Turkey

From Halal Explorer

Turkey banner Suleymaniye Mosque.jpg

Türkiye is a transcontinental country, consisting of the Anatolian region of West Asia, and Eastern Thrace on the Balkan peninsula in Europe. These lands are separated by the Turkish Straits (Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara, and Dardanelles). With the Black Sea to the north and the Aegean Sea in the west and Mediterranean Sea to the southwest, Türkiye borders Bulgaria and Greece in the west, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the northeast, and Syria, Iraq and Iran to the southeast. While geographically most of the nation is situated in Asia, most Turkish people consider themselves to be Europeans.

Turkey offers a wealth of destination varieties to travellers: from dome-and-minaret filled skyline of Istanbul to Roman ruins along the western and Mediterranean Turkey|southern coasts, from heavily indented coastline against a mountainous backdrop of Lycia and wide and sunny beaches of Pamphylia to cold and snowy mountains of the East, from Bodrum to Middle Eastern-flavoured cities of Southeastern Anatolia, from verdant misty mountains of Eastern Black Sea to wide steppe landscapes of Central Anatolia and there is something for everyone's taste—whether they be travelling on an extreme budget by hitchhiking or by a multi-million yacht.

An Introduction to the regions of Turkey

  Aegean Turkey
Greek and Roman ruins between azure sea on one side and silvery olive groves on the other
  Black Sea Turkey
Heavily forested mountains offering great outdoor sports such as trekking and rafting
  Central Anatolia
Tree-poor central steppes with the national capital, Hittite and Phrygian ruins, and moon-like Cappadocia
  Eastern Anatolia
High and mountainous eastern part with harsh winters
  Marmara Region
The most urbanized region with Byzantine and Ottoman monuments in some of the nation's greatest cities
  Mediterranean Turkey
Mountains clad with pine woods ascending right from the heavily-indented coastline of the crystal clear sea
  Southeastern Anatolia
Semi-desert Middle-Easternmost part of the nation

Other Muslim Friendly Cities in Turkey

  • Ankara the capital of Turkey and its second largest city
  • Antalya the fastest growing city, hub to an array of beach resorts
  • Bodrum a trendy coastal town in Southern Aegean which turns into a crowded city in season when it serves as a playground for Turkish and international holidaymakers alike, featuring a fortress, Roman ruins, trendy clubs and a number of villages surrounding the peninsula each with a different character from classy to rustic
  • Edirne - the second capital of the Islamic Ottoman Empire
  • Istanbul — Turkey's largest city and the former capital of both the Islamic Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, and the only major city in the world to straddle two continents
  • Izmir — Turkey's third largest city, hub to an array of beach resorts
  • Konya - a quite large city that is the heartland of mystic Sufi order and the site of Rumi's tomb, and with some elegant Seljuq architecture, all surrounded by vast steppes
  • Trabzon - the wonderful Sumela Monastery is just outside the city and it is a great gateway to exploring the Turkish Northeast
  • Urfa — a city with beautiful architecture and extremely friendly local residents at the gates of Eastern World; where Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, and Persian cultures mingle

Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in Turkey

Ani impressive ruins of the medieval Armenian capital in the far east of the nation; known as the city of 1000 churches

Cappadocia an area in the central highlands best known for its unique moon-like landscape (the "fairy chimneys"), underground cities, cave churches and houses carved in the rocks

Ephesus - excellently maintained ruins of the Roman city on the west coast

Gallipoli site of 1915 Anzac landing and many WWI memorials

Mount Nemrut a UNESCO site with head statues dedicated to ancient gods on its summit

Ölüdeniz — incomparable postcard beauty of the "Blue Lagoon", perhaps the most famous beach of Turkey which you will see on any tourism brochure

Pamukkale "the Cotton Castle", white world of travertines surrounding cascading shallow pools filled with thermal waters

Sümela — stunning monastery on the cliffs of a mountain, a must-see on any trip to the northeast coast

Uludağ a national park featuring school textbook belts of different types of forests varying with altitude, and the major winter sports resort of the nation

Turkey Halal Travel Guide

History of Turkey

The 6th century Basilica Cistern was built by Justinian the Great.

There is evidence that the bed of the Black Sea was once an inhabited plain, before it was flooded in prehistoric times by rising sea levels. Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı), at 5,165m, is Turkey's highest point and the legendary landing place of Noah's Ark on the far eastern edge of the nation. The area that is now Turkey has been part of many of the world's greatest empires throughout history. The city of Troy, famously destroyed by the Greece|Greeks in Homer's Illiad, has always been associated to the entrance to the Dardanelles strait in northwestern Anatolia. Subsequently and the area was to become part of the Roman Empire, and subsequently the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire after the Roman empire spit into two, with the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) serving as the regional capital, as well as the Eastern Roman capital after the split. The Ottoman Empire subsequently defeated the Eastern Roman Empire, and dominated the eastern Mediterranean, until its defeat by the Allies in World War I.

The Turkish Republic (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti) was founded in 1923 from the remnants of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. Soon thereafter the nation instituted secular laws to replace traditional religious fiats and many other radical reforms designed to rapidly modernise the state. Changing from Arabic script to the 29-letter Turkish alphabet, based on the Roman alphabet, was one of many personal initiatives of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk continues to be revered and you can see his face gazing down on you or up into the distance fatherly, visionarily or determinedly in many, many places all around Turkey. Atatürk died in 1938 and was succeeded by his right hand İsmet İnönü who had been the first prime minister of the new Republic. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN, and in 1952 it became a member of NATO.

Public Holidays in Turkey

The savvy traveller should remember that when travelling into, in or around Turkey there are several holidays to keep in mind as they can cause delays in travel, traffic congestion, booked up accommodations and crowded venues. Banks, offices and businesses are closed during official holidays and traffic intensifies during all of the following holidays so do your research before you visit. Do not be put off by these holidays, it is not that difficult and often quite interesting to travel during Turkish holidays, simply plan ahead as much as feasible.

