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7 August 2019 / Lifestyle

9 Things that Turkey is Famous For

To answer the question of what Turkey is famous for would take an entire book. As the world’s 37th largest country with a cultural heritage and overwhelming historical timeline, it has many reasons to step up to the podium for its famous places, food, souvenirs, and quirky little facts. We will list nine famous things in this article, but it is also worth knowing that there are many false misconceptions about the country.

For example, the Turkish kebab is famous, but the version you buy after a late night at the pub in the UK differs from the version sold in Turkey. There are also over 30 different types of kebabs. Additionally, given its international reputation, you might think Turks eat nothing but meat, yet fruit and vegetables feature heavily in their cuisine.

Turkey is also not famous for camels. The famous red Fez only appears in history books and Turkish men no longer wear it. So, let us look at what things have gained Turkey international fame.

9 Things that Turkey is Famous For

Baklava with Off the Scale Sweetness

Eaten as a dessert or snack, and given as a present, Baklava lists number one as famous things in Turkey. You could say that if production dried up overnight, Turks would be highly upset. This combination of flaky pastry, and chopped pistachios, covered in a sweet syrup with so much sugar, it would make your dentist frown, is the number one recommended dish to try when visiting Turkey.

If you are in Istanbul, head to Karakoy Gulluoglu, that many people say makes the best in the country. Otherwise, look for sellers using tried and tested recipes from the Gaziantep region, otherwise known as the kings of baklava.

How Much Turkish Tea Can You Drink?

Here is where another misconception lies because many people associate Turkish coffee as the country’s national drink, yet Turks consume far more tea. Look around the streets of any town or village, and male-dominated tea shops dominate the scenes, while families and females often head to tea gardens.

Served black in tulip-shaped glasses, tea is also contributing towards the Turks love of sugar because many add three or more cubes to one glass. However, if coffee is your favourite go-to for the beverage, we still recommend trying the Turkish version. The dark, earthy taste differs from your average, milky Nescafe, and to prove it a Turkish proverb says coffee should be “black as hell, strong as death and sweet as sugar.”

Iskender Kebab: To Die For

Turkey’s misunderstood reputation often sees the donor kebab as the nation’s favourite meat dish, but many Turks swear by Iskender kebab. Originating from Turkey’s north-western region, it takes its name after its founder, who invented it in the 19th century.

Take cut donor lamb and lather it over warm pita bread, before covering it with hot tomato sauce, melted butter, and fresh yoghurt. Although sold all over the country, if you want the original version, head to the restaurant in Bursa now run by descendants of the inventor.

Get Hooked on Turkish Soap Operas

From culinary delights to programs that turn us into couch potatoes, Turkey has the market sewn up lock stock and barrel. Over the last decade, Turkey has produced many soap operas featuring prominent Turkish actors and famous destinations within the country.

In the beginning, only Turks tapped in to watch the dramatic tales of broken families and undying love stories, but production companies started exporting series overseas, and they took off in a way that no-one imagined they would.  Having won adoring fans across the Gulf states, parts of Europe, China and India, Internet tv streaming has also led many other nationalities to find out about all the hype.

The Souvenir Evil Eye

The evil eye characterised by white and yellow circles surrounded by blue is the most widely sold souvenir. Called Nazar Boncuk in Turkish, some Turks have them in their homes, offices, and cars, but this tradition seems to be dying out with the younger generations.

Said to ward off evil eyes jealous of your good fortune, it is a superstitious tale but with a cultural twist, hence its time-honoured use. If you want to take one home, get ready for a mass of choice because sellers’ stock them as keyrings, jewellery, plates, bookmarks, towels, hanging ornaments and much more.

Istanbul: Turkey’s Most Famous City

Often mistaken as Turkey’s capital, Istanbul overshadows Ankara but not because of political importance. Because it is Turkey’s largest and most prominent city and the number one tourist destination in the country. Most foreigners arrive to see the Sultanahmet area sitting in the Fatih district, that is home to famous landmark buildings like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace from where the Ottoman Sultans ruled over their empire.

The city is about a lot more than that though including the Asian side, and Bosphorus villages that are home to Yali mansions, Turkey’s most expensive real estate market. Over the last 20 decades, more expats have also moved to Istanbul as it gained prominence as a cultural, gastronomy, education, real estate, and health tourism hub.

Turkish Carpets and Rugs

In recent years, Turks replaced their love for carpets and rugs with cheaper factory versions, yet they are still a popular souvenir. The importance lies because they are handmade, and each motif represents an individual tale. It is a tale of cultural heritage stemming back to the days when Turks were nomadic, and prices stem from two hundred for a small carpet upwards of five figures or more for the larger or silk made rugs.

The most famous Turkish carpets are Hereke, and it's worth visiting the Dolmabahce Palace to see their iconic mats. If you plan to buy one, seek expert advice before doing so because fake versions made in China appear on the market from time to time.

Delicious Turkish Delight

Another popular souvenir, Turkish delight is sold in many flavours, but Turks also give it as a present or eat it after Turkish coffee to cleanse their palette, hence its Arabic name which means throat comfort. Made from sugar and starch, and a light dusting of icing powder, don’t confuse the Turkish version with the British Fry’s recipe.

First invented in the 18th century by a man called Haci Bekir Efendi, local legends say he was chief confectioner to Ottoman sultan Ahmad and such was the sultan’s pleasure, he gave it to visiting dignitaries and foreign royalty, marking the start of its international fame.

Hair Transplants and Dental Work

Yes, you read that right. Turkey’s latest claim to fame is as a pioneer in hair transplants. Should you visit Istanbul and see loads of men walking around with bandages on their head, know they have a new head of hair. Two reasons it has taken off around the globe is the competitive prices compared to other countries, and professionalism.

Turkey has invested millions in its health tourism industry, and top-notch centres of excellence have some of the world’s best experts working in them. Many foreigners also come to Turkey for dental treatment, which is likewise more affordable and, in most cases, produces better results than other European countries.

Further Reading

Turkish Superstitions and Beliefs: Sometimes called old wives’ tales, local and countrywide superstitions stem from the weird and wonderful to astonishing tales.

Facts About Turkey: When considering what is Turkey famous for, it's also worth looking at impressive nuggets of information that dominate the headlines and history books.

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