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Great post


Beautfiul photos!


Lovely pics as always and you are so right with your observations. Definitely being an (identifiable) foreigner and of a certain age help being treated nicer in a cayevi - a turkish woman would never go inside one. Usually when the women at home need the man for some reason, a little boy is sent with a message in to the cayevi or kahvehane.

Btw, the game being played in the 3rd & 4th pictures is "okay" (yes, really!), and is basically the same as some popular card games played all over Turkey, like konken (know that?) (making series and sets like "2,3,4 of a color" and "5s of different colors, etc.)- easier than holding all the cards in your hand, and especially practical if you are sitting underneath a tree in front of the kahve and it is windy outside ;)

craig | travelvice.com

Most of the tea houses I passed in my nearly three months in Turkey were are filled with billowing clouds of cigarette smoke -- seemingly omnipresent inside homes an cafés in the country -- one of the most off-putting aspects of the tea house.

Cajun Chef Ryan

Amazing! This series of images made me feel like it was in Turkey, and reminiscence of reading an issue of Natl. Geo.

You really captured the essence and spirit of the Turkish culture!

Bon appetit!


So what kind of tea was it? Like a black tea or a rooibos?


Very cool post. :)


What a great post ! This is really a wonderful glimpse into another culture.


You are right up my alley with this post, Robyn. The big themes - the man's world - and the little observations - the sugar cubes inside the bottom lip - captured so evocatively.

Been looking forward to this post.


Thank you. I loved this! The pictures are beautiful.... I can only hope, one day, to enjoy this experience myself.

Account Deleted

Stunning photographs! It definitely takes me back to my days of living in Turkey. I think being a yabanci woman in Turkey is sometimes a good thing as it offers you a peek into a male-dominated world that Turkish women rarely get an opportunity to participate it. For some odd reason, it's easier for Turkish men to accept a yabanci in their territory than their own women. Perhaps they are just as curious about us as we are about them...


Wonderful post and incredible pictures. Thanks for taking us to Turkey with you. I am also curious what kind of tea it was? Love the color.


I probably have more to say, but for the moment:

Would you call Eastern Turkey a male-dominated world (as Conniehum commented): it does seem to me that perhaps publicly, women are not treated 'equally' as men, though that is not to say they aren't at home. My impression is it's a tradition of role playing -- women are not necessarily the weaker, inferior sex. And these men don't look 'domineering'. But I could be wrong.

How much do you think has changed in the last 20 years in these regions? It seems to me time has stopped for them --I am a little surprised that young males comfortably and happily hang out just like their old men do. Is there such thing called generation gap? It looks like just a one big 'man's world' - young and old alike.But it works for them - for both sexes.


Thanks all for the comments and kudos. Cred to Dave of course for the photos. This was such a fun topic to revisit via a post.

Hande - thanks for the info re: Okay. We watched the guys in that photo for about 1/2 an hour and I could make neither heads nor tales of it. One thing I do remember ... whether playing cards, Okay, backgammon, or checkers -- pieces/cards must be FORCEFULLY slapped/put down on table, board, etc. For emphasis.

Craig -- I could see that. We were there in good weather so all windows/doors open and we often sat outside. Not an issue as such.

Cajun Chef -- Nat Geo? Quite a compliment! Thank you.

TX2step and Jenny -- it's black tea. Turkey grows alot of tea on the Black Sea coast, but lots is imported from India/Sri Lanka too (in fact Turkish black tea is considered inferior). The tea is brewed VERY strong ... I'm not much of a sugar user but I needed at least 1.5 lumps in these small tulip-shaped glasses.

Sticky - thanks! I like that -- "big themes and little observations". Gonna keep that in mind for future posts. They're always the most rewarding to write.

Deandra - I hope you can. Turkey is an amazing place.

Connie - I'm sure that's the case. I've encountered similar situations in Indonesia ... being the only woman, and there only because I am a foreigner.


Katy - I won't whitewash it. Women in eastern Turkey do not have it well. It's a very conservative, traditional society. Honor killings are not uncommon. Women marry young. Women don't really spend much time outside the house.
That's not to say that there aren't moderates and educated and career women.

It's just that it's nothing like Istanbul and many women still have it very hard. That said, there are differences between towns. Mardin seemed downright cosmopolitan compared to Midyat (where Dave shot his last set of portraits), just an hour away.

I think yes, there is a generation gap. But one thing we were struck by in Turkey is the ease with which generations socialize. More to say on this, but you just don't see 18 year olds and 60 yr olds striking up casual conversations in the US. Young pple really hold themselves apart from older pple. Not the case in Turkey and it's very interesting indeed. I'd have to ponder on the reasons for this but we saw it in action alot and always found it striking.


Incredible and interesting article here. I love the pictures and everything you can learn about culture through spending time at a tea house in Turkey. That sugar cube in the mouth must get pretty sweet.


such utterly gorgeous photos. my husband and i were in turkey and bought the exact same tea glasses and saucers to bring back with us. the way you describe eastern turkey- it reminds me of Peshawar (well, before things went all pear-shaped there), my mother used to visit with her family and there used to be teahouses there where the men would drink tea, have cardamom-laced biscuits and gossip. beautiful post you have here; i enjoyed reading it very much. x shayma


In their bid for EU entry, the extent of conservativeness must have made it a difficult issue to tackle for Turkish government. The noticeable difference between two close towns must also have made it a complicated and sensitive subject to talk about amongst themselves. China claims things haven’t worked for the Turks because they are trying to be something they aren’t (i.e. being ‘European’). Coming from China, you don’t know what to think, but there may be some element of truth there.

As for the ease of generations socialising, the smaller ‘gap’ in the SE regions of Turkey may reflect the slow social development in these regions. Otherwise are you talking about from male perspectives mainly, or females too?