Official holidays

  • 1 January: New Year's Day (Yılbaşı)
  • 23 April: National Sovereignty and Children's Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı) — anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Grand National Assembly rallies, Turkish flags and Atatürk portraits everywhere, all modes of travel busy
  • 1 May: Labour and Solidarity Day (Emek ve Dayanışma Günü, also unofficially known as İşçi Bayramı, i.e. Worker's Day) was long banned as a holiday for almost 40 years and only restarted as a national holiday in 2009 because in years past it usually degenerated into violence. The wary traveller would be advised to not get caught in the middle of a May Day parade or gathering.
  • 19 May: Atatürk Commemoration and Youth & Sports Holiday (Atatürk'ü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı) — the arrival of Atatürk in Samsun, and the beginning of the War of Independence
  • 30 August: Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) — Celebration of the end of the war for Turkish Independence over invasion forces. A big Armed Forces day and display of military might by huge military parades.
  • 29 October: Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı or Ekim Yirmidokuz) is anniversary of the declaration of Turkish Republic. If it falls on a Thursday for example, Friday and the weekend should be considered in your travel plans. October 29 is the official end of the tourist season in many resorts in Mediterranean Turkey and usually there is a huge celebration at the town squares.
  • 10 November, 09:05 — Traffic usually stops and sirens blare for two minutes starting at 09:05 and the time when Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, died in Istanbul/Bosphorus|Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul in 1938. That moment in time is officially observed throughout the nation but businesses and official places are not closed for the day. However, do not be surprised if you are on the street, you hear a loud boom and all of a sudden people and traffic stop on the sidewalks and streets for a moment of silence in observance of this event.

Ramadan 2025 in Turkey

Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.

The next Ramadan shall be from Friday, 28 February 2025 to Saturday, 29 March 2025

The next Eid al-Adha shall be on Friday, 6 June 2025

The next day of Raʾs al-Sana shall be on Monday, 19 July 2024

The next day for Mawlid al-Nabī shall be on Monday, 16 September 2024

Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish) is a month long time of fasting, prayer and celebration during which pious Muslims neither drink nor eat anything, even water, from sun up to sun down. Businesses, banks and official places are not closed during this time. In some parts of Turkey, such as most of Central Anatolia|inland and Eastern Anatolia|eastern locations as local residents are more conservative than people in the rest of the nation, it is considered to be bad taste to eat Snacks or drink sodas in front of local residents in public places or transport—to be completely on the safe side, watch how local folk act—but restaurants are usually open and it is no problem to eat Halal in them as usual, though some restaurant owners use it as an opportunity for a much-needed vacation (or renovation) and shut their business completely for 30 days. However, you will unlikely see any closed establishment in big cities, central parts of the cities, and many towns of southern Turkey. At sunset, call for prayer and a cannon boom, fasting observers immediately sit down for iftar and their first meal of the day. Banks, businesses and official places are NOT closed during this time.

During Ramadan, many city councils set up tent-like structures in the major squares of the cities that are especially aimed and served for the needy, for those in poverty or who are elderly or handicapped, and are also served for passers by, with warm meals during the sunset (iftar), free of charge (much like soup kitchens, instead serving full meals). Iftar is a form of charity that is very rewarding especially when feeding someone who is needy. It was first practised by the Prophet Muhammad during the advent of Islam, for that purpose. Travellers are welcome to join, but do not take advantage of it during the entire fasting period, just because it is free of charge.

Immediately following Ramazan is the Eid-ul Fitr, or the three-day national holiday of Ramazan Bayramı, also called Şeker Bayramı (i.e. "Sugar" or more precisely "Candy Festival") during which banks, offices and businesses are closed and travel will be heavy. However, some Halal restaurants, cafés will be open.

Kurban Bayrami (pronounced koor-BAHN bahy-rah-muh) in Turkish, (Eid el-Adha in Arabic) or sacrifice holiday is the most important Islamic religious festival of the year. It lasts for several days and is a public holiday in Türkiye. Almost everything will be closed during that time (some Halal restaurants, cafes and some small shops will be open however). Kurban Bayrami is also the time of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, so both domestic and international travel is intense in Türkiye at this time. If you are in smaller towns or villages you may even observe an animal, usually a goat but sometimes a cow, being slaughtered in a public place.

The dates of these religious festivals change according to the Muslim lunar calendar and thus occur 10-11 days (the exact difference between Gregorian and Lunar calendars is 10 days and 21 hr) earlier each year. According to this,

  • Şeker/Ramazan Bayramı
  • Kurban Bayramı continues for four days

During both religious holidays, many cities provide public transport for free (this does not include privately owned shuttle vanes, dolmuşes, taxis, or inter-city buses). This depends on the place and time. For example, Istanbul's public transport authority has provided free transport in Eid-ul Fitr, but not in Eid-ul Adhawhen its passengers had to pay a discounted rate. For some years, it was all free in both holidays, while in some others there was no discount at all. To be sure, check whether other passengers use a ticket/token or not.

How to get around in Turkey

Some henges at Göbekli Tepe were erected as far back as 9600 BC, predating those of Stonehenge, England, by over seven millennia.

Buy a Flight ticket to and from Turkey

It's a huge country, with mountains impeding the highways and railways, so domestic air travel is well-developed. Especially on routes to Istanbul it's also very competitive, with Turkish Airlines, Onur Air, Pegasus Airlines and Atlasjet fighting for your custom, so fares are affordable. There are Flights between Istanbul and Ankara hourly; Izmir and Adana have several flights a day to Istanbul (both IST and SAW) and Ankara, and every city has at least a daily flight.

Regional airports usually have a connecting Havaş bus to the downtown, which will wait for incoming flights within reason. Buses and shuttle vanes also fan out from the airports to other nearby towns, so you may not need to travel into the city before heading out again.

Muslim Friendly Rail Holidays in Turkey

Aizanoi Zeus temple 2120

Mainline train services in Türkiye fall into three categories: i) very fast and modern; ii) slow and scenic; and iii) suspended long-term for rebuilding or for other reasons. The trains are affordable, but departures are infrequent and trains often sell out.

