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 I have been working on the Istanbul Facebook page quite diligently. However, so far I have not really ventured much outside of my own hood, Beşiktaş, where God knows there is enough material to fill not only one but many Facebook pages. The thing is that I want people to see other things too, of course. Especially other lifestyles. Üsküdar is right across the sea, you get there by taking a commuter boat or a ferry. And it is one of the best known conservative neighborhoods (well more than a neighborhood, a whole municipality) in Istanbul. Has always been so, historically as well. There is a very big square where you may not feel this conservative lifestyle as much since it is one of the biggest commuter transit points from one side of the sea to the other. But once you get into the market area things definitely acquire a certain flavor.

I haven’t wandered inside this market area for years. Normally I have no business there, no shops to go to, no friends to visit. I made the whole specifically for the page. What surprised me was that it wasn’t nearly as conservative as I remembered it to be. Obviously there are far more women wearing scarves, and shorts are somewhat thin on the ground. But the difference between my avowedly “progressive” neighborhood and “conservative” Üsküdar is far less pronounced. Which is all to the good.

The talking screen heads who know everything about everything have been disagreeing vehemently on this issue: Is Turkey getting more conservative or less so? Some say far less so in essence, more so externally since it is easier to get government jobs and such if you “look” conservative. But inwardly more and more people, especially young people, are turning away from religion, becoming Deists or Atheists. Well, I didn’t see much evidence of outward conservatism either. Some, yes. Overwhelming – no.

Not that it matters to me, I hasten to add. I do not have the phobia that most progressives around here have for conservatives, for religious folk, for the whole notion of Islam. In fact I often get into arguments with people around me for that very reason.

But, this whole issue of conservatism aside, the market is absolutely wonderful. Lots and lots of food stores. Olive stores especially. Not that many cafes, and no bars at all that I could see. (So, that might be something to do with religiosity. Not much call for them I suppose). But what really differs is that there is this old fashioned, homey, vernacular feeling about the place that you would be hard pushed to find in my hood. The cafe where I sat for example: They had these red, fringed table cloths and plush red cushions that a Beşiktaş cafe owner would not be caught dead with in their establishment. And not an espresso in sight. Turkish coffee and tea and home made lemonade.

Very very nice.


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