I also wonder why tea is pronounced (derived from Chinese dialects) ‘Cha’ (as in Mandarin and Cantonese) in Central Asian regions and not ‘te or ti’ (in Hokkien) as in many other regions. If you say it’s ‘Cha’ because it travelled from the Northern part of China (Beijing) through the Silk Road that makes sense, though it doesn’t explain the Cantonese source of its pronunciation. Unless Cantonese 'borrowed' from Beijing.

By coincidence, my high school mate who has lived in Turkey for 20 years published a couple of articles about Turkish tea and coffee culture recently. (She is the Turkey/Taiwan correspondent for a National newspaper back home). I forwarded her your post, she was impressed by and benefited from your writing (& great photos Dave!) and observations and has linked it to her FB profile., encouraging readers to come here for a foreign older woman’s insights – the “outsider’s” views that is lacking in hers.

Anyway, here are a few things to share with you -- Via Lichuan, from Ankara.(in the next post)


Tea’s influence in culture – Just as the Chinese greet by asking “Have you eaten”? Turks go “Will you drink some tea?" – that kind of says it all.

Turks describe the color of this black tea ‘Rabbit blood red’ and the black tea used in SE regions is called Kacak Cayi (smuggled tea) – Sri Lankan tea leaves smuggled from Iran and Iraq. As you noted it is very strong, and in other regions Turks mix the leaves with Lipton’s to blend down the taste. In modern cafés, sugared hazelnut (sweets) to suck is often used as a substitute for sugar cubes (not sure if it’s a more ‘feminine’ way of drinking tea?).

Tea drinking is a sensual thing – the tulip-shaped glass resembles the shape of woman:
To feel: In the winter to warm your hands by holding around it, in the summer the holding by the rim, a gentle touch
To see: the clear glass to see the color of the tea
To listen: the tinktink sound of the spoon rang against the glass
To smell: served hot for full enjoyment of the fragrance and aroma of the tea leaves

Tea story: Most families serve tea in two stacked teapots. The larger lower pot is for the boiled water, the upper for tea leaves. The mother –in-law is the larger pot, the daughter-in-law the upper and relies on the water to brew tea. The husband is the tea cup, the father-in-law the saucer. To make a good cup of tea, you need 1/3 leaves and 2/3 hot water. The children are the sugar to sweeten the bitter taste. The sister-in-law is the spoon, to stir and intervene--when the cup of tea is finished, the spoon is laid across the cup – and it is time for her to leave.


Re Shayma's comments --this men run teahouse is a Central Asian Islamic tradition? Is it common in Iran/Iraqi? Is there something similar (men only community halls) in Malaysia in the Islamic community?

Oh, Lichuan said the first picture (film) was screened in a tea house in Turkey. During Ramadan, smoking is not allowed, so owners offer sugarless gums to help smokers get through the days.


In your post you said "Invariably the men would talk to Dave first .."
Does he speak Turkish?


Migrationology - the sugar cube in the mouth isn't really, um, my cup of tea. But I do find myself putting much more sugar in than I usually would when drinking tea in Turkey. It's strong.

Shayma, thank you. I would love to visit Pakistan. When things are improved. Your mother must have some amazing memories.

Hi Katy - let's not get started on what China thinks about Turkey or any other country. Turkey is becoming quite a power in the region, and is a haven for Uighers as you've pointed out. I'm sure China would Turkey didn't bolster its 'image' with some by joining the EU.
(Also - I believe Chinese leaders subscribe to the Lee Kuan Yew-esque view that Asians are not 'suited' to democracy. You must have something to say about that, coming from Taiwan? ;-) )

Bobster - no he doesn't. But that doesn't keep them from trying! On some (rare) occasions men who conversed with me did directing their speech to Dave instead of myself.


I have to introduce you to the man behind the making of the haven for Uighers then. Not President Gul, don't know him. Coming soon, on a separate mail.

My comments re what China thinks about Turkey wasn't random --it was from something I read online published in a China newspaper not too long ago. The fact that China 'talked' about Turkey in that particular piece and offered 'opinions' about Turks development shows a certain level of recognition in Turkey's growing power and development, as well as appreciation of their old civilization. There is no way Chinese 'level down' themselves to Turks, but there is a bond culturally, hisorically as well as geographically.

I don’t take it kindly being asked my thoughts about democracy, coming from a nation under different colonial ruling for centuries and a martial law reign of 50 years. But I’d make allowance for EatingAsia, with all your good intentions. :-) :-).

I don’t think the myth of 'Asian-style democracy' is completely dismissible – I don’t know politics, but I am ready to accept that Asians may not be suited to the liberal form of democracy commonly associated with the West. There is the balance of the level of democracy and the level of authoritarian to consider. I probably would moan about certain ‘freedom’ if lived in Singapore now, after being in the West for so long, but just maybe that ‘s what Singapore/China needed for their unification - the strength and the key for the development of a nation. No system is perfect of course, but one cannot deny their economy achievement is phenomenal.


One more point somewhat related to the earlier--you must have heard the saying 'Chinese were like scattered sand', originated from Sun Yat-Sen perhaps. Sun was Hakka and so is Lee. And Hakka the people endured hardship and discrimination in Chinese history over many centuries. Not saying there is connecition between the two and Singapore of diversed ethnicity obviously.

But how do you bind scattered sand?


This is the 'full' text of the Turkish 'sayings' about tea and family relationship. There is a bit about children compared to sugar - they sweeten the bitter taste. And having children in the family is like taking sugar, once you are used to the sugar free bitter taste, it spoils the taste; and adding one sugar is one too many!
(Sounds liberated perhaps for conservative Eastern regions)

Have a great trip and happy holidays!


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