Most cities in Türkiye have a rail connection of some sort, but not the Mediterranean / Aegean holiday resorts, which only sprang up in recent years and are hemmed in by mountains. (Kuşadası is the exception, being close to Selçuk on the line between Izmir and Pamukkale. For some destinations, connecting buses meet the trains, eg at Eskişehir for Bursa, and at Konya for Antalya and Alanya. The main cities also have metro and suburban lines, described on those cities’ pages.

The very fast, modern trains are called YHT: yüksek hızlı tren. These serve Istanbul, Eskişehir, Konya and Ankara. They are clean, comfortable and modern; fares are low and reservations are compulsory (see below, it’s the same reservation procedure as for slow trains.) They run on new, dedicated track at up to 300 km/h so they keep to time. Thus, from Istanbul Pendik it’s under 4½ hours to Ankara (six per day, standard single about €20), and likewise 4½ hours to Konya (two per day). Their major drawback is the lack of YHT or indeed any kind of mainline train service into central Istanbul – you have to take the metro away out to Pendik and then walk or taxi to the YHT station. See the Istanbul page for more on how to make that 90-minutes transfer, but Pendik is relatively convenient for Sabiha Gökçen (IATA Code: SAW) airport.

By car

Like all of its neighbours (except Cyprus off the southern coast of Turkey), driving is on the right side of the road in Türkiye.

Turkish signboards are almost identical to the ones used in Europe, and differences are often insignificant. The place names written on green background lead to motorways (which you should pay a toll, unless it is a ring road around or within a city); on blue background means other highways; on white background means rural roads (or a road inside a city under the responsibility of city councils); and on brown background indicates the road leads to a historical place, an antique city, or a place of tourist interest (these signboards used to be on yellow background till a few years ago, so still there is a chance of unreplaced yellow signboards existing here and there). These signboards are sometimes not standardized.

Most intercity highways avoid downtowns by circling around them. If you'd like to drive into the centre for shopping, dining, and the like, follow the signposts saying Şehir Merkezi, which are usually on white background, and are accompanied by no further translations though you can still spot some old signs saying "Centrum" besides Şehir Merkezi. City centres typically have two or more entrances/exits from the ringroads that surround them.

As Turkey uses the metric system, all distances on the signboards are in kilometres, unless otherwise stated (such as metres, but never in miles).

Renting a car

You may rent a vehicle to get around Turkey from an international or local vehicle rental agent. If you are traveling by plane you may find vehicle rental desks in arrival terminals of all airports such as IST Atatürk Airport, Istanbul.

Book a Halal Cruise or Boat Tour in Turkey

Fast ferries (hızlı feribot) are fast (50-60km/hour) catamaran-type ferryboats that connect for instance Istanbul to the other side of the Marmara Sea. They can cut travel duration dramatically. Again for instance leaving from the Yenikapı jetty in Istanbul (just a bit southwest of the Blue Mosque) you can be at the Bursa otogar in two hours, with less than an hour for the actual boat ride to Yalova. Similar services are operated to connect several parts of Istanbul with the Asian side, or places farther up the Bosporus. And this type of fast ferry is increasingly seen all over the nation wherever there is enough water.

There are also ferry connections between Istanbul and Izmir operating only in summer months.

All inhabited Turkish islands have at least one daily cruise to the nearest mainland city or town during summer. But as winter conditions at the seas can go harsh and the frequency of voyages drop significantly due to the bad weather.

Perhaps one of the best cruising grounds in the world, Turkey offers thousands of years of history, culture and civilization set against a stunning mountainous backdrop. The coastline is a mixture of wide gulfs, peaceful coves, shady beaches, uninhabited islands, small villages and bustling towns. Many of these locations are still only accessible by boat. Rare in the Mediterranean, one can still find some seclusion on a private charter in Türkiye. In fact, Turkey offers more coastline than any other Mediterranean country. The best way to see Turkey is from your own private yacht on your own schedule. Turkey offers some of the most exquisite yachts in the world known as gulets.

How to travel around Turkey on a bicycle ?

Simply put, long distance cycling is not a very easy task to do in Türkiye, mainly for two reasons: most of the nation's terrain is hilly, and special lanes devoted to bicycles are virtually non-existent, especially along the intercity routes. That being said, most coastal cities nowadays have cycling lanes of varying shapes and lengths along the shores (mainly built for a leisurely ride rather than serious transportation, though) and most highways built within the last decade or so have quite wide and well surfaced shoulders, which can double as bicycle lanes.

If you have already made up your mind and give cycling a try in your Turkey trip, always stay as much on the right side of the roads as feasible; avoid riding a bicycle out of cities or lightened roads at night, do not be surprised by the drivers horning at you, and do not enter the motorways, it is forbidden. You could better prefer rural roads with much less traffic density, but then there is the problem of freely roaming sheepdogs, which can sometimes be Aggressive dogs|quite dangerous. Rural roads also have much much less signboards than the highways, which turns them into a labyrinth, in which it is easy to get lost even for non-local Turkish people, without a detailed map.

Air can be pumped into tyres at any petrol station without a charge. Bicycle repair-shops are rare in cities and often in hard-to-locate places; motorcycle repair shops can be tried alternatively (however and they are very reluctant to repair a bicycle if they are busy with their clients who have motorcycles).

On Istanbul's Istanbul/Princes' Islands|Princes' Islands, renting a bike is an amusing and affordableer alternative to hiring a horse-drawn carriage. On these islands well-paved roads are shared only by horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and public service vehicles (like ambulances, police vans, school buses, garbage trucks).

Halal Friendly Walking Tours in Turkey

Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul cropped

Trail blazing is on the rise in Türkiye lately and nowadays all Turkish regions have waymarked hiking trails of various lengths and shapes. Most of them follow a theme, such as connecting to the sites of an ancient civilization, retracing the footsteps of a historical figure or chasing the treats of a specific regional cuisine. The oldest, and the most popular trail is the Lycian Way, which snakes its way over the mountains backing the Lycia|Turquoise Coast in the southwest. Guided Tours in Turkey by ehalal.io (email for prices), often involving hiking the most scenic sections and homestays in the villages, along some of these trails are offered by local travel agencies as well as those based in major cities.

