Everything you need to know about Maras ice cream

Maras dondurma is a traditional Turkish mastic ice cream. It typically includes the ingredients cream, whipped cream, salep, mastic, and sugar. The ice cream originates from the city and region of Kahraman Maraş and therefore is known as Maraş ice cream.


According to the legend, the Maras ice cream was discovered by accident whilst the founder was trying to make another type of ice cream dessert called “Karsambaç.” 

What is Karsambaç

Karsambaç is a fruit ice cream made in Maras, Turkey. Traditionally the ice cream would be completed by mixing the snow from the “Ahir” mountain with grape syrup. 

The founder of Maras ice-cream

The founder of Maras ice-cream was a man named Osman Ağa, who used to sell wild orchids (salep) to the Ottoman palace and other noble families. One day Osman buried the remains of saleps and a mixture of milk and sugar in the snow. When checked on his mix the next day, he realized that the blend of milk, sugar, and salep resulted in a dense consistency that stretched like chewing gum. Realizing he had found a unique taste, Osman Ağa started the Maras ice cream tradition.

Maras in winter

What is special about Maraş ice cream?

First and foremost, goat milk! The lack of any artificial additives underlines the naturalness of the Maraş ice cream. Secondly, the traditional Maraş ice cream also contains salep(which is extracted from the tubers of certain terrestrial orchid species) as a binding agent. 

Since certain terrestrial orchids and their derivatives are prohibited worldwide (or are subject to strict regulations), the Maras ice cream could not be imported from Turkey like other Turkish food products. 

Maras ice cream

The lack of salep as a binding agent can be compensated by using conventional binding agents such as guar gum and locust bean gum. In some cases, salep is also replaced by the cheaper tapioca starch.

Where can you find traditional Maras ice cream in Australia?

There are various shops and cafes that specialise in Maras ice cream in Melbourne and Sydney. 

Sydney’s Auburn once was the home to an off-shoot of Turkish Mado, a famous Turkish maras ice cream chain, from late 90s and the early 2000s. Mado had become the go-to-place for everything you’d expect from a cafe in Istanbul; ice cream, baklava, Turkish tea & coffee and even more. However the restaurant shut down after 2010.

Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream in Newtown Sydney

Nev and Zeynep Bagriyanik, decided to bring Maras Ice cream to Australia. They started their small manufacturing plant in Castle Hill and eventually opened Hakiki in Newtown Sydney. Hakiki quickly became a hotspot in the bumbling Newtown dining scene.

Maras Ice cream in Melbourne

Cuppa Turca Dondurma and Desserts is a new ice-creamery in Northcote, Melbourne. Harun Yalcin, a former tour guide in Cappadocia in central Turkey, noticed the gap in the Melbourne Turkish dining scene and started Cupp Turca.

Cuppa Turca combines botanical ingredients with cow and goat’s milk (or coconut milk for a vegan option) and natural flavourings.

Cuppa Turca Dondurma & Desserts is located on 244 High St Northcote VIC.


7 things you should know about the quintessential Turkish barbeque Ocakbasi

At the heart of any Turkish community anywhere in the world is an unquenchable love of the grill. Like Aussies, Americans or Latin Americans, Turks love their BBQs. As well as grilling food outside, Turks also have a very specific type of charcoal barbeque called Ocakbasi.

Ocakbasi literally translates to ‘fireside’ or ‘by the grill’ and Ocakbasi restaurants typically have one large hooded charcoal barbeques in the center of the restaurant. Small tables filled with customers surround this massive central barbeque giving the patrons opportunity to enjoy their drinks, conversate while watching their kebabs cook.

Ocakbasi is a tradition that goes all the way back to ancient times of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. From the ancient times, where horse-riding Turkic raiders gathering around the fire at their camps in the steppes of Central-Asia to Hun fighters or Ottoman raiders gathering around fire, watching shish kebabs cooking at their mobile camp fire in the middle of some forest in Central-Europe; Turks loved enjoy gathering around the fire, conversate and sip their drinks whilst watching meat cook.

During weddings and celebrations, there is always a cohort of folks, more interested in the lambs or something large, a camel rotating on spit, cooked for the guests than the celebration itself. The Ocakbasi is the celebration!

1. The commercial Ocakbasi first emerged in the late Ottoman period

During 19th century, commercial Ocakbasi restaurants were available in the Ottoman cities like Adana, Hatay and Gaziantep as well as Kirkuk (in Iraq) or Aleppo (in Syria).

2. Real estate prices helped kick start the commercial Ocakbasi

A catalyst to commercial Ocakbasi was rising real estate prices. The restauranteurs who couldn’t afford large spaces to fit in kitchen, oven, grill Iman Rajab Bachaand seating space adapted the current Ocakbasi design. They up their grill, lined chairs around it and sold their kebabs in this way. This has led to the creation of an industry where people gather around a stove and eat their meals without tables and kitchens.

