Thank God it is almost over! Despite what you might have read, heard and were led to believe, a ten day holiday in the middle of the summer is not a great idea – not for tourism, not for 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 ten-days in the July heat of Eid al-Fitr please? Seriously, do you have any idea what we are putting families through with ten days of religious holidays, with house visits under this heat, the constant family meals and offer of chocolates and sweets special to the Şeker Bayramı? I assure the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs 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 Izmirians traditionally have their second holiday homes in cramped setting; just a stone’s throw away from Alaçatı, the nation’s summer playground whose population is multiplied by ten 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 to an Eminönü-Taksim bus in the rush hour. Admittedly, I envy my colleagues who are at the office..
OK, 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 7 things to bear in mind for the same date:
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 ISIS 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."
. ...no one listens: The foreign tourists are not coming but the locals have arrived in huge crowds. “Sorry, we are fully booked until July 12,” says 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” sniffs the somewhat elitist restaurant owner in Alaçatı. He no doubt means the rich Istanbuliotes, the group Alaçatı loves to hate but on whom they depend for their livelihood.
Everything is more expensive: 10TL 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 near-by 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 Aegean Tourism Managers Confederation. So there – it is your patriotic duty to get cheated in Alaçatı folks, year after year.
Family visits, the necessary dimension of religious holidays, is 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 twenty minutes, the time to consume the coffee and the toffee offered, finish polite inquiries about the children and other relatives. Then scam. Interesting topics of the day, innocent 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. Do not even say “Syrian” – the pros and cons of giving them citizenship may unleash a hate speech that Goebbels may envy. Don’t mix politics with religious holidays, our politicians are so good at it.
Your expectations cannot match reality: Forget the five books you have carefully selected for the ten 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.
Refrain from quick decisions on divorce: Please, please stop thinking that if the ten-days of holidays is any indication on what your husband will be in retirement, now is the time to contemplate divorce. Turkish men’s idea of a summer house is an idyllic paradise where breakfast prepares themselves and house runs on its own. What is there to do but lie down and enjoy the sun, that’s what we are here, right? My husband’s main form of physical activity was turning the pages of Ken Follet’s “Fall of Giants.” My husband, for his part, thinks Çeşme sun and wind has turned his happy-go-lucky and sweetly untidy wife into a dictator obsesses with sand on the porch.
How much can you get for your summer house? Will it be enough to go for luxury holidays in far lands until the end of your life – or at least until Ramadan shifts to winter?
A version of this article was published in the HDN on July 10, 2016.