My Turkish delight

There is a certain kind of “chocolate” I used to love way back in high school. At every beginning of school term, I’d be treated to its great taste by a certain girl who always knew what I needed to stay happy.

There is a certain kind of “chocolate” I used to love way back in high school. At every beginning of school term, I’d be treated to its great taste by a certain girl who always knew what I needed to stay happy.

Turkish Delight is its name and just recently, I got the opportunity to see how it’s made, where it’s made and also finally understand that it is not actually a chocolate but rather a gel of sugar – in other words, candy.

Before I visited Turkey, the only thing I probably knew about the country was that one of its football clubs, Galatasaray, managed to reach this year’s Champions League quarter finals.

Even to the Turks, this is a milestone by any standards considering the fact that their clubs are always treated as fodder to Europe’s biggest clubs like AC Milan and Barcelona.

However, my football fanaticism was immediately replaced with a strong love for history when I set my eyes on the Hagia Sofia – one of the world’s oldest and largest buildings still standing.

The Hagia Sofia was the first or second place I visited after a smooth air sail with Turkish Airlines.

A few hours before the trip, I had confided in my bosses that I would seek to locate Turkey’s business ties with Rwanda, but believe you me, that was easier said than done!

Most of the Turks I conversed with don’t know whether Rwanda is a country or a new English word, and those closest to knowing about the country’s location think it’s a suburb in Kenya, thanks to Barack Obama.

Anyways, my tough patriotic face came out and I scolded some of them for being on the wrong side of knowledge. I mean, how could anyone not know the greatest story of Africa?

The Hagia Sofia, located in the heart of Istanbul, was constructed in 360AD as an Orthodox church, but was turned into a mosque in 1453. In 1935 it was opened as a museum and now attracts millions of tourists every year.

When we were ushered inside by a tour guide, I did my best to conceal my astonishment; I had never seen a building with as much space as the one I was glaring at. The dome structure of the Hagia Sofia is what largely attributes to its fame. To reach it ceiling, you need the tallest ladder on earth – and this is no exaggeration!

Its main door is made out of marble – too thick and solid that it would take at least three canons to burst it up.

The floor is carpeted with marble and the walls are covered in Islamic mosaics but underneath it’s Christian paintings, which explains how the church-turned-mosque came to be.

I asked my tour guide how much it could have cost to erect something as massive but she told me that the Hagia Sofia is invaluable. Someone else told me that the rulers at the time didn’t care about the cost, after all, they could have most of the things they wished for at no cost, especially manual labour.

In all this, I was amazed at the intellectual prowess of ancient civilization. I mean, how were less intellectual people than us able to construct something as architectural as the Hagia Sofia? How were they able to do it without tower cranes, computerized designs or modern metals and cement?

Away from history, the Turks love to eat good food and in that respect, they have plenty of fresh stuff, mostly sea food. When you place an order in any restaurant, they don’t bring the main dish right away like it’s done here in Rwanda. The main dish, say chicken and rice, will come an hour or two later, but in-between you will be treated to a variety of edibles, including salads, bread, spaghetti, beef and so on and so forth.

Pity the people I traveled with; most of the times they never got to taste the main dish because they had eaten too much by the time it arrived. I had googled “food expectations in Turkey” beforehand, so I was safe.

Despite the cold weather, the people are graceful and warm towards foreigners; I was looking out for the slightest racist gesture but didn’t get any.

Its largest commercial city, Istanbul, with a population of 13 million people, is starry at night, while at the stroke of daylight, people move like they are on roller-skaters; they are so speedy that when I returned back to Rwanda, I heartily scoffed at the snail-ish pace at which people move.

Despite not being a signatory to the European Union, the Turks proudly believe that their country is the heart of Europe, a belief they have held since the Byzantine periods in the first century. Rightly so, Turkey’s geographic location makes them somewhat believable.

It is one of the five countries located both in Europe and Asia and thus, has a rich Eurasian culture and is fast becoming a commercial hub in both continents, with outlets on the great Black Sea.

This probably justifies the tremendous growth enjoyed by many large Turkish companies despite the economic crisis affecting the euro zone. Companies like Turkish Airlines, which is the third biggest airline in Europe, have benefited from large traffic flows across the world.

To maintain its place at the top, 80 per cent of Turkish Airlines fleet is always in the air- and according to Burcin Isla, the Director of Turkish Airlines Rwanda, fleet should always be in the air because after all, “that is where it belongs.”

Making a few friends was inevitable despite the language barrier and after a few dismal trials; I was able to collect close to a million contacts in three days.

As I checked in at the airport, I had a chance to “Facebook” with one of my new friends, Gelincik. Her last words to me were: “Perfection is the key my friend! Whatever you do, do it perfectly like the Turks! Bye!”

ivan.mugisha@newtimes.co.rw

Turkey is one of the five countries located both in Europe and Asia and thus has a rich Eurasian culture and is fast becoming a commercial hub in both continents, with outlets on the great Black Sea.

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