3. Industrialization spread the Ocakbasi culture

The rapid industrialization in Repulican Turkey affected the social fabric of Anatolian towns. Many local craftsmen had to move to bigger cities. Many kebab masters from Adana, moved to Istanbul which helped introduce Ocakbasi reach a wider audience.

4. Ocakbasi has become a social forum in time

Although lack of space was the catalyst for Ocakbasi, sitting and eating in this tight space by the same fire has made it a place for socializing over time. The tight space and sharing the meal, made Ocakbasi the ideal place for the most intimate conversations.

5. Enter alcohol

Whilst the early kebab masters served turnip juice or ayran with the kebab; over time Alcoholic drinks took over as the ideal companion to kebabs. Along with alcohol, meze appetizers were added to the Ocakbasi culture as well.

6. Ocakbasi is for all socio-economic backgrounds

Whether you want to experience Ocakbasi at a shabby or a luxurious venue; the setup is more or less the same. The price is different but the layout, the food and the spirit remains the same.

7. The rise of self-service

With personalization becoming a staple of every service or product that is offered; Ocakbasi culture too got affected. There are many venues where you can personally pick your own selection of meats, put your own shish kebabs or other goodies on the barbeque and take it to your own table around the fire to share with your mates. Imagine the Aussie BBQ, in a commercial space in the city centre where you and your mates grab your choice of your meat, cook it together and share it around the fire.


7 places to visit around beautiful Pamukkale

Named after the cotton-white travertine formation, Pamukkale, is among the most important natural and historical landmarks to visit in Turkey.

Cotton white travertine hills of Pamukkale

The dazzling white calcite cliffs of Pamukkale are composed of calcium deposits left by its hot springs. A series of earth quakes that took place about 400 thousand years ago, combined with other geological factors created this magical cotton-white travertine structure.

There are 17 hot water artesian springs that feed water in the range of 35-100 °C in the region. The hot water from these springs travels a distance of 320 meters. The hot water then pours into these cotton-white travertine layers that lay for another 300 meters.

Pamukkale has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List since 1988. The region also is home to these 7 magnificent landmarks.

7 must-see landmarks around Pamukkale

The ancient city of Hierapolis

The ancient city of Hierapolis

The ancient city of Hierapolis was found in 197 BC. It was famous for its thermal resources and healing properties even back then. Although earthquakes in 133 BC and 60 AD destroyed the city known to the world with its temples, it was later rebuilt by the Romans. 

Hierapolis theatre

Hierapolis Theater

This is a magnificent Roman theater that could host 12,000 spectators. It was built during the reign of the Roman Emperors Hadrian and Septimius Severus. 

The Antique Pool

Located next to the Temple of Apollo, The Antique Pool has a constant temperature of 36 degrees. The mineral-rich hot spring water creates a healing a relaxing environment. During the Roman era, the Antique Pool and the Hierapolis region were a complete health center. Thousands of people would come to the ancient city to rejuvenate and regain their health. 

The Hierapolis Museum

Located on an area of ​​14,000 square meters within the Hierapolis Ancient City, The Hierapolis Museum is a collection of buildings consisting of the Ancient Roman Bath, Gymnasium and the library. The artifacts in the museum are exhibited in three separate halls: Sarcophagi and Sculptures Hall, Small Works Hall and Hierapolis Theater Findings Hall.

The ancient city of Laodicia

The ancient city of Laodicia

The ancient city of Laodicea, was built between the years BC 261-263. The city was founded by Antiokhos wo named it after his wife. Having one of the first 7 churches of Christianity, the city became a religious center at the metropolitan level in the Early Byzantine Period. The city is part of the Holy Pilgrimage.

The Apollon Temple

The Temple of Apollo, whose foundations date back to the Late Hellenistic Period, is built on Plutonion, a cave used for religious purposes in ancient times. The monumental building is dedicated to the most important god of Hierapolis. The sanctuary on the terraces is connected by a marble staircase. The terrace below is surrounded by marble columns in Doric order on a wide area. The inner structure, which is pointed out in the podium, was previously defined as the Temple and later was defined as the center of prophecy. The poisonous gas is emitted with the entrance from the underground in the middle part, including Plutonium, and this is also mentioned in ancient sources. The large temple of Apollo is in the ionic order and was previously defined as the central sanctuary, and the foundations of the building can be seen. In the light of recent research, a third building has been identified in the North. 

Yesildere Waterfall

Yesildere Waterfall

With its water flowing from 55 meters up high, Yesildere is a beautiful spot where you can spend peaceful hours thanks to its calm environment, and the green, spongy rocks in the pond formed under it create a very beautiful image. It is also called the Crying Rock because of the wonderful view of Yeşildere Waterfall that resembles a weeping rock.