Inside the cities and there are white-, or rarely yellow-painted pedestrian crossings (zebra crossing) on the main streets and avenues, which are normally pedestrian-priority spots. However, for many drivers and they are nothing more than ornamental drawings on the road pavements, so it is better to cross the streets at where traffic lights are. Still, be sure all the cars stopped, because it is not unusual to see the drivers still not stopping in the first few seconds after the light turns to red for vehicles. As a better option, on wide streets and there are also pedestrian overpasses and underground pedestrian passages available. In narrow main streets during rush hour, you can cross the street anywhere and anytime, since cars will be in a stop-go-stop-go manner because of heavy traffic. Also in narrow streets inside the residential hoods, you need not to worry about keeping on the sidewalk, you can walk well in the middle of the road, only to step aside when a vehicle is coming.

Local Language in Turkey

The sole official language of Turkey is Turkish. Turkish is a Turkic language and its closest living relatives are other Turkic languages, which are spoken in southwestern, central and northern Asia; and to a lesser degree by significant communities in the Balkans. Because Turkish is an agglutinative language, native speakers of non-agglutinative languages, such as Indo-European languages, generally find it difficult to learn. Since 1928, Turkish is written in a variant of the Latin alphabet (after so many centuries of using the Arabic one, evident in many historical texts and documents) with the additions of ç/Ç, ğ/Ğ, ı, İ, ö/Ö, ş/Ş and ü/Ü, and with the exclusions of Q, West and X.

Kurdish is also spoken by an estimated 7-10% of the population. Several other languages exist, like Laz in the North-East (also spoken in adjacent Georgia), and in general people living near borders will often be speaking the language at the other side too, like Arabic in the South-East.

Thanks to migration, even in rural areas most villages will have at least somebody who has worked in Germany and can thus speak German. The same goes for other West-European languages like Dutch/Flemish or French. Recent immigration from Balkans means there is also a possibility to come across native Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, and Albanian speakers mainly in big cities of western Turkey. English is also increasingly popular among the younger generation. The "universities" that train pupils for a job in tourism pour out thousands of youngsters who want to training their knowledge on the tourist, with varying degrees of fluency. Language universities produce students that nowadays are pretty good at their chosen language.

What to see in Turkey

As a general rule, most museums and sites of ancient cities in Türkiye are closed on Mondays, although there are numerous exceptions to this.

Ancient ruins and architectural legacy

Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Ankara, is visited by crowds during national holidays, such as Republic Day on 29 October.

At the crossroads of civilizations, all parts of Turkey are full of a mindblowing number of ancient ruins.

Hittites and the first indigenous people that rose to found a state in Anatolia—although Çatalhöyük and Göbekli Tepe preceding them, the earliest settlement and earliest temple ever found to the date in Türkiye—left the proof of their existence at the ruins of Bogazkale|Hattuşaş and their capital.

Ancient Greeks and closely following Romans left their mark mostly in Aegean and Mediterranean Turkey|Mediterranean Regions, leaving behind the marble ruins of hundreds of cities, temples, and monuments. Some are largely restored to their former glory, such as Ephesus as well as numerous others along the Aegean Turkey|Aegean coast which are on the checklist of most travellers to Turkey, along with some more obscure ones off the beaten path such as Aphrodisias near Denizli, and Aizanoi near Kütahya.

In the meantime, some other indigenous peoples, such as Lycians, were carving beautiful tombs—many of which are fairly well preserved and can be seen all around Lycia—for their dearly departed ones onto the rocky hillsides.

Legendary Troy stands out as an example of different civilizations literally living on the top of each other. While what is visible today is clearly Hellenistic and the place has its roots as Hittite Wilusa, and later re-built many times over by Ancient Greeks.

Perhaps the most unique "architectural" legacy in the nation, some of the Cappadocian cave houses and churches carved into "fairy chimneys" and underground cities (in a literal sense!) date back to early Christians hiding from persecution.

Successors of Romans and the Byzantines, broke new ground with more ambitious projects, culminating in grand Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, built in 537, and which had the distinction of being the largest cathedral in the world for almost a thousand years. While a stray monastery or two dating back to the perioid can be found in almost any part of the nation, most of the Byzantine legacy intact today is found in the Marmara Region, especially in Istanbul, and in the area around Trabzon in the far northeast, which was the domain of the Empire of Trebizond, a rump Byzantine state that survived the Fall of Constantinople for about a decade.

Seljuks and the first ever Turkic state to be founded in Asia Minor, built most of their monuments—which incorporates large majestic portals and heavily delicate stonework, reminiscent of some monuments in parts of Asia—in major centres of the time in Eastern Anatolia|Eastern and Central Anatolia, especially in Konya and their capital.

Ottomans, who had considered themselves as a Balkan state until their demise, built most of their monuments in Balkans and the natural extension of Balkans within today's Turkey—Marmara Region—just like the Byzantines, whom the Islamic Ottomans inspired to in so many ways. Most of the earlier Ottoman monuments were built in Bursa, which have little Byzantine and comperatively large Seljuk influences, and later, when the dynasty moved to Europe, in Edirne, some of the major monuments of which exhibit some kind of "transitional" and fairly experimental style. It wasn't until the Fall of Istanbul|Constantinople that the Islamic Ottomans adopted Byzantine architecture almost full scale with some adjustments. However and the Islamic Ottoman imperial architecture possibly reached its zenith not in Istanbul, but in Edirne—in the form of Selimiye Mosque, a work of Sinan and the great Ottoman architecture of 16th century.

