Interesting Facts about Turkey that You Might Not Know
If you completed a general knowledge quiz about Turkey, what would your score be? Most expats and of course, citizens could score highly on basic general knowledge of the country. After all, most of us know who Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is, the year that Turkey was formed and that the currency is lira.
However dig deep enough, and there are more facts about the country that don’t often get mentioned in the mainstream travel guides. Living in Turkey I often assumed I would get perfect scores on a quiz about Turkey but every week, I discover new snippets of information that I didn’t know. How many of the following facts have you already read?
Interesting Facts About Turkey
Food and Drink: Easy Reading
- The popular Turkish Delight is said to have prompted the idea for jelly beans.
- Turks like their tea. In fact the country is number four in the world for tea consumption and is also a major exporter. Most tea is grown in the province of Rize in Northeast Turkey that is home to the government owned tea producer called Caykur.
- Turkey produces 80% of the world consumption of Hazelnuts. Trabzon on the Black sea coast is a city contributing a lot towards production.
Ancient Laws: Weird and Strange
- A law existed making it illegal for men over 80 to become pilots.
- Stealing olives before they are ripe can bring up to a two-year jail sentence.
- In the 16th and 17th century, it was illegal to drink coffee. The coffeehouses had become associated with political activities and the Ottoman sultan of that time, wanted to curb rebellious behaviour. You can read more about Turkey's intriguing history with coffee here.
Language and Words
- Most expats struggle to learn the language. We start with the best intentions but pronunciation becomes a problem and in the coastal holiday resorts, most local workers want to learn English and will often converse in our mother tongue.
- If you do decide to forge ahead with a plan to learn Turkish, know that….
- The Turkish alphabet is phonetic, so words are pronounced in the same way they are read.
- There are no separate words for “he, she or it.” One word used for all.
- The longest Turkish word is Muvaffakiyetsizlestiricilestiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmissinizcesineyken, which has 74 letters. Loosely translated it means “As though you are from those whom we may not be able to easily make into a maker of unsuccessful ones” Try saying it after you drink a few beers!
- Turkey has some weird and wonderful proverbs, like the one below. Read up on them here and try and impress your Turkish friends.
A book is needed to list all historical facts about Turkey, places, people and religions but a few particularly interesting historical facts include:
- Noah’s Ark is said to have landed in Eastern Turkey at Mount Ararat. The Bible specifically mentions this mountain so for many centuries, searches were conducted. In 1959, aerial photographs revealed unusual land markings and this increased interest in the region. Many historians and archaeologists have found wood and metal artefacts resembling the outline of a ship but likewise, many of their counterparts say it is not 100% proof, this ship is the Ark.
- Most people assume the Battle of Troy was a mythological story but that's not the case. Known as the place of the famous Troy wars and where soldiers’ secretly entered the city inside a wooden horse, the site now belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage site list.
- On June 21, 1934, Turkey adopted the surname law. Prior to this, surnames were hardly used. Elderly members of the family were asked to choose a name that did not contain any reference to foreign nations, cultures, traditions and religions.
- Catalhoyuk, also part of the UNESCO World Heritage site list, sits in the Southern Anatolia region near Konya. It has excited the history world because the remains of this former town date from approximately 7500BC to 5700BC. Turkey is the home of the largest Neolithic site ever found. Archaeologists have uncovered houses, clay figurines, murals, pottery objects and household tools and excavations still continue.
- The who’s who of Turkey is a long list that could never be condensed. From famous sports people to authors to singers, many people have affected Turkish history but did you know.
- The Ottoman sultans ruled for more than 400 years but some of their practices can be questioned for sanity. For example, when an Ottoman sultan gained power of the throne, he would imprison all his brothers to ensure no attempt to overthrow him was made. If he became father to a son, then he could also execute the imprisoned brothers.
- The first female Turkish pilot was Sabiha Gokcen, aged 23. Born in 1913, she was the adopted daughter of the founder of the republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In 1937, she became a fully trained combat pilot.
- Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic, adopted 12 daughters and one son. He died in the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, and all clocks within the building were stopped to show the time of his death. These days, only the clock in the room he died in has stayed at the exact time: 9.05am.
- In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci wanted to build a bridge across the Bosporus in Istanbul. He submitted plans to the Ottoman rulers but permission was never given. Today, there are three bridges crossing the Bosporus, connecting Asia with Europe.