The origins of the Turkish flag

The flag of Turkey is the national flag and the national flag of the Republic of Turkey . It consists of a waning moon and five-pointed star, both in white on a red background. The flag is called Ay-Yildiz (literally, “star moon”), or a-sancak (the “Red Banner”) in Turkish .

The flag has a very complex origin. It is first virtually identical to the flag of the Ottoman Empire, with changes to the shape of the moon and the number of branches of the star from eight to five. The current flag was adopted in 1844, before its proportions are standard with the Law on Turkish Flag in 1936.

A historical moment in 1914 – Ottoman empire is declaring war against the allies

A historical moment in 1914 – Ottoman empire is declaring war against the allies

The star and crescent, now seen as symbols of Islam, have long been used in Asia Minor and some Turkic peoples before the arrival of Islam.

The Ottomans used different arrangements for different uses, such as using the green flag for the Islamic institutions and using red for secular institutions. In 1844 the eight-pointed star was replaced with a five-pointed flag and then reached its current form.

Ottoman Empire used a similar flag to modern Turkish flag in 1914

Ottoman Empire used a similar flag to modern Turkish flag in 1914

The origin of the crescent and star as symbols date time Babylon and the ancient Egypt. It has been suggested that the Turkish tribes during their migrations from Central Asia to Turkey around 800 AD, have adopted this symbol of local tribes and states in the area of the Middle East today, which adopted in turn these symbols.

Turkish flag at Gallipoli

The origin of the flag is subject to many legends in the country, and some contradict the history of the Ottoman flag. Here are some of the theories:

The Turkish flag’s Pre-Islamic origins

The crescent moon and star were holy symbols to the pre-Islamic Turkish tribes, while red is the colour cardinal to the south.

The Islamic legend

A crescent and a star appeared to Mehmed II the night of the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Crescent represents “God” and the star represents “Muhammed”

Roman succession – The New Rome

The crescent and star were used as symbols of Byzantium for centuries. The moon represented the Greek goddess Artemis, and star represented the Virgin Mary (which could be the inspiration behind the Islamic legend).

After conquering Constantinople, Turks adapted the symbol. The conquering king Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II called himself “the new Caesar” after conquering Istanbul in 1453. Ottoman Turks also kept many Roman administrative processes as they were after taking over Anatolia. 

The star and the crescent moon, however, were also symbols of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

Most popular theory; crescent and star’s reflection on the pool of blood.

This version has widely taught in public schools in Turkey. It was most likely supported in effort to raise a much more nationalist youth during cold war. According to this story; after the Turkish victory at the Battle of Manzikert,  the Seljuk Commander Alp Arslan saw the reflection of the crescent and a star on a pool of blood of Turkish warriors while he was reviewing the battlefield. Another version of this story takes place after the Turkish victory at the Battle of Mohács in Hungary.


Gallipoli and the Ottoman Jews

A travelling exhibition entitled ‘The Gallipoli War – The 1st World War and the Ottoman Jews’ will be available to public at Mekor Hayim Synagogue in the Turkish town of Canakkale between 15 March and 15 April. Canakkale is the city where Gallipoli campaign took place. The exhibition is organised by “The 500th Year Foundation”.

Jewish officers of the Ottoman army in Gallipoli

Jewish officers (from Ottoman Palestine – modern Israel) in Ottoman army

A total of 66 historical pieces consisting of visual materials and stories will be exhibited. The exhibition, which consists of five main sections, starts with a petition sent to the Ottoman King Abdulhamid II by the Ottoman Jews, calling him to allow Ottoman Jews to join the Ottoman army. There are also stories of Ottoman Jewish soldiers fighting for and sacrificing their lives for their country at the various fronts of the Ottoman army including Sarikamish, Galicia and the Gallipoli.

Dressed in his Turkish Officer uniform in Gallipoli - Moshe Sharett was the second Prime Minister of Israel, serving for a little under two years between David Ben-Gurion's two terms

Israel’s 2nd PM Moshe Sharett, dressed as a Turkish Officer in Gallipoli

About 558 non-Muslim Ottoman soldiers lost their lives during Gallipoli campaign. Although often overlooked, the participation of the Ottoman Jews in the Gallipoli campaign is highlighted at the exhibition which received considerable contribution from Çanakkale 18 Mart University Assoc. Dr. Mithat Atabay.

Moshe Sharett, The second Prime Minister of Israel, had also served as First Lieutenant in the Ottoman Army during the Gallipoli Campaign.


Soccer players and athletes who died in Gallipoli

The Anzac resilience and the Gallipoli campaign helped shape Australia’s national identity. Gallipoli Campaign however is a very important event in Turkish history as well. Gallipoli Battle was the last battle Ottoman Empire had to face after fighting against allied armies at various fronts in Africa, Asia, middle-east and Europe. It was the battle where the nation had to use its last resources – basically whoever was available to fight fought with whatever they had left to fight with. Therefore teachers, engineers, athletes, doctors and school principals from all Ottoman nations (including Greek, Armenian and Jewish volunteers) all had to sacrifice to help Turkish army at Gallipoli.

