Come see Ankara, city of ultimate fakes
Can a city be defined by fakery? Here, I am not talking about politics, which could easily be added to the list when talking about “ultimate fakes.” I am talking about the reality, or hyper-reality. Driving in and around Ankara is to live inside a hyper-reality alla Turca.
It all started with fake clock towers – awkwardly placed, anachronistic structures. Then, we got the seemingly historical Gates of Ankara, by which time the entire city started looking like a weird theme park. Everything around us is solid, but we know it to be fake. Ankara is a make-believe city now, the scribble of an Anatolian schoolchild who grew up with off-color, Chinese-made Mickey Mouse toys.
Why am I saying that these are all ultimate examples of fakery? All in all, we now have around 55 clock towers in Ankara. Most modern cities lack any. Just look at London with the Big Ben. Prague has one to take selfies at. İzmir has one built by Abdulhamid II, back in 1901. Yet, Ankara boasts 55 electronic clock towers, one in every suitable corner, like in an overcrowded living room. Now that the jurisdiction of Ankara Metropolitan Municipality was extended to the boundaries of the entire province just before the last election, you can also see a fake clock tower in Beypazarı, a county of the province of Ankara. So fakery is really a disease spreading along the jurisdiction of the Ankara municipality. The gates of Ankara are everywhere, too. Their number has now reached 5, one at every entrance to the city. They all look sort of historical, yet we know they were built just a few months back, right before the March 30 municipal election. They are remnants of a historical wall surrounding the old city of Ankara that this simply did not exist.
Why is this strange faith in fakes in Ankara nowadays? According to the mayor, it is for selfies. That is what Melih Bey said some time ago. “Not much of a tourist attraction in the city,” he said when people asked him about the structures, “That is why I had them constructed.” So come to Ankara, the city of ultimate fakes. Take a selfie with a fake clock tower or a seemingly historical city gate. They are not real, but let’s face it; all that really counts is what you can put up on Facebook and Twitter, right?
On a more serious note, the whole ordeal indicates a severe identity crisis. For some reason, we Turks are trying to invent a history for ourselves. That might be understandable in the U.S., for example, but in a land where the real thing already exists, it looks so utterly wrong. We should not feel the need for selfies adorned by fake structures in Ankara, if you ask me.
I see these structures as monuments of this last episode of construction mania in the country. They are not elegant or charming as roadside decorations. They just do not represent anything and will not last the ages. Part of the reason they won’t last is they are not built to last. They are built to be built, pretexts for public procurement contracts only. The results we are seeing all around Ankara does not have any value, yet these ultimate fakes have created an income stream to the company that built them. Monuments of tender value, one might say; very much representative of this age of “İnşaat Ya Resulullah,” construction is the messenger of God.
But do come and see the ultimate fakes of Ankara. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.