of Turkish dances in traditional costumes. There’s a full festival calendar for İstanbul, in addition to the summary given here.

January
Camel wrestling Selçuk. The festival itself takes place on the last two weekends, though bouts occur throughout Aydın province from December onwards.

April
İstanbul International Film Festival İstanbul wfilm.iksv.org/en. Full-length features and documentaries.

May
Conquest Celebrations İstanbul wibb.gov.tr. Week-long celebration of the Ottoman conquest of old Constantinople – concerts by the Ottoman Mehter military band, fancy-dress processions and fireworks.
Ephesus Festival Ephesus. The ancient theatre hosts folk dancing plus more conventional acts.
International Puppet Festival İstanbul t 0212 232 0224. A celebration of Turkish Shadow Theatre, or karağöz – silent puppets tell their tale behind a two-dimensional screen.
İstanbul International Theatre Festival İstanbul wıksv.org. Even-numbered years only; dance and workshops as well as theatre performances.
Hıdırellez Gypsy festival Edirne. Celebration of the coming of spring, with gypsy bands performing, dancing in the street and jumping over bonfires. May 5–6.
Takava Gypsy Festival Kırklareli. The same celebrations as at the Hıdırellez festival in Edirne. May 5–6.

June–July
Oil wrestling Yağlı Güreş, near Edirne. Competitors from all over the country tangle with each other in the country’s major, week-long oil wrestling event, plus lots of music and dance events. Late June or early July.
Kafkasör Festival Artvin. Bullfighting between young beasts in a beautiful alpine setting, plus performances from folk-dance troupes and musical events – and lots of drinking. Late June.
Pir Abdal Musa Tekke village near Elmalı. Rites honouring the second most important Alevî saint after Hacı Bektaş Veli; early June.
İstanbul International Classical Music Festival İstanbul wiksv.org. Performances by top soloists and orchestras, often in historic venues.
Efes Pilsen One Love İstanbul wefespilsenonelove.com. Moderately alternative city-centre weekend-long festival generally held at trendy Santralistanbul, with plenty of DJ-led dance sets and performances from international bands and local bands.
Rock N’ Coke Near İstanbul w rockncoke.com. A weekend of Western and Turkish rock held on an airfield 50km to the west of the city; buses run from Taksim. Headliners in recent years have included Franz Ferdinand and The Cure.
International İzmir Festival İzmir wiksev.org. Month-long classical music, pop, ballet and jazz festival with many international names performing at Ephesus theatre and Çeşme castle.
Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival Near Side, Antalya province waspendosfestival.gov.tr. The Mediterranean coast’s big highbrow event, now expanded to run from mid-June through mid-September.
İstanbul Jazz Festival İstanbul wiksv.org. Jazz as well as rock acts; early July.

August
Chef’s Contest Mengen, Bolu province. The region purportedly produces the country’s best cooks.
Hacı Bektaş Veli Commemoration Hacıbektaş village, Cappadocia. Bektaşis and their affiliates, the Alevîs, meet for a weekend of ritual singing and dancing; second half of Aug.

September–October
Bodrum Festival Bodrum. Centred on the castle, and emphasizing ballet and opera; early Sept.
İstanbul Biennial İstanbul wbienal.iksv.org.tr. Art exhibition, held odd-numbered years, with dozens of projects; lasts into Nov.
Akbank Jazz Festival İstanbul wakbanksanat.com. A more traditional programme than İstanbul’s other jazz festival, in July.
Altın Portakal (“Golden Orange”) Film Festival Antalya waltinportakal.org.tr). A major fixture on the international festival circuit.
Grape Harvest/Wine Festival Ürgüp, Cappadocia. Featuring some of the better local winery products.
Watermelon Festival Diyarbakır. A showcase for the region’s most outsized fruit. Mid- to late Sept.
Tourism and Handicrafts Festival Avanos. A celebration of the town’s distinctive pottery.

December
Mevlâna Festival Konya. Whirling dervish performances at the home of the order. Dec 10–17.

Climate

The coastal areas of Turkey bordering the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas have a temperate Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters. The coastal areas bordering the Black Sea have a temperate oceanic climate with warm, wet summers and cool to cold, wet winters. The Turkish Black Sea coast receives the greatest amount of precipitation and is the only region of Turkey that receives high precipitation throughout the year. The eastern part of that coast averages 2,200 millimeters (87 in) annually which is the highest precipitation in the country.

The coastal areas bordering the Sea of Marmara, which connects the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea, have a transitional climate between a temperate Mediterranean climate and a temperate oceanic climate with warm to hot, moderately dry summers and cool to cold, wet winters. Snow falls on the coastal areas of the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea almost every winter, but usually melts in no more than a few days. However snow is rare in the coastal areas of the Aegean Sea and very rare in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea.

Mountains close to the coast prevent Mediterranean influences from extending inland, giving the central Anatolian plateau of the interior of Turkey a continental climate with sharply contrasting seasons.

Winters on the eastern part of the plateau are especially severe. Temperatures of −30 to −40 °C (−22 to −40 °F) can occur in eastern Anatolia. Snow may remain at least 120 days of the year. In the west, winter temperatures average below 1 °C (34 °F). Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures often above 30 °C (86 °F) in the day. Annual precipitation averages about 400 millimeters (16 inches), with actual amounts determined by elevation. The driest regions are the Konya plain and the Malatya plain, where annual rainfall is often less than 300 millimeters (12 inches). May is generally the wettest month, whereas July and August are the driest.

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