Hasnub Galib of Galatasaray, was a soccer and a hockey player. He died in Canakkale fighting the Anzacs

Hasnub Galib of Galatasaray, was a soccer and a hockey player. He died in Canakkale fighting the Anzacs

Turkish Soccer Federation published a list of soccer players who died during Balkan Wars(1912) and Defense of Canakkale (Gallipoli Campaign).

The list was compiled by Mehmet Yuce who sourced the names from the prominent Ottoman military magazine “Donanma” (The Navy) of the time.

The Donanma (Navy) magazine of the Ottoman Army

The cover of the Donanma (Navy) magazine of the Ottoman Army. The magazine featured the soccer players and athletes serving in the army during Gallipoli campaign.


Athletes and soccer players who died:

  • Kâzım Bey (sprinter- runner, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Âsım Bey (Soccer player, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Ali Bey (Soccer player, volunteer soldier)

Athletes and soccer players fought:

  • Muallim Kenan Bey (Boxing and wrestling instructor)
  • Ahmet Fetgeri Bey (Physical education instructor)
  • Alâaddin Bey (goalkeeper – Non-commissioned officer)
  • Mehmet Bey (Soccer player, volunteer soldier)
  • Fuad Bey (Soccer player and wrestler)
  • Resul Bey (Goalkeeper, sprinter, Army veterinarian)
  • Sabri Bey (Soccer player, Assistant Physio)
  • Genç Mehmet Bey (jumper, pilot)
  • Cemâl Efendi (defender, sprinter- runner, sub-officer)
  • Cevdet Efendi (Soccer player and sprinter- runner)
  • Aziz Efendi (hockey player, cannon officer)
  • İzzet Efendi (high jumper, navy)
  • Hikmet Bey (hammer thrower, navy)


The soccer players who died:

  • Abdurrahman Robenson Bey (general captain and scout leader, physio)
  • Hasnûn Gâlib Bey (soccer and hockey second team captain, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Neşet Bey (hockey team captain, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Hâlid Fuad Bey (son of Müşir Fuad Paşazâde) (second team Soccer player, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Mehmet Ali Bey (son of Enver Paşazâde) (Soccer player)
  • Refik Ata Bey (Soccer player)
  • Cemil Bey (Soccer player)
  • Hasib Bey (son of Ali Paşazâde)
  • Nazmi Bey (Soccer player)

The soccer players who were wounded:

  • Yusuf Ziya Bey (first-team soccer team inner forward, Non-commissioned officer)
  • YakubRobenson Bey (Soccer player, soldier)
  • Feyzi Robenson Bey(Soccer player, pilot)

Those who served during the war:

  • Celâl Bey (first-team soccer central forward, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Kemâl Niyazi Bey (team captain, cannon officer)
  • Ahmed Robenson Bey (rowing team captain and first-team soccer goal keeper, officer)
  • Kenan Bey (Boxing and wrestling team captain)
  • Emin Bülend Bey (soccer first-team team captain and left forward)
  • Emil Oberle Bey (soccer instructor and first-team central forward, heavy cannon operator)
  • Ahmed Adnan Bey (first-team soccer and hockey defender)
  • Ahmed Cevat Bey (first-team soccer and hockey defender, cannon operator)
  • Sedat Bey (first-team soccer left back)
  • Hüseyin Bey (first-team soccer right back, hockey defender)
  • Cevat Bey (first-team soccer team right back)
  • İbrahim Bey (first-team soccer team right back and hockey first-team team forward)
  • Jozef (Joseph) Oberle Bey (first-team soccer team right forward, volunteer at German army)
  • Nasreddin Bey (first-team soccer team forward)
  • Vehbi Bey (first-team soccer team right defender)
  • Sitar Bey (first-team soccer team forward)
  • Behçet Bey (first-team soccer team defender)
  • Naki Bey (reserve soccer team, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Edip Bey (reserve soccer team, second lieutenant)
  • Avni Bey (reserve soccer team, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Ahmet Ali Bey (reserve soccer team, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Ahmet Muhtar Bey (reserve soccer team, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Ömer Bey (reserve soccer team, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Muammer Bey (reserve soccer team, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Ferid Bey (reserve soccer team, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Âsım Bey (goalkeeper)
  • Mahir Sâfi Bey (rowing team, army driver)
  • Âkif Sâfi Bey (rowing team)
  • Ârif Bey (rowing and reserve soccer team)
  • Selim Bey (sailing captain)
  • Hüsameddin Bey (rowing team)
  • Emin Bey (sailing team)
  • İsmet Bey (hockey)
  • Sıdkı Bey (first-team hockey team goalkeeper)
  • Kemâl Bey (sailing)
  • Şükrü Bey (Sprinter)
  • Adnan Bey (scout team)
  • Osman Kenan Bey (scout)
  • Müfid Bey (scout team)
  • Kâzım Bey (scout team)
  • Neyir Bey (boxing team)
  • Cemâl Bey (soccer)
  • Cemâl Hüseyin Bey
  • İsmail Bey



