Here's an article on Turkish customs
I wrote for the Sunday Telegraph (London).
Tea in Turkey
could be more Turkish than coffee?
the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1923,
the Turks lost Mocha and suddenly coffee
was an expensive import. Bereft
of the traditional high-octane stimulant,
Turks turned to tea (çay).
beer is to a Bavarian, tea is to
a Turk. Çay (CHAY)
oils the wheels of commerce, government
and society. It is served everywhere,
anytime, in tiny gold-rimmed, tulip-shaped
glasses accompanied by two or three
huge lumps of beetroot sugar.
Turk's first question is Nasılsınız? (How
are you?) The second inevitably is "Some
tea, by the way, is highly prized,
and makes a good gift.
be ignorant of Turkish tea customs is
to expose oneself to reactions ranging
from bemused wonder to solicitous
alarm. Tea without sugar? Perhaps
you're diabetic. Açik (weak) çay?
That's for ladies and the faint of
heart. Only one glass? Tut tut, drink
up, we'll get some fresh. Tea with
lemon? How exotic. Tea with milk?
Allah protect us!
prodigious consumption of tea (and
cigarettes) accounts in part for
their love of nightlife: with the
day's two-litre quota of tea and
milligrams of nicotine enraging the
nervous system sleep is impossible,
so why not have some fun?
nightclubs are jolly affairs
where it's expected that local heldentenors will
arise from the audience to sing
along. After politely allowing
the professional folk dancers the
first turn, the audience will jump
up and join in.
a foreigner, you'll probably be called
upon to sing and to demonstrate
the steps you do—no doubt often,
and to fulsome applause—in your
local...what is the name? Pub?
this exercise works up a sweat, so
when the clubs close just before
dawn you may be spirited off to the hamam,
bath, for a restorative soak
and massage. Men are given a light
towel modestly to gird their loins,
and it will not do to let it drop
even while washing down there.
Women, on the other hand, may be
greeted by gales of derisory laughter
should they attempt to keep any part
of their anatomy covered. And it's
depilatory all round.
in to the importunations of the masseur (or masseuse)
and you throw away your life. He'll
knead you, roll you, walk on you
and crack your joints loud as pistol
shots one by one. It feels great...when
it stops. Then comes the bill. Tip
well, or he'll do it to you again.
it's back to your hotel. Low on cash?
Take a dolmush,
the Turkish jitney, cheaper than
a taxi. The Ottoman
Empire is gone, but a last whiff
of its purdah etiquette demands
that ladies sit next to ladies whenever
possible, and alone or at least next
to door or wall whenever not. A lady
who willingly sits between two strange
men is no lady.
at your hotel after your all-night
revel, a new day awaits.
Simply can't do it?
need a jump-start. Have some tea!
as Not the Done Thing in Turkey. Copyright © 1995 by Tom
Brosnahan. All rights reserved.)