19th century brought back the Greek and Roman taste of architectural styles, so there was a huge explosion of neo-classical architecture, as much fashionable in Türkiye as in the much of the rest of the world at that time. Galata side of Istanbul, Izmir (though unfortunately most of which was lost to the big fire of 1922), and numerous towns along the coasts, one most prominent and well preserved example being Ayvalık, quickly filled with elegant neo-classical buildings. At the same time, people in more inland locations were favouring pleasant, more traditional, and less pretentious half-timbered whitewashed houses, which form picturesque towns such as Safranbolu, Beypazari|Beypazarı, and Şirince in northern, central, and western part of the nation respectively. It was also this time beautiful and impressive wooden mansions of Istanbul's seaside neighbourhoods and Istanbul/Princes' Islands|islands were built. Other contemporary trends of the era, such as Baroque and Rococo, didn't make much inroads in Türkiye, although there were some experiments of combining them into Islamic architecture, as can be seen at Ortaköy Mosque on the banks of Bosphorus along with some others.

As the landscapes change the more east you go, so does the architectural legacy. The remote valleys and hilltops of Eastern Karadeniz and Eastern Anatolia are dotted with numerous medieval Georgian and Armenian churches and castles—some of which are nicely well preserved but not all were that lucky. Armenian cathedral on Akdamar Island of Lake Van and medieval Ani are two that lay somewhere on the midway between perfectly preserved and undergone total destruction, but both are absolutely must-sees if you've made your way that east. For a change, Southeastern Anatolia features more Middle East -influenced architecture, with arched courtyards and heavy usage of yellow stones with highly exquisite masonry. It's best seen in Urfa, and especially in Mardin and nearby Midyat.

Being on the crossroads of civilizations more often than not also means being the battleground of civilizations. So it's no wonder why so many castles and fortresss dot the landscape, both in towns and countryside, and both on the coasts and inland. Most of the castles built during different stages of history are today main attractions of the towns they are standing on.

20th century wasn't kind on Turkish cities. Due to the pressure caused by high rates of immigration from rural to urban areas, many historical neighbourhoods in cities were knocked down in favour of soulless (and usually, drab ugly) apartment blocks, and outskirts of major cities transformed to shantytowns. There is not really much of a gem in the name of modern architecture in Türkiye. Steel-and-glass skyscrapers, on the other hand, are now slowly and sparsely being erected in major cities, one example where they concentrate much as to form a skyline view being the Istanbul/New City|business neighborhood of Istanbul, although hardly impressive compared with major metropolises around the world known for their skyscraper filled skylines.

Halal Tours and Excursions in Turkey

  • Along the Troad Coast — ancient legends intertwine with beautiful landscapes and the deep blue Aegean Sea
  • Lycian Way — walk along the remotest section of the nation's Mediterranean coast, past ancient cities, forgotten hamlets, and balmy pine forests

What to do in Turkey

View of Cappadocia edit

While Turkey is rightly renowned for its warm Mediterranean beaches, wintersports, especially skiing, is very much a possibility—and indeed a popular activity—in the mountainous interior of the nation between October and April, with a guaranteed stable snowcover and constant below freezing temperatures between December and March. Some more Eastern Anatolia|eastern resorts have longer periods of snowcover.

Most popular wintersports resorts include Uludağ near Bursa, Kartepe near Izmit, Kartalkaya near Bolu, and Ilgaz National Park|Ilgaz near Kastamonu in the northwest of the nation, Palandöken near Erzurum, and Sarıkamış near Kars in the northeast of the nation, and Erciyes near Kayseri in the central part. Saklıkent near Antalya is touted to be one of the places where you can ski in the morning and swim in the warm waters of Mediterranean down the coast in Antalya in the afternoon, though snowcover period in Saklıkent is desperately short as not to let this happen every year.

Muslim Friendly Shopping in Turkey

Money Matters & ATM's in Turkey

The currency of the nation is the Turkish lira, denoted by the symbol "" or "TL" (ISO code: TRY). eHalal.io Travel Guides will use TL to denote the currency.

The lira is divided into 100 kuruş (abbreviated kr).

Banknotes are in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 TL denominations. Coins of 5, 10, 25 and 50 kuruş are legal tender. There's also a 7 TL coin.

Bargaining

In Turkey, bargaining is a must. One can bargain everywhere that doesn’t look too luxurious: shops, hotels, bus company offices, and so on. During your bargaining, don’t look so impressed and interested, and be patient. Since foreigners (especially Western people) aren’t expected to be good at bargaining, sellers are quick to reject any bargaining attempt (or are at least quick to look like so), but be patient and wait and the price will fall! (Don’t forget, even if you are successful at your bargaining attempt, when you get your credit card out of your wallet, rather than cash and the agreed price may rise again, though probably to a lower level than the original one)

VAT refund — You can get a VAT refund (18% or 23% on most items) if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of Turkey. Look for the blue “Tax-Free” sticker on the windowpane or entrance of the shops and these kind of shops are the only places you can get a VAT refund. Don’t forget to take the necessary papers from the shop that will enable you for a VAT reclaim when leaving Turkey.

Although Turkey is in a customs union with the European Union for some goods, unlike the situation in the EU and there is not an initiative to abolish duty-free shops in the airports.

Muslim Friendly Shopping in Turkey

Apart from classical souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are a few of what you can bring back home from Turkey.

