Sunday, September 6, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
School is going well. I know I won’t get any sympathy for saying this: but this class is really a lot of work (which is a good thing), during the week its just like been a full time student.
I got a haircut today, my hair was much to long for this weather, and it looks great. The guy spent at least 45 minutes on it, like it was in a salon, not a barbershop. And it cost 7 Tl!
First of all I should make an observation about how I talk about Izmir, Istanbul, and western Turkey; it is like someone visiting San Francisco, Napa, and Portland in the USA. Just as one should not conclude that people in San Francisco and Portland are representative of people in the rest of America, neither should one conclude Istanbul and Izmir are representative of all of Turkey.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
So Sunday at the coffeehouse listening to live music I thought about something my Ottoman history professor said about the introduction of Coffeehouses in the Ottoman Empire: he argued that the coffeehouses was a revolutionary institution in the Ottoman Empire. This was because they were a place were men (sorry history is rather sexists, a women in a coffeehouse or tavern in the pre-modern world was a prostitutes or considered a fallen women) of different social classes and identities sat around drinking, coffee, tea, and beer and discuses things while playing games, listening to music, and watching puppet shows, instead of working. Moreover, the coffeehouse was a new place for men to gather, and unlike a mosque, their conversations and actives were not under the moral roof of religion, or in a home with set traditions and customs. Which was why coffeehouse were so unpopular with conservative religious authorities. On a related note, I just read a chapter in Orhan Pumuk’s historical novel My name is Red, where one of the charters sits in an 16th century Istanbul coffeehouse fearing that it will be attacked by the followers of a conservative preacher who denounced coffeehouses as dens of iniquity.
I had long understood and agreed with this argument on an intellectually level, but it really hit me as I sat Sunday, drink tea listening to music, and looking at all of the other people, men and women (let us be thankful we were born in the modern era), sitting around talking and drinking tea and beer, not doing anything productive just chilling out. And then I though about all the cafes in Turkey, and there are tons, more than you can possible imagine, where people sit around and drink and play backgammon and cards doing nothing “productive” just hanging out. And how revolutionary this most have been at the time, and why conservatives tried to ban coffeehouse in the Ottoman Empire. They were successfully a few times, however public popularity always overruled religious concerns in the long run. So think about it, it almost seems absurd, but café culture was a major social revolution in its day, today it so ordinary that we never stop to think about it.
When coffee first came to the Ottoman Empire, from Yemen, some of the ulama (religious scholar, judges: the religious establishment) claimed that coffee should be banned. They reasoned that coffee was an intoxicant, and since intoxicants, wine, was forbidden by the Qur’an (the Qur’an was written before humans drank coffee) so to should coffee be forbidden. However, coffee was so popular with the masses, including less conservative ulama, that the opinions of religious scholars were ignored in favor the will of the people. With the advent of coffee came another institution, the coffeehouse.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Marble columns are so classic, here is a close up.