Is Turkish culture European, Middle Eastern or Asian?

Is Turkish culture European, Middle Eastern or Asian? Jul, 30 2023

The Intricacies of Turkish Culture: An Examination

Just last night, Hailey, my better half and I, were entrenched in an enlightening debate about Turkish culture over a sumptuous, aromatic Turkish coffee. It stirred up thoughts about the ambivalent character of this transcontinental nation. "Is Turkish culture primarily European, Middle Eastern, or Asian?", Hailey pondered with a twinkle in her eye. Well, isn't that a fascinating jigsaw! Let me delve deeper into this intriguing quandary and explore the intricacies of this vibrant culture.

Geography: A Tug of War Between Continents

Turkey straddles both Europe and Asia, serving as a captivating bridge that links the two distinct continents. Its vibrant city, Istanbul, is the world's only city that sits astride two continents. It thus vibrates with an electrifying ambivalence, mirroring the cultural interplay between the European, Middle Eastern, and Asian influences. A stroll down the streets of Istanbul lays bare an assemblage of architectural marvels - Byzantine-era wonders adjacent to towering minarets, Modern skyscrapers sharing the skyline with ancient Roman walls - creating a stark contrast as vivid as the patterns on a Turkish kilim.

Turkish Cuisine: A Mouthwatering Melting Pot

The culinary landscape of Turkey offers an enticing spectrum that subtly blends elements from various cuisines. You will find a unique mélange of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan flavours, all fused into one tantalising palate. Delicacies like the infamous "Doner Kebab", brewing a storm in European fast food, actually originate from the Middle East. Simultaneously, the Baklava, a sweet pastry adorned with nuts and syrups, has its roots in the Ottoman Empire's cuisine but has attained recognition throughout Western Asia and the Mediterranean.

However, Turkey's gastronomic salvo doesn't stop there. Born of its geographically diverse regions are culinary delights like Black Sea region's Hamsi—fried anchovies, simplistic yet brimming with flavour, akin to the fish and chips found in my hometown, Perth. Similarly, the Mediterranean region provides one of the healthiest diets worldwide—the Mediterranean diet, popular even down under. Echoing Hailey's sentiments, it's wondrous how every bite in Turkey unravels a vibrant tapestry of cultural influences.

Turkish Art and Literature: A Seamless Fusion of East and West

Let's journey into another realm now, the landscape of Turkish art and literature. Turkish literature dates back to an era steeped in Central Asian folklore, significantly conjuring imagery reminiscent of Turkic shamanic traditions. The richly embroidered Seljuk rugs mirror the Central Asian Turkic motifs. At the same time, their craft evolved as they interacted with the Persian, Arab, and Byzantine cultures, revealing a cross-cultural exchange that cascaded into art and literature.

During the efflorescence of the Ottoman Empire, Persian and Arab influences were pronounced, especially in poetry and calligraphy, encapsulating Middle Eastern literature's intricacies. Remarkably, in the late 19th and early 20th century, Turkish literature leaned towards Western influences, with renowned authors like Orhan Pamuk incorporating narrative styles from European literary tradition. There's a compelling case for Turkish literature being a sublime amalgamation of Eastern storytelling with Western narrative techniques.

Religion: Oscillating Between Interpretations

Turkish culture is prominently influenced by its religious beliefs. Predominantly Islamic, Turkey displays an interesting paradox. Though it leans towards a more moderate interpretation of Islam, akin to its European neighbours, certain regions of Turkey adhere to a more conservative interpretation, reflecting Middle Eastern Islamic practices. The harmonious clash of the liberal west and conservative east is a cornerstone in Turkish identity, replicated in its sociocultural fabric. It prompts us all to appreciate the complexity of Turkish culture, beating with more than one heart.

It's fascinating and, at the same time, intriguing that a country can imbibe multiple cultures so effortlessly. As Hailey beautifully summed up, Turkish culture is like a charismatic chameleon, smoothly transitioning between the European rigour and charm, the sedative Asian ethos, punctuated by the captivating allure of the Middle East. And that's the beauty of Turkey - an exquisite brew of cultures, not just European, Middle Eastern, or Asian, but a vibrant triumvirate of all.

Dissecting Turkish Pop Culture: A Surprise Package

A discussion of Turkish culture would be incomplete without a mention of its burgeoning pop culture. As an ardent fan of the show "Dirilis: Ertugrul" (Resurrection: Ertugrul), I've witnessed how the heartbeat of Turkish pop culture resonates globally. Although the series swings towards the historical drama emblematic of Middle Eastern storytelling, there are inserts of the western drama appeal, making it a global sensation. Turkish music, in particular, has seen an incredible fusion of traditional Turkish elements with western pop and rock, leading to an unique sound that captures and captivates its listeners.

While exploring the vibrant tapestry of Turkish culture, it becomes evident that it’s a dynamic blend of European refinement, Middle Eastern warmth, and Asian tranquillity, well brewed into a harmonious mixture. In embarking on this cultural exploration, Hailey and I have realised that culture isn't about putting labels or confining into geographies—it's about celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and shared heritage, something I hope this blog elucidates for you as well.