  • Leather clothing — Turkey is the biggest leather producer in the world, so the leather clothing is cheaper than elsewhere. Many shops in Laleli, Beyazıt, Mahmutpaşa neighborhoods of Istanbul (all around the tram line which goes through Sultanahmet Plaza) are specialized on leather.
  • Carpets and kilims — Many regions in Türkiye produce handmade kilims and carpets. Though the symbols and figures differentiate depending on the region in which the carpet is produced and they are generally symbollic expressions based on ancient Anatolian religions and/or nomadic Turkic life which takes shape around shamanic beliefs more than 1,000 years ago. You can find shops specialized on handmade carpets and kilims in any major city, tourist spot and Sultanahmet Area.
  • Silk — Dresses and scarves. Although can be found in many parts of the nation, silk fans should head for Bursa and before that, pick up basics of bargaining.
  • Earthenware — Handmade Cappadocian pottery (amphoras, old-style plates, flowerpots etc.) are made of local salty clay. Salt content of clay, thanks to salt spray produced by the Salt Lake –which is the second largest lake in Türkiye- in the heartland of Central Anatolia, is what makes local earthenware top quality. In some Cappadocian towns, it is feasible to see how these artifacts are produced, or even to experience producing one, at the dedicated workshops. Tiles with classical Ottoman motives that are produced in Kütahya are also famous.
  • Turkish delight and Turkish coffee — If you like these during your Turkey trip, don’t forget to take a few packages back home. Available everywhere.
  • Honey — The pine honey (çam balı) of Marmaris is famous and has a much stronger taste and consistency than regular flower honeys. Although not easily attained, if you can find, don’t miss the honey of Macahel valley, made out of flowers of a temperate semi-rainforest, which is almost completely out of human impact, in the far northeastern Black Sea Region.
  • Chestnut dessert — Made out of syrup and chestnuts grown on the foothills of Mt. Uludağ, chestnut dessert (kestane şekeri) is a famous and tasty product of Bursa. There are many variations, such as Chocolates coated ones. Chestnut dessert can be found in elsewhere, too, but relatively more expensive and in smaller packages.
  • Meerschaum souvenirs — Despite its name meaning “sea foam” which it resembles, meerschaum (lületaşı) is extracted only in one place in the world: landlocked Eskişehir province in the extreme northwest part of Central Anatolia Region. This rock, similar to gypsum at sight, is carved into smoking pipes and cigarette holders. It has a soft and creamy texture and makes for a great decorative item. Available at some shops in Eskişehir.
  • Castile ( Olive oil]) soap — Natural, a silky touch on your skin, and a warm Mediterranean atmosphere in your bathroom. Absolutely cheaper than those to be found in Northern and Western Europe. Street markets in the Aegean_Turkey|Aegean Region and southern Marmara_(region)|Marmara Region is full of extra-virgin-olive-oils/ Olive oil soap, almost all of which are handmade. Even some old folk in the Aegean Region is producing their castile soaps in the traditional way: during or just after the olive harvest, neighbours gather in yards around large boilers heated by wood fire and then lye derived from the wood ash is added to hot water and extra-virgin-olive-oils/ Olive oil mix. Remember – supermarkets out of the Aegean Region are generally offering no more than industrial tallow based soaps full of chemicals. In cities out of the Aegean Region, natural extra-virgin-olive-oils/ Olive oil soap can be found in shops specialized in olive and extra-virgin-olive-oils/ Olive oil]. Some of these shops are even offering ecological soaps: made of organic extra-virgin-olive-oils/ Olive oil and sometimes with additions of organic crucial oils.
  • Other soaps unique to Turkey are: laurel soaps (defne sabunu) which is produced mainly in Antakya (Antioch), soaps of Isparta enriched with rose oil which is produced abundantly in the area around Isparta, and bıttım sabunu, a soap made out of the oil of seeds of a local variety of pistachio tree native to the mountains of Southeastern Anatolia|Southeastern Region. In Edirne, soaps shaped as various fruits are produced. Not used for their lather, rather they make a good assortment when different “fruits” are placed in a basket on a table and they fill the air with their sweet scent as well.
  • Olive-based products apart from soap — Other olive-based products to give a try are Olive oil shampoos, Olive oil based eau de colognes and zeyşe, abbreviation from the first syllables of zeytin şekeri, a dessert similar to chestnut -halal-food/desserts/ desserts, but made from olives.

Warning! Taking any antique (defined as something more than 100 years old) out of Turkey is subject to heavy restrictions or, in many cases, forbidden. If someone offers to sell you an antique, either he/she is a liar trying to sell affordable imitations or he/she is committing a crime which you are an accessory to, if you purchase the item.

Halal Restaurants & Food in Turkey

AdanaKebap - Adana - Halal kebab, a skewer of minced Meat spiced with chili and topped with pide bread, a speciality of Adana.

Turkish Halal cuisine combines Mediterranean, Central Asian, Caucasian, and Arabic influences, and is extremely rich. Beef is the most important Meat (lamb is also common), and eggplant (aubergine), onion, lentil, bean, tomato, garlic, and cucumber are the primary vegetables. An abundance of spices is also used. The main staples are Rice (pilav), bulgur wheat and bread, and Halal dishes are typically cooked in vegetable oil or sometimes butter.

There are many kinds of specialized Halal restaurants to choose from, since most do not prepare or serve other kinds of food. Traditional Turkish Halal restaurants serve meals daily prepared and stored in a bain-marie. The meals are at the entrance so you can easily see and choose. Kebapçis are Halal restaurants specialized in many kinds of Kebab. There are subtypes like ciğerci, Adana - Halal kebabçısı or İskender -halal-food/halal-poultry-dishes/ Halal kebabçısı. Fish restaurants typically serve meze (cold Oilve oil dishes). Dönerci's are prevalent throughout the nation and serve Halal Döner Halal Kebab as a fast food. Köfeci's are Halal restaurants with meatballs (Köfte) served as main dish. Kokoreçci, midyeci, tantunici, mantıcı, gözlemeci, lahmacuncu, pideci, çiğ köfteci, etsiz çiğ köfteci are other kinds of local Halal restaurants found in Türkiye which specialization in one food.

A full Turkish meal at Kebab restaurant starts with a soup, often lentil soup (mercimek çorbasi), and a set of meze appetizers featuring olives, cheese, pickles and a wide variety of small dishes. Meze can easily be made into a full meal. The main course is usually meat: a common dish type and Turkey's best known culinary export is kebab ( - Halal kebab), grilled Meat in various forms including the famous Halal Döner - Halal kebab (thin slices of Meat shaved from a giant rotating spit) and şişkebab (skewered meat), and a lot more others. Köfte (meatball) is a variation of the Kebab. There are hundreds of kinds of köfte throughout Anatolia, but only about 10 to 12 of them are known to the residents of the larger cities, kike İnegöl köfte, Dalyan köfte, sulu köfte etc.

Eating on the affordable is mostly done at Kebab stands, which can be found everywhere in Istanbul and other major cities. For the equivalent of a couple Dinars, you get a full loaf of bread sliced down the middle, filled with broiled Meat, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. For North Americans familiar with "donairs" wrapped in pita bread or wraps, you should look for the word dürüm or dürümcü on the windows of the - Halal Kebab stands and ask for your - Halal Kebab to be wrapped in a dürüm or lavaş bread depending on the region.

