Never with a rakı bottle

Never with a rakı bottle

One of J.P. Morgan’s former top executives and academic Arthur Sculley was in Istanbul last week for Financial Times’ Turkey meeting. Sculley has been researching the “Anatolian Tigers” for four years.

In his interview with our colleague Ezgi Başaran from daily Radikal, he said the Anatolian Tigers have told him, “Our hearts are with Fethullah Gülen; our minds are with [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan. For the future of our business, stability is very important.”

The formula, “Gülen at heart, Erdoğan on their mind” is valid for many successful businesspeople today.

One of them is Head of the Executive Committee of Sembol İnşaat (Sembol Construction) Fettah Tamince who has opened 26 Rixos hotels in 10 countries. Tamince was born in Van and he had frequently listened to Gülen’s sermons during his childhood. Gülen was his idol and he visits Gülen in his residence in the USA at every opportunity. Together with a group of journalists, I had an opportunity to speak to Tamince a few days ago. At the terrace of the Pera Rixos, Tamince answered journalists’ questions regarding the fight between Prime Minister Erdoğan and Gülen.

Tamince said he appreciated, just like everybody else, the schools Fethullah Gülen has opened abroad and that he believed Erdoğan was doing good work for Turkey. He pointed out that it was not correct to fight with the government and he was parallel with the Anatolian Tigers when he emphasized “stability.” Tamince migrated to Antalya with his family from Van when he was 12-years-old. He was a tour guide in his early years, working on commission with shops he took tourists to. Later, he sold carpets and then he was the representative of the famous watch brand Franck Müller. He was a jeweler later and before he was 40, he owned 12 hotels.

In the coming months, he will be opening a hotel in Crimea Yalta, designed by famous British architect Norman Foster and is planning new projects in Italy and Paris. On the other hand, Sembol İnşaat is operating widely, from Libya to Russia.

Tamince had drawn reactions from circles trying to protect Istanbul’s cultural heritage after he won the tender and bought the historic Haliç dockyards for $1.4 billion. Tamince said he was working both with national and international architecture bureaus, claiming the project would suit the region and Istanbul’s historic texture.  

He had claimed the same thing for Antalya Phaselis, but unfortunately the environmentalists who have sued the 1,000-bed-capacity hotel project there are denying the claim. According to the claimants, there are ruins from the antique city in the land where the hotel is going to be built.

Besides, since archeological excavations have not been completed in the area, it is quite possible the hotel will be rising on top of ancient ruins.

I will finish my piece with an observation about Tamince. After the chat at the Pera Rixos Hotel, his photograph was taken in front of the Istanbul view. While he was posing in several places at the terrace, he was finally asked to stand near a table. He said, “Of course, since there is no bottle of rakı on the table.”

Now, imagine…

A businessperson who makes investments in several places in the world, who has the opportunity to work with famous architects like Foster, shying away from a bottle of rakı.

Of course, alcoholic drinks are sold in his hotels, but even in a photograph, he does not want to be seen side by side with a drink.

How could this be explained? I could not figure it out.