Bodrum’s white against insects, blue against the evil eye
MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency
The century-old lily-white houses of Bodrum, a popular resort town in the western province of Muğla, are known for their wooden doors, blue windows and bougainvilleas.
It is popularly believed that the white paint of the houses, which give Bodrum such a distinctive look, keeps away insects while the blue windows combat the “evil eye.”
Bodrum Mayor Mehmet Kocadon praised the appeal of the district, which is particularly popular as a tourism destination among middle and upper-class Turks.
A blue and white tradition
Kocadon also pledged to always protect the historic fabric of Bodrum.
“Our houses have not collapsed and they have stood upright despite the recent earthquakes in the region. No lives were lost. The durability of these houses was proven,” he said.
“What’s more, because of the whitewash it is thought that no insects can take shelter in our houses. That’s how we stay protected from them. Our blue windows and doors, meanwhile, are part of a tradition rooted in history; we have always believed that blue protects us from the evil eve,” Kocadon added.
The mayor stated that Bodrum locals believe strongly in the evil eye, with many people hanging evil eye amulets and even some plants endemic to the area on their houses in a bid to ward it off.
Whitewashing has a hygienic effect
Özcan Özkan, an associate professor of biology at Çankırı Karatekin University conducting research on the scorpion species in the Aegean region, also stated that lime was used to keep the insects away from houses.
Özkan emphasized the Aegean belief that the color white protects from insects, adding that scorpions, which feed on insects, do not enter houses in Bodrum as there are no insects to find there.
“Whitewashing protects [houses] from insects and scorpions. It also has a hygienic effect. Blue does not have a scientific basis but people believe that it protects them. The evil eye amulet is blue and there is an eye inside the amulet that is thought to be protective,” he said.
“Whitewashing, however, is a reasonable practice both in terms of hygiene and in terms of preventing insects from nesting … So whitewashing has a scientifically protective character while blue has a culturally protective one,” he added.
Mehmet Melengeç, the head of Bodrum Chamber of Agriculture, echoed Özkan’s points and stressed the uniqueness of Bodrum.
“Blue and white have become colors identified with this district. Local people’s practice of whitewashing the houses of Bodrum is quite demanding work. We have also heard that lime was effective against the insects.”
‘This belief makes us happy’
Local woman Fatma Yıldırım, 67, said that in the past paint was never used on the houses of Bodrum, with mud, stones and lime preferred instead.
“We have long believed that whitewashing protects us from poison and blue protects us from the evil eye. This belief makes us happy,” Yıldırım said.
Recep Özbek, 86, also noted that lime is sometimes used to protect houses from harmful insects, while adding that blue also makes locals feel refreshed.