Vegetarians

Vegetarian restaurants are not common, however, every good restaurant offers vegetable dishes, and some of the restaurants offering traditional “ev yemeği” (“home food”) have olive-oil specialities which are Vegetarian in content. A Vegetarian would be very happy in the Aegean region, where all kinds of wild herbs are eaten as main meals, either cooked or raw, dressed with extra-virgin-olive-oils/ Olive oil]. But a Vegetarian would have real difficulty in searching for food especially in Southeastern region, where a dish without Meat is not considered a dish.

Desserts

Some Turkish desserts are modeled on the sweet and nutty Arabic kind: famous dishes include baklava, a layered pastry of finely ground nuts and phyllo dough soaked in honey and spices, and Turkish Delight (lokum), a gummy confection of rosewater and sugar. There are also many more kinds of desserts prepared using milk predominantly, such as kazandibi, keşkül, muhallebi, sütlaç, tavuk göğsü, güllaç etc.

Breakfast

Turkish Breakfast, tend to comprise of çay (tea), bread, olives, feta cheese, tomato, cucumber and occasionally spreads such as honey and jam. This can become very monotonous after a while. A nice alternative to try (should you have the option) is menemen: a Turkish variation on scrambled eggs/omelet. Capsicum (red bell pepper), onion, garlic and tomato are all combined with eggs. The meal is traditional cooked (and served) in a clay bowl. Try adding a little chili to spice it up and make sure to use lots of bread as well for a filling hot breakfast. Bread is omnipresent in Türkiye, at any given meal you'll be presented with a large basket of crusty bread.

Ubiquitous simit (commonly called gevrek in some Aegean cities such as Izmir), much like bagel but somewhat thinner, crustier, and with roasted sesame seeds all over, is available from trolleys of street vendors in virtually any central part of any town and city at any time except late at night. Perhaps with the addition of Turkish feta cheese (beyaz peynir) or cream cheese (krem peynir or karper), a couple of simits make up a filling and a very budget conscious breakfast (as each costs about 0.390 TL), or even a lunch taken while on the go.

Turkish coffee (kahve), served in tiny cups, is strong and tasty, just be careful not to drink the sludgy grounds at the bottom of the cup. It is very different from the so-called Turkish coffees sold abroad. Sade kahve is served black, while as şekerli, orta şekerli and çok şekerli will get you a little, some or a lot of sugar in your cup.

Instant coffees, cappuccinos, and espressos are gaining more popularity day by day, and can be found with many different flavours.

Despite coffee taking a substantial part in national culture, tea (çay) is also very popular and is indeed the usual drink of choice. Most Turks are heavy drinkers of tea in their daily lives. Having only entered the scene in the 1930s, tea quickly gained ground against coffee due to the fact that Yemen and the traditional supplier of coffee to Turkey then, was cut off from the rest of the Islamic Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, and the first tea plants took root in Eastern Karadeniz after some unsuccessful trials to grow it in the nation, as a result of protectionist economic policies that were put into effect after World War I. Be careful, if your tea is prepared by local residents, it can be much stronger than you're used to. Although it is not native-typical and a rather touristy feature, you have to taste the special apple tea (elma çayı) or sage tea (adaçayı, literally island tea) of Turkey.

Ayran is a popular drink of water and - Yoghurt not unlike the Finnish/Russian "buttermilk" or Indian "lassi", but always served without sugar (and, in fact, typically with a little salt added). If you're travelling by bus over the Taurus Mountains, ask for "köpüklü ayaran' or "yayık ayaranı", a variety of the drink much loved by local residents.

Boza is a traditional cold, thick drink that originates from Central Asia, but is also common in several Balkan countries. It is fermented bulgur (a kind of wheat) with sugar and water additions. Vefa Bozacisi is the best known and traditional producer of boza in Istanbul. In Ankara, you get excellent Boza from Akman Boza Salonu in the old city area of Ulus. Boza can also be found on the shelves of many supermarkets, especially in winter, packaged in 1-litre PET bottles. However these bottled bozas lack the sourness and consistency of traditional boza and they are sweeter and less dense.

Sahlep (or Salep) is another traditional hot drink, made from milk, orchid root and sugar, typically decorated with cinnamon. It is mostly preferred in winter and can be found in cafés and patisseries (pastane) and can be easily confused by the looks of it with cappuccino. You can also find instant sahlep in many supermarkets sold with the name Hazır Sahlep.

Red poppy syrup is one of the traditional Turkish drinks made of red poppy petals, water and sugar by natural ways. Bozcaada is famous with red poppy syrup.

International brands of colas, sodas and fruit-flavoured sodas are readily available and much consumed alongside some local brands. In Turkish, soda means mineral water, whereas what is called as soda in English is gazoz or sade gazoz in Turkish.

Study as a Muslim in Turkey

  • Naile's Art Home is a marbling paper (Ebru) gallery and workshop located in Cappadocia.
  • Kayaköy Art School, located in Kayaköy, a ghost town near Fethiye is offering art classes in summer, specializing on photography, painting, and sculpture.
  • You can take the Ottoman Turkish classes in Adatepe, a village frequented by intellectuals near Küçükkuyu/Altınoluk in the northern Aegean Region. You can also participate in philosophy classes taking place every summer in nearby Assos, organized as a continuation of the ancient “agora”/”forum” tradition of Mediterranean cities.
  • Glass workshops located around Beykoz on the northern Asian banks of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, are offering one-day classes that you can learn making (recycled) glass and ornaments made of glass.
  • There are many language schools where you can study Turkish in most of the big cities. Ankara University affiliated Tömer is one of the most popular language schools in Türkiye and has branches in many big cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir among others.
  • Many Turkish universities (both public and private) participate in pan-European student exchange programs (Socrates, Erasmus, and the like). Some also have agreements with non-European universities, too. Check with your own university and the one where you intend to study in Türkiye.