Those who died and fought:

  • Gâlib Bey (first-team soccer team team captain)
  • Yahya Bey (physio)
  • Kemâl Bey (died)
  • Nüzhet Bey (first-team soccer)
  • Said Bey (first-team soccer)
  • Zeki Bey (supply officer)
  • Sâfi Bey (supply officer)
  • Hâfid Bey (Officer)
  • Cemî Bey
  • Nuri Bey (first-team soccer)
  • Sadık Bey (first-team soccer
  • Rüşdü Bey (scout)
  • Osman Bey (soccer)
  • Fahri Bey (rowing)
  • Sezai Bey
  • Burhaneddin Bey
  • Hulki Bey (rowing)
  • Ömer Bey (supply officer)
  • Garî Bey (soccer first-team)
  • Afif Bey (officer)
  • Bedri Bey (officer)
  • Hâfid Bey (officer)
  • Ferik Bey (officer)
  • Kemâl Bey (officer)
  • Emin Bey (officer)
  • Zeki Bey (physio)
  • Nebil Bey
  • Vasıf Bey
  • Şevki Bey
  • Servet Bey
  • Kenan Bey
  • Sabri Bey (first-team soccer)
  • İsmail Bey
  • Ata Bey
  • Rauf Bey
  • Şakir Bey (supply, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Vehbi Bey (soccer first-team)
  • Ârif Bey (soccer first-team )
  • Nureddin Bey (died)
  • Mehmed Bey (second lieutenant)
  • Nureddin Bey
  • Cemâl Bey
  • Wilhelm Kohlhammer (soccer, German soldier)
  • Mehmed Nasuhi Bey (soccer, supply officer)
  • Edhem Bey (soccer, supply officer)
  • Manço Salahaddin Bey
  • Süreyya Mithat Bey (first-team soccer)
  • Mustafa Behçet Bey (physio)
  • Müfid Bey (supply officer)
  • Sami Bey (supply officer)
  • Mithat Bey
Arif Bey, was perhaps the most famous of the Fenerbahce players who fought in the war (Standing on back line, the second from right).

Arif Bey, was perhaps the most famous of the Fenerbahce players who fought in the war (Standing on back line, the second from right).




Those who serverd:

  • Kemâl Bey (center forward, officer)
  • Raif Bey (defender, officer)
  • Efhem Bey (defender, officer)
  • İlhami Bey (goalkeeper, officer)
  • Nasuhi Bey (forward, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Macid Bey (forward, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Hüseyin Bey (defender, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Hâlid Bey (forward, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Şevket Bey (defender, chemist)
  • Azmi Bey (defender, Assistant Physio)
  • Sadullah Bey (defender, corporal)
  • Hüsnü Bey (defender, officer)
  • Kemâl Bey (forward, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Salahaddin Bey (defender, supply officer)
  • İbrahim Bey (defender, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Mehmet Bey (defender, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Cevat Bey (defender, pilot)
  • Yusuf Kenan Bey (defender, officer)
  • Mısırlı Yusuf Bey (forward, officer)
  • İbrahim Zemçi Bey (defender, private)
  • Hayrettin Bey (defender, red-crescent)
  • Rasim Bey (forward, officer)
  • Mehmet Ali Bey (defender, officer)
  • Hakkı Bey (defender, secretary)
  • Ali Osman Bey (defender, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Remzi Bey (forward, officer)
  • Şemsi Bey (goalkeeper, sub officer)
  • Kadıköylü Hasan Bey (center defender, army driver)
  • Saadettin Bey (goalkeeper, officer)
  • Raif Bey (defender, officer)
  • Kâzım Bey (defender, officer)
  • Fazıl Kani Bey (defender, Non-commissioned officer)
  • Eşref Bey (goalkeeper, Non-commissioned officer
  • Mazhar Bey (goalkeeper, Non-commissioned officer)
Ahmet Fetgeri, who served during the war, was among the founders of Besiktas Gymnastics Club.

Ahmet Fetgeri, who served during the war, was among the founders of Besiktas Gymnastics Club.


