Ankara may be the capital of Turkey, but it has long played second fiddle and is relatively unknown when compared to Istanbul. A little known fact is that it is larger than any city in America except New York. This was confirmed by the views from our coach as we were heading for our hotel, the fabulous Radisson Blu.. (click images to enlarge) It was like any other major metropolis with an endless flow of designer shops, department stores, markets, restaurants and bars particularly in the trendy Kizilay area.
I had read about its diverse history spanning thousands of years and expected an interesting melting pot of old and new. Like the rest of Turkey, Ankara is proud of its Islamic traditions so our list included a trip to Arslanhani Camii, the city’s oldest mosque constructed in 1289. However, the weather in Ankara is not always kind. As we arrived, it started to rain and continued to pour for the whole time we were there and the downpour meant our sightseeing excursions were a bit of a washout. Therefore, we gave the Arslanhani Camii a miss hoping the mosques in Istanbul would have the same impact.
Another site on our list was the Temple of Augustus but having been told by our guide there wasn’t much to see and the area it is located in is not particularly pretty, marooned as it is in a sea of ugly concrete shopping malls, OH and I decided to stay dry and see it from the window of the bus.
The Ethnographic Museum should have been a highlight but we were now being pelted by huge hailstones the size of golf balls so again it was another stay in the coach. Outside the museum visitors are greeted by a bronze statue of Ataturk astride a horse or so we were led to believe. The reality was we could not see a thing through the steamed up windows and nobody felt brave enough to tackle the horrendous weather.
You see Mustafa Kemal Ataturk everywhere you go in Turkey. His image is displayed on the money, flags and in shops. You will see statues of him in every town and it is down to him that Turkey is the only predominately Muslim country in the world with a democracy. The people call him ‘The Father of all Turks’ after he formed the Republic of Turkey in 1923, previously it was part of the Ottoman Empire and he moved the capital from Istanbul to Ankara.
A few of the things he did which I found fascinating because they are so different to what we perceive about Muslims in the west is that
- He abolished the Islamic justice system and adopted western justice and law.
- He made it law that women could wear their own choice of clothing. Previously the headscarf was compulsory.
- He banned the headscarf from all government and education buildings.
On the way back to the hotel we visited a ceramics pottery. After a demonstration of how plates were made everything fell apart. I’m not sure if it was as a result of the rain soaking our brains but whilst most people were saying how beautiful and intricate the work was and indeed it was, a small group of us got the giggles and showed ourselves up No doubt you will understand why when you look at the images below.
Ankara may not be the most attractive city in the world and because of the weather we didn’t see it at its best but it does give visitors a different view of modern Turkey.