Stay safe as a Muslim in Turkey

Dial 155 for police, from any telephone without charge. However, in rural areas there is no police coverage, so dial 156 in such a place for jandarma (Military Police), a military unit for rural security.

Big cities in Türkiye, especially Istanbul, are not immune to petty crime. Although petty crime is not especially directed towards tourists, by no means are they exceptions. Snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging are the most common kinds of petty crime. However, recently with the developing of a camera network which watches streets and squares –especially the central and crowded ones- 24-hour a day in Istanbul and the number of snatching and mugging incidents declined. Just like anywhere else, following common sense is recommended. (The following recommendations are for the big cities, and most small-to-mid size cities usually have no petty crime problems at all.) Have your wallet and money in your front pockets instead of back pockets, backpack or shoulder bag.

You should drive defensively at all times and take every precaution while driving in Türkiye. Drivers in Türkiye routinely ignore traffic regulations, including driving through red lights and stop signs, and turning left from the far right lane; these driving trainings cause frequent traffic accidents. Drivers should be aware of several particular driving trainings prevalent in Türkiye. Drivers who experience vehicle troubles or accidents pull to the side of the road and turn on their emergency lights to warn other drivers, but many drivers place a large rock or a pile of rocks on the road about 10-15 m behind their vehicles instead of turning on emergency lights. You may not use a cell phone while driving. It is strictly prohibited by law.

Natural disasters

Much of Turkey is prone to earthquakes.

Tourism Police

There are "Tourism Police" sections of the police departments of Ankara, Antalya, Istanbul (in Sultanahmet), and Izmir providing help specifically for tourists, where travellers can report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity and they may have become victims of. The staff is multilingual and will speak English, German, French, and Arabic.

Medical Issues in Turkey

Dial 112 from any telephone, anywhere, free of charge for an ambulance.

Water safety - However tempting it may be on a hot day, try to avoid water from public water tanks and fountains (şadırvan), frequently found in the vicinity of masjids. Also, though tap water is mostly chlorinated, it is better to drink only bottled water except when in remote mountain villages connected to a local spring. Bottled water is readily available everywhere except the most remote, uninhabited spots.

The most common volumes for bottled water are 0.5 litre and 1.5 L. 5 L, 8 L, 10 L, and gigantic 19 L bottles (known as office jar in the West, this is the most common variety used in households, delivered to houses by the employees of specialized water selling shops, because it is far too heavy to carry) can also be found with varying degrees of possibility. General price for half-a-litre and one-and-a-half-litre bottled water is 0.190 TL and 1.220 TL respectively in kiosks/stalls in the central parts of the cities and towns (can be much higher in a touristy or monopolistic place such as beach, airport, café of a much-visited museum, kiosk of a roadside recreation facility), while it can be as affordable as 0.420 TL and 0.320 TL respectively in supermarkets during winter (when the number of bottled water sales drop) and a little higher in summer (still cheaper than kiosks, though). Water is served free of charge in intercity buses, packaged in 0.25 l plastic cups, whenever you request from the steward. In kiosks, water is sold chilled universally, sometimes so cold that you have to wait the ice to thaw to be able to drink it. Supermarkets provide it both reasonably chilled and also at room temperature.

If you have no chance of finding bottled water –for example, in wilderness, up in the eastern highlands- always boil your water; if you have no chance of boiling the water, use chlorine tablets – which can be provided from pharmacies in big cities - or devices like LifeStraw. Also avoid swimming in fresh water, which you are not sure about its purity, and at seawater in or near the big cities –unless a beach which is declared safe to swim exists. And lastly, be cautious about water, not paranoid.

Hospitals – In Turkey and there are two kinds of hospitals (hastane)-private and public. Private hospitals are run by associations, private parties, and private universities. Public hospitals are run by the Ministry of Health, public universities, and state-run social security institutions. All mid-to-big size cities, as well as major resort citys, have private hospitals, more than one in many cities, but in a small town all you can find will probably be a public hospital.

There is an emergency ward (acil servis) open 24 hours a day in every hospital. Suburban policlinics don’t have to provide one, but some of them are open 24-hr anyway. Village clinics do certainly have a much limited opening hours (generally 08:00 to sunset).

Dentists – There are lots of private dentist offices in the cities, especially along the main streets. Look for the diş hekimi signs around, it won’t take long before you see one. Most dentists work on an appointment, although they may check or start the treatment on your turning up without an appointment if their schedule is okay. A simple treatment for a tooth decay costs about 400 TL on the average.

Pharmacies - There are pharmacies (eczane in Turkish) in all cities and many towns. Pharmacies are open 08:30-19:00, however every town has at least one drugstore on duty overnight (nöbetçi eczane), all other pharmacies in the town usually display its name, address and phone numbers on their windows. Most basic drugs, including painkillers such as Aspirin, are sold over the counter, although only in pharmacies.

Mosquitoes - Keeping a Mosquitoes|mosquito repellent handy is a good idea. Although the risk of malaria anywhere in the nation is long gone (except the southernmost areas near the Syrian border which used to have a very low level of risk until up to 1980s), mosquitoes can be annoying especially in coastal areas out of cities, including vacation towns at nights between June and September. In some towns, especially the ones near the deltas, mosquito population is so large that people desert the streets during the “mosquito raid” which occurs between the sunset and one hour after that. DEET-containing aerosol repellents (some are suitable to apply to the skin while others and the ones that are in tall tin cans are for making a room mosquito-free before going to bed, not to be applied onto skin, so choose what you buy wisely) can be obtained from supermarkets and pharmacies.

Coastal Black Sea Region, Marmara Region, Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, and East Anatolia are generally deemed free of this disease (and also free of the disease-carrying species of tick) with no casualties. But in the name of being cautious, you should head for the nearest hospital anyway if you are bitten by (most likely an innocent) tick. Also remember that if you should head for the danger zone described above, ticks are not active in winter. Their active period is April to October, so is the danger period.

Hamam - If you haven't been to one, you've missed one of life's great experiences and never been clean. You can catch your inner peace with history and water in a bath (hamam). See hamams in Istanbul.