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Alumni Travel Reading: Turkey

Guides For Your Travels

The Ancient Mediterranean

The Ottoman Empire: Histories


Large mosque

Hagia Sophia, Instanbul. Courtesty of



Sorted and Annotated By:

David Giovacchini
Middle East Studies Librarian


For more information concerning this Penn excursion, please visit the Penn Alumni Travel website.

Turkey in Antiquity


Ancient ampitheatre ruins

The Amphitheater in Ephesus. Courtesy of


The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul. Courtesy of

Online Portals to Turkey's Culture

Turkey in Film

Climates (Iklimler) (2006), directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

This visually beautiful and moving film begins with the main character, a middle-aged professor named Isa, and his younger wife, Bahar, on summer holiday at Kas on Turkey’s Aegean coast. The setting moves to Istanbul in the fall, and then to the mountains of Eastern Turkey in the winter. As the seasons and landscapes change, so too do Isa’s feelings for Bahar. The film observes the breakdown of their marriage and the impossibility of love with intense, slow images. It is a mixture of close-ups and landscape shots. The latter offer spectacular views of the diverse regions of Turkey in the changing seasons. The director is one of the most respected in Turkey, and has won much international acclaim. 

See the film's IMDB page or purchase the film from Amazon.

The Turkish Culinary Experience

Art & Music

Turkey’s music is as diverse and beautiful as the country itself. There is a modern form of classical music, whose heritage goes back to Ottoman times. Turkish versions of traditional Middle Eastern instruments are used, such as the oud and the dulcimer-like kanun. It can be either vocal or instrumental, and improvisation plays a part along with a composed score.

Oud. Courtesy of

Some incredible vocal performances by late Ottoman classical singers can be heard on the Gazeller disc (Gazeller: Ottoman-Turkish Vocal Improvisations in 78 rpm Records, Kalan, 1997).

The bardic folk tradition which originally was part of tribal culture is still alive in Turkey. The saz or Turkish long-necked lute is the primary instrument. You can hear this hypnotic music on the Ashiklar disc (Ashiklar : Those Who Are in Love, Folk Music of Turkey, Golden Horn Records, 1999). If it intrigues you, seek out something by its foremost proponent, Asik Veysel.

bağlama, another name for a sez. Courtesy of

The Turks have long been attuned to musical trends in the West, and are adept at adapting them. The Geçmişten günümüze tangolarımız CD features tangos worthy of Astor Piazzolla (Geçmişten günümüze tangolarımız.  Istanbul  Kalan 2000).

In the late 1960s and 70s the Turks developed their own take on rock music, blending it with Anatolian folk music and instruments. Mogollar and Baris Manco are two of the best artists. Check out the Hava Nargile CD for a guided tour of the classic Turkish rock scene (Hava Nargile: Turkish Rock Music, 1966-1975, Bacchus Archives, 2001).

In keeping with their position between East and West, the Turks have also borrowed from Arab music, creating a style called Arabesque. It mixes the beats and instruments of modern Arab popular music with Turkish vocals. Two of this style’s greatest proponents are Orhan Gencebey and Zeki Muren (Zeki Muren. Kayitlari 1955-1963, Kalan, 2003). Muren was a huge star, who wore puffed up hair and spangled suits a la Liberace. He did much to encourage the acceptance of homosexuality in Turkish society.

Turkey in Fiction

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