ON THE BRIDGE

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When I was walking through the poor, lively, dirty, crowded, extremely colorful bazaar in Luxor, Egypt, I felt like a ‘European’. When I was eating ‘kebabs’ with a big, childish grin on my face, with the feeling of being home again, in the small, poor village of Karaman Maraþ, Turkey, I knew I was not a European.

And when I saw a group of Americans, in a nice, relatively expensive restaurant in Alexandria, Egypt, laughing continuously at the mistakes made by the Egyptian waiters, making fun of all the details of decoration, and pointing out how the plates and tablecloths that were not perfectly clean, I had the feeling they had gone to Egypt to entertain themselves with the poverty and with so-called ‘Oriental’ life-styles.

Yet, what disturbed me was not the Americans, who probably came from a more organised and sterile part of the world. What really surprised me was the slightly ‘superior’ feeling that I myself had in the bazaar in Luxor. I was in a horse-carriage (which was one of the most important tourist attractions), having the look of someone definitely “on top,” at least as far as the people who were sitting on dirty cloths, playing games, or selling things, or talking to each other, were concerned.  What a scene was spread out before me:  each shop with a different melody coming out, meat outside the butcher shop with flies and dust on it, people wearing multi-coloured traditional or modern clothes, children running, playing and screaming . . . Each thing was like something from out of a film for me. I enjoyed seeing all these different things since I was in the same film.  There was ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ safe and comfortable in the horse-carriage, and there was ‘them’, trying to earn a bit of money, hawking their products on the streets; ‘those others,’ with their children running after the horse-carriage, since they do not have Play-Station games to play with; and their women, hurrying from shop to shop, trying to find the cheapest of the cheap in order to be able to cook dinner...

Luxor…rich in colours, poor in money, dirty in appearance, innocent in soul, so obscure, so loud, so musical, so energetic, so lazy, so happy, so helpless, so lively, so young, so . . . Luxor.  Smiles on the faces, but real smiles.  Smiles, in spite of the poverty, smiles without reasons, like the smiles worn by those who sell.  Smiles, different from those worn by salesmen in Berlin, Paris or London, who smile only because of client satisfaction or company policy.  I thought that about how what I had seen should have meant a bit more than merely an interesting show to Western eyes, even when I identified myself a bit with the Westerners.  Then suddenly I realised I was somewhere in the middle, in a place where I could reach the East and the West, the North and the South.  I was somewhere in the middle of the world:  I was on the bridge. I was, in fact, a little like Turkey itself.  I felt myself to be like Turkey itself: somewhere in the middle, neither in the West, nor the East, neither European, nor Asian, Oriental.  None of them, yet all of them.

This experience showed me that I could share and understand both the feelings of the people from ‘Western’ world who came to experience a ’different’ world and the feelings of the local people of Egypt, who are hurt by the ruthless criticism of the manners and their lifestyles made by Westerners.  Since this time, I have been reading and writing about the ‘different worlds’ around the globe. Since that time, I have been trying to convince people to be open to other cultures, and not to behave according to stereotypical ideas, but rather, to develop universal personalities instead of merely parochial ones:  European, Eastern, Western, Oriental or so on.

I enjoy the richness of Life, with all its different cultures, identities and life-styles and highly recommend it to you. 

Selcen Dogan

 

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