7 things that create a ‘White Turks’ nightmare’ at Eid al- Fitr
Nazlan Ertan - firstname.lastname@example.orgThank God it is almost over! Despite what you might have read, heard and were led to believe, a 10-day Eid al-Fitr holiday in the middle of the summer is not a great idea – not for tourism, not for the economy and certainly not for families, a presidential priority.
Could someone tell the president that we’d rather have a four-day holiday on May 19, the Day of National Independence and Youth, than 10 days in the July heat of Eid al-Fitr please? Seriously, do you have any idea what we are putting families through with 10 days of religious holidays, with house visits in this heat, the constant family meals and offers of chocolates and sweets special to the Şeker Bayramı (Festival of Sweets)? I assure the Family and Social Affairs Ministry that it is not a step in the direction of preventing divorce and creating a harmonious family with three kids.
Here we are, in the spring resort of Çeşme, where middle-class İzmir residents traditionally have their second holiday homes in a cramped setting, just a stone’s throw away from Alaçatı, the nation’s summer playground whose population is multiplied by 10 in July and August. We are surrounded by loving family who expect bayram visits, loving tradesmen who want to make a year’s earnings in two months and loving tourists who turn both Çeşme Marina and Alaçatı into an Eminönü-Taksim bus in rush hour. Admittedly, I envy my colleagues who are at the office putting these pages together.
Okay, in the spirit of Hürriyet’s Daily News’ great article on 10 things to do in Turkey during Eid al-Fitr, I offer a retrospective seven things that make Şeker Bayramı not-so-sweet:
1. Everybody warns you to stay away from the crowds: On the first day of the 10-day holiday, newspapers and social media started warning of a 35-member Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) team who aimed to target coastal towns, particularly beach clubs and bars. So you shun the famous Alaçatı market and urge your teenage son to go to the local beach rather than the trendy new “location.”
2. ...no one listens: The foreign tourists are not coming but the locals have arrived in huge crowds. “Sorry, we are fully booked until June 12,” said the waiter at Asma Yaprağı, one of the nicest restaurants in Alaçatı. There are no parking places in Migros in Çeşme, there are no umbrellas in the (only) affordable beach near our house. “A lot of crowds, but very little quality,” sniffed the somewhat elitist restaurant owner in Alaçatı.
3. Everything is more expensive: 10 Turkish Liras for a scoop of ice-cream? Are you joking? But share this lament with any tourism operator and remind them that you can actually spend a whole week in the nearby Greek islands with one evening’s costs in Çeşme and you get a lecture on patriotism. “We [the Turkish tourism operators] are patriots who pay full taxes and serve the highest quality of food, not rascals who serve customers whatever they fished and evade taxes,” said Mehmet İşler, the chairman of the Aegean Tourism Managers Confederation. So there.
4. Family visits, the necessary dimension of religious holidays, are a minefield of political and social divergence: Even the most loving families and harmonious neighbors have divergent views on politics. Avoid any references to the state of the country, reasons on how we arrived here and, well, anything that is remotely political. The ideal family visit is 20 minutes, the time required to consume the offered coffee and toffee and finish polite inquiries about the children and other relatives. Then scram. Interesting topics of the day, innocent as they may seem – such as the joker who claimed Shakespeare was Muslim during a Ramadan program, leading to endless “Sheik Pir” jokes – can lead to East-West battles. Don’t mix politics with religious holidays; our politicians are so good at it.
5. Your expectations cannot match reality: Forget the five books you have carefully selected for the 10 days, the early morning swim and the long walks that will make you return to town slimmer, fitter and more relaxed. A summer house means constant work. A summer house with visits means not a moment to yourself. If you want to relax, invent an emergency at work and head to the office.
6. Refrain from quick decisions on divorce: You will start thinking that if the 10-day holiday is any indication on what your husband will be like in retirement, now is the time to contemplate divorce. My husband’s main form of physical activity was turning the pages of Ken Follet’s “Fall of Giants.” While I did admire his firm belief that breakfast prepared itself and a house operated all alone, I realized that educating men to share summer housework still has far to go in Turkey. My husband, for his part, thinks the Çeşme sun and wind has turned his happy-go-lucky and sweetly untidy wife into an obsessive dictator.
7. How much can you get for your summer house? Will it be enough to go on luxury holidays in faraway lands until the end of your life – or at least until Ramadan shifts to winter?