Those who died:

  • Mehmet Sedat Bey (club doctor)

Those who served:

  • İbrahim Bey (supply officer, gymnast)
  • Mehmet Fuat Bey (baytar, soccer team forward)
  • Fahri Bey (baytar, Non-commissioned officer, soccer team forward)
  • Burhan Bey (supply officer, soccer team forward)
  • Hulûsi Bey (supply officer, soccer team centre defender, captain)
  • Vefik Bey (supply officer, soccer team defender)
  • Nureddin Bey (supply officer, soccer team defender)
  • Suat Bey (supply officer, soccer team forward)
  • Nuri Bey (supply officer, gymnast
  • Saim Bey (soldier, gymnast)
  • Şerafeddin Bey (soldier, gymnast)
  • Hayri Bey (soldier, soccer team defender)
  • Vâhid Bey (soldier, gymnast)
  • Abdullah Bey (soldier, soccer team forward)
  • Muzaffer Bey (soldier, soccer team defender)

The great Anatolian catastrophe – Meds Yeghern

Who knows, all the evil haunting us, the endless mass killings and our inability to recover from afflictions may be due to a century-old curse and a century-old lie.

What do you think? This is perhaps the malediction uttered by Armenians — children, civilian women and men alike — who died moaning and buried without a coffin. It may be the storms created in our souls by the still-agonizing specters of all our ill-fated citizens, including Greeks and Syriacs and later, Alevis and Kurds.

Perhaps the massacres that have not been accounted for since 1915 and the “prices” that have remained unpaid are now being paid back in different venues by the grandchildren. The curses uttered in return for the lives taken, the lives stolen, the homes plundered, the churches destroyed, the schools confiscated and the property extorted…

May God make you pay for it for all your offspring to come.

Are we paying back the price of all the injustices committed so far?

Does repayment manifest itself in the form of the audacity of being unable to confront our past sins or in the form of indecency, which has become our habit due to our chronic indulgence in unfairness?

It seems as if our society has been decaying for a century, festering all around.

Despite this century-old malediction, 2015 will pass with the debate, “Was there really genocide?” remaining unanswered. We will watch how the current tenants of the state exert vast efforts to cover up this shame and postpone any move to confront it. If it were in their hands, they would just skip the year 2015.

The denialist prose that consists of three wizened arguments, which amount to upheaval, collaboration with the enemy and victimization — it is the Armenians who killed us — will continue to be parroted in a series of conferences. And we will dance to our own tunes.

On April 24-25, 2015 an official ceremony will be held on the occasion of Anzac Day in Gallipoli, not in connection with the genocide. And we will hear abundant tales about heroism in the Dardanelles. But we will find none to listen to our narrative.

How many more maledictions need to happen to us before we will be inclined:

  • To reckon with our bloody nation-building process?
  • To know and remember how an innocuous, hardworking, productive, talented and peaceful people were destroyed by the warrior people of Anatolia and to empathize with their grandchildren in remembrance?
  • To feel the gist of the tyranny that made unfortunate Armenians cry, “Ur eir Astvadz” (Where were you God?) in the summer of 1915, which was as dark and cold as death?
  • To realize that the population of Armenians has dwindled from millions in 1915’s Ottoman Empire to virtually none today. The remaining Armenians have either concealed their true identities or were converted to Islam, after sweeping aside the puzzle, “Was it genocide or not?” or the question “Who killed whom?” and purely listening to our conscience?
  • To understand, as Hrant Dink put it, a full-fledged cultural genocide and the loss of a tremendous amount of civilization?
  • To realize that the biggest loss to this country is that non-Muslim citizens of this land no longer live here?
  • To comprehend why the genocide — which Armenians of those dark days would refer to as the Great Catastrophe (Meds Yeghern) — is a disaster that befell not only Armenians, but the entire country?
  • To see that the loss of our non-Muslim citizens who were killed, banished or forced to flee amounts to the loss of brainpower, bourgeoisie, culture and civilization?
  • To calculate the curse of the goods, property and children confiscated?
  • To duly understand the wisdom of the author Yaşar Kemal, who wrote: “Another bird cannot prosper in an abandoned nest; the one who destroys a nest cannot have a nest; oppression breeds oppression“?
  • To even realize that those who would reject all the aforementioned points would do so because of a loss wisdom deriving from the genocide.

The “Armenian genocide” is the Great Catastrophe of Anatolia, and the mother of all taboos in this land. Its curse will continue to haunt us as long as we fail to talk about, recognize, understand and reckon with it.

Its centennial anniversary actually offers us a historic opportunity to dispense with our habits, understand the Other and start with the collective therapy.


This article was originally published by Cengiz Aktar in 2015 on TZ portal.


The seven hills of Istanbul

There are many stories and theories about who has found Istanbul. However it is known that it was found on 7 hills.

These 7 hills have been important attraction centres throught the history; during the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times. As a result, these 7 hills have become the richest areas with regards to the historical artifacts, monuments and buildings. 4 of these 7 hills are situated near the Halic (the Golden Horn) which shows the importance the water canal.

