We caught up with the radiant Nezihe Izmiroglu in an exciting and informative interview about the Turkish people.
A little about yourself and which part of the world you are from.
Hello! My name is Nezihe Izmiroglu. I started my journey on Earth in the Agean part of Turkey 45 years ago. I have worked with banks, managed companies, and currently I am teaching in a small international school in Kampala. I lived in Romania, Turkey and China before I moved to Uganda. I am a mother of two daughters, one 22 and the other 17 years old. I am recently and happily divorced.
Africa and Uganda in particular is known for its various tribes. Do you have tribes in Turkey?
We do not have tribes in Turkey as in Uganda. However, we have minorities such as Caucasians, Kurds, and Laz. Turkish is the only official language.
What is your country like?
Turkey occupies a unique geographic position, lying partly in Asia and partly in Europe.Throughout its history it has acted both as a barrier and a bridge between the two continents. Its population is 80 million. Turkey has a surface area of 779,452 sq. km (300,948 sq. miles). Although Turkey is a secular country, the major religion is Islam. The life expectancy is 72 years (men), and 79 (women). The currency is Turkish lira.
Do you have villages where you are from?
I have always lived in big cities but there are villages in Turkey. You can watch my mother’s village Ulamis on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec6-V8yOo-o
What are your people like?
Turkish people are known for their hospitality but there are so many other lovely factors that will make a fan of anyone. They are very honest about their emotions and won’t hold back when it comes to expressing them. When a Turkish person is happy, he or she will make sure everyone around them is able to feel it too. They are very much in love with love. They believe in soulmates and true love and savour all the emotions that come with falling for someone. Family is very important in Turkey, and Turkish people always put their family first and make sure to respect and take care of them. A lot of Turkish people even prefer to live with their parents until they marry and start their own families. One element that every visitor to Turkey will talk extensively about is the amazing food—and Turkish people sure know how to cook.
What is your culture like? The music, folk dancing, food, everything?
Even though Turkey is quite the modern country, there are many traditions and cultural elements that have survived through the ages. From folk dance and music to literature and art, Turkey’s past is preserved through its celebration. Turkish songs are almost always about the joys and woes of love, whether it’s a pop song or a thousand-year-old folk song. Turkey has a very ancient folk dance tradtion that varies from region to region; each dance being colourful, rhythmic, elegant and stylish. Some of the most famous dances are Bar, Halay, Hora, Zeybek, Horon, KilicKalkan, KasikOyunu. The country has a rich tradition of folk dancing with dances performed at all social occasions, from weddings and celebrations held for young men leaving for military service, to national and religious festivals, or local festivities. The dance here is from the southeast of Turkey, Gaziantep area https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJ4DsTI1IC0
Although Turkish cusine is incredibly rich, healthy and regional, it still remains among the lesser-known global cuisines. It is considered as the third richest cuisine after the French and Chinese gastronomy. My favourite desserts are the ones made by rose petals or rose water. Here is one recipe made during Ramadan month https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvAeRxDSsH4
Are their any folk stories that have been passed down through the generations?
The tradition of folklore—folktales, jokes, legends, and the line—in the Turkish language is very rich, and is incorporated into everyday life and events. Three well-known ones are NasreddinHoca (jokes), Karagoz and Hacivat (shadow theatre), and Keloglan (stories). From the Black Sea region of Turkey are two traditions, Vine-breaking and the End of Winter Cemre.
For Vine-breaking; in the Carsibasi town, near Trabzon, there is a way to test whether a marriage is propitious. When the new bride enters the house, she is asked to break a vine into three pieces which are hen planted in the ground, if they sprout, then it means the marriage will be successful.
When it comes to the End of Winter Cemre: “Cemre” are three fireballs that come from the heavens to warm earth at the end of each winter. Each cemre warms one aspect of nature. The first cemre falls to air between February 19-20, the second falls to water between February 26-27, and the third falls to the ground between March 5-6.
Could you share briefly about the history of your ancestors?
The Ottoman Empire was created by the Turkish tribes in Anatolia that grew to be one of the most powerful states in the world during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Ottoman period spanned more than 600 years and came to an end in 1922 when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic and various successor states in southeastern Europe and the Middle East. At its height the empire encompassed most of southeastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, including preset-day Hungary, the Balkan region, Greece and parts of Ukraine; portions of the Middle East now occupied by Iraq, Syria, Israel and Egypt; North Africa as far west as Algeria; and large parts of the Arabian Peninsula.
My mother’s parents came from Thessaloniki which is located in Greece. My paternal grandfather is from Peloponnesse Peninsula that is situated in Greece today while my paternal grandmother comes from Caucasus area in Russia. They are all originally Turkish. After the Independence War at the end of the First World War, they came down to Izmir and settled there.
What do you love most about your people and history?
Their bravery after the First World War when the mainland had been occupied by French, British, Greek, Russian and Italian armies. They fought for the survival of a nation, a struggle of life and death.
Do you think people from other cultures and countries have misunderstood some things about your people or culture?
Who knows? Maybe.