Here are these seven hills:


This area is considered as the first centre of Istanbul.The ancient hypodrome used to stand here hence the area is often called “the horse square” by the locals as a reference to the Roman hypodrome which used to host Ben-Hur like gladiator competitions on horses and charriots. The highest points are Topkapi Palace and Ayasofya Mosque.


The second hill, stretches from Beyazit to Sultanahmet. The centre point is the Çemberlitaş pillar. Many Roman ruins have survived centuries here. One of the most glorious masterpieces of Ottoman era, Nuruosmaniye Mosque is also here


The third hill is locate within the Istanbul University Campus near Beyazıt Tower. The most important landmark here is the Suleymaniye Mosque which is the architectural masterpiece of Mimar Sinan . Beyazıt Mosque and The old building of Istanbul University are other notable landmarks


The fourth hill is the centre of the Fatih suburb. Fatih Mosque is the landmark.


The part of Fatih suburb overlooking Halice (The Golden Horn) is known as Yavuz Selim. This is Istanbul’s 5th hill. The ancient Byzantine Bonos Aqueduct and Sultan Selim Mosques are the landmarks.


Edirnekapı and the surrounding area is the highest hill of these seven hills. The hilltop overlooks The Golden Horn. Another Mimar Sinan masterpiece Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, The Byzantine Tekfur Palace, Kariye Museum are among the most notable landmarks.


Istanbul’s seventh hill is in the Cukurbostan region. The most notable landmark is the Arcadius pillar


Rare Turkish photos from the Gallipoli Campaign

Priceless pictures and postcards of Turkish forces at Gallipoli have emerged to set the scenes of Turkish soldiers in action almost a century after the legendary battle.

Galatasaray soccer player Hasnub Galib who died in Gallipoli

Galatasaray soccer player Hasnub Galib who died in Gallipoli

Turkish army after a prayer session

Turkish army after a prayer session

The cover of the Navy magazine

The cover of the Navy magazine

The Turkish Admiral Cevdet Pasa

The Turkish Admiral Cevdet Pasa

Fenerbahce Soccer players

Fenerbahce Soccer players

A french post card depicting the Turkish prisoners

A French post card depicting the Turkish prisoners

Turkish infantry

Turkish infantry

An officer posing with his children before Gallipoli campaign

An officer posing with his children before Gallipoli campaign

A postcard by The Red Crescent

A postcard by The Red Crescent

Birds-eye view of Gallipoli

Birds-eye view of Gallipoli

The sufi volunteers of the Mawlawi order join Turkish army

The sufi volunteers of the Mawlawi order join Turkish army

Ottoman Empire joins the war

Ottoman Empire joins the war

The Turkish Navy Destroyer Yavuz (Goben)

The Turkish Navy Destroyer Yavuz (Goben)

A Turkish postcard

A Turkish postcard


Ladino; the five-hundred-year-old language of Istanbul

One of the oldest languages ​​of Istanbul, Ladino has a 550-year history in Istanbul. Ladino is the common name used for Judaeo-Spanish.


Language, like all other cultural assets, is a living organism and evolves over time. Like other languages, Ladino too went through many changes. Even before the Spanish Jewry had abandoned their homeland, the foundations of the modern Spanish were not yet laid. The political unity of the Spaniards in 1492 was the first step on this path. Ladino’s backbone was predominantly a sub-branch of the Castilian Spanish.

King Ferdinand

Spanish King Ferdinand

The story of Judeo-Spanish or Ladino in the Ottoman lands more or less started in 1492. King Ferdinand and his wife Isabella finally defeated Emirate of Granada thus removed the last obstacle in front of transforming Spain into a Catholic state.

King Ferdinand issued the Alhambra Decree less than three months after the surrender of Granada. Spain’s entire Jewish population was given only four months to either convert to Christianity or leave the country.

Alhambra in Spain was the home to Muslims and Jews in middle-ages

Alhambra in Spain was the home to Muslims and Jews in middle-ages

In response to the Alhambra Decree, sent the Ottoman navy under the command of Kemal Reis to Spain to save Jews who were expelled.

Thessaloniki was one of the main hubs of Ottoman Jews

Thesaloniki was one of the main hubs for the Ottoman Jews

As a result, many Jews living in Spain had to leave for nearby countries like England, Holland and Italy. Many Spanish Jews also fled to the Ottoman Empire, where they were given refuge. Sultan Bayezid II of the Ottoman Empire, in response to the Alhambra Decree, sent the Ottoman navy under the command of Kemal Reis to Spain to save Jews who were expelled. The Jews settled in Ottoman lands, mainly to the cities of Thessaloniki (currently in Greece) and Izmir (currently in Turkey).

Interestingly, while the Jews outside the Ottoman state ended up adopting the language of their new homelands in a short period of time, the Ottoman Jews kept their loyalty to their language Ladino, up to this day, albeit with some exchange. This is explained by Avram Galanti in his work “The affect of Turkish language on Spanish”: When Jews emigrated from Spain to Ottoman Empire, there was no printing house however Jews brought with them the printing presses to print in their own language. Thus they were able to publish with the Rashi script.

Ottoman Jewish couple in Thessaloniki

Ottoman Jewish couple in Thessaloniki

Jews migrating to other European countries, ended up adopting the language of that country as there were already local printing houses operating in those countries.

Galata region – Istanbul

Galata region – Istanbul

Another important factor was the “Millet system” of the Ottoman Empire. Within the framework of millet system, different ethnic or religious groups in the Ottoman Empire were allowed to organize their own tradition, legal systems, education and cultural activities themselves, thus preserving their originality.

Ladino’s impact

Before the Sephardi emigration, languages ​​such as Greek, Arabic and Yiddish were spoken among the Jews living under Ottoman rule. For examples, the Romaniots, who formed the most crowded Jewish community in the Ottoman territory, were speaking Greek. However after Sephardic immigration Ladino became the most effective language among Jewish society over time.

By the seventeenth century, the Byzantine Jews who originally spoke the Greek language, started using Ladino gradually.

Ladino took a significant portion of the religious terms from the Spanish but did not neglect Jewish faith in doing so. One of the most interesting examples in this sense is the removal of the “s” from the Spanish word “Dios” (which means ‘God’), which added plurality.

Jewish officers in Ottoman army

Jewish officers in Ottoman army

Interaction between Turkish and Ladino

From the seventeenth century onwards, the Turkish words in the Judeo-Spanish language increased drastically.

The interaction between languages started with tax names and other words in the commercial space such as food and beverage names, various animal names, clothes, furniture, everyday goods and professional terms.

Naturally some words from Turkish also passed onto Ladino, such as çarık /çarukas (sandal) or fistan /fostan (dress). On the other hand, some of the words used in Ladino also naturally go to Turkic, among them the most known of which are kashar (from kasher), sponge, bastard and bullshit.

Jewish folk culture was another channel of interaction with Turkish language. As the Jews had a rich culture of folk art, artistic fields such as puppetry, dance, instrumentalism, theater and folk dancing were easier to interact with. Turkish Nasrettin Hodja jokes passed on to Jewish culture as ‘Coha stories’.

El Tiempo newspaper - Source:

El Tiempo newspaper

Ladino during the later stages of the Empire

Ladino language suffered serious tremors from two important developments; the first one was the opening of Alliance Israélite Universelle schools.

The French language became popular among the students who graduated from these schools. However, this also was a positive for the Ottoman-Jewish society. The Jewish community had become a closed society and had lost its prestigious position in the Ottoman Empire to Armenian and Greeks from 17th century onwards.

After the French revolution, the nationalist movements among the Greek and Armenian communities accelerated separatism in these communities however it helped the Ottoman Jewish community come to spotlight again. French speaking members of the Ottoman Jewish society who completed their education in Europe started obtaining respectable positions in the Ottoman State replacing Greek and Armenians. Ladino received a lot of words from the French during this period.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Moiz Kohen was a supporter of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s unification policy

Ladino during the early republican era

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the newly-found Turkish state wanted to unite its subjects via Turkish language. With the union of education (“tevhid-i tedrisat”) law, the new government ensured all schools adopting the same curriculum and language.

Turkish government’s “Citizen, Speak Turkish!” campaign was also a contributing factor.

Moiz Kohen, who was an important figure in the history of Turkish Nationalism, and Avram Galanti, suggested that the Turkish Jews should be Turkified as soon as possible. They suggested that Jewish children should be sent to Turkish schools, and Jewish community should speak Turkish at home and that Turkish names should be given to children.

The changes in the language and the culture were also reflected in the field of printing. In the first years of the Turkish Republic, El Telegrafo and El Tyempo were published in Judeo-Spanish using Hebrew letters, while La Boz de Oriente was published half in Latin letters and half in Hebrew letters. A latter newspaper La Boz de Turkiye was not printed in Hebrew letters but rather printed half in Turkish and half in Judeo-Spanish with some French content.

Citizen, speak Turkish” campaign on Cumhuriyet newspaper of Gönen dictrict of Balıkesir on May 21st of 1936 

“Citizen, speak Turkish” campaign on Cumhuriyet newspaper of Gönen dictrict of Balıkesir on May 21st of 1936

Once widely spoken by the Jewish communities throughout the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa, Ladino is in a serious danger of extinction because many native speakers have not transmitted the language to their grandchildren.

Shalom, the only newspaper of the Jewish community in Turkey, dedicates a separate page to Ladino language as well offering a monthly extra “El Amaneser” in Judeo-Spanish.

This article was largely based on Önder Kaya’s article on Shalom