TURKEY TRAVEL GUIDE

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

The legacies of the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Christian apostles, Byzantines, Ottoman Turks & the other civilizations that have called this land home have made Turkey into a vast outdoor museum full of beautiful, intriguing sites. Highlights of Turkey’s many treasures include the spectacular Byzantine churches & beautiful mosques of Istanbul; the ruins of the fabled city of Pergamum on its windswept hilltop; the holy city of Konya where Dervishes still whirl; the extraordinary landscape & cave dwellings of Cappadocia; the great theatre of ancient Ephesus; the magnificent beaches of the Aegean & Mediterranean with signs of ancient civilizations at every turn & so much more…

  • Republic of Turkey: Turkiye Cumhuriyeti, Turkey celebrates October 29, 1923, the date on which the Republic of Turkey was declared after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as its date of independence.
  • Capital: Ankara
  • Flag: The national flag consists of a white crescent (open toward the fly) & a white star on a red field.
  • Anthem: Istiklal Marsi (March of Independence).
  • Head of State: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since 2014
  • Head of Government: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (3rd term). In 2002 (with 34% of the popular vote), in 2007 (with 47%) and in 2011 (with 49%).
  • Holidays: New Year’s Day, 1 January; National Sovereignty & Children’s Day, 23 April; Spring (Labour) Day, 1 May; Youth & Sports Day, 19 May; Victory Day, 30 August; Independence Day (Anniversary of the Republic), 29 October. Movable religious holidays include Seker Bayrami (three days) & Kurban Bayrami (four days).
  • Time: 3 PM = noon GMT
  • Location: The Republic of Turkey consists of Asia Minor, or Anatolia (Anadolu); the small area of eastern Thrace (Trakya), or Turkey in Europe; & a few offshore islands in the Aegean Sea, with a total area of 780,580 sq km (301,384 sq mi), extending about 1,600 km (994 mi) SE – NW & 650 km (404 mi) NE – SW . Comparatively, the area occupied by Turkey is slightly larger than the state of Texas. Of the overall area, 97% is in Asia, & 3% in Europe. Turkey lies athwart the important Black Sea straits system, the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara & the Bosporus. It is bordered on the N by the Black Sea, on the NE by Georgia & Armenia, on the E by Iran, on the SE by Iraq, on the S by Syria & the Mediterranean Sea, on the W by the Aegean Sea & on the NW by Greece & Bulgaria, with a total boundary of 2,648 km (1,645 mi) & a coastline of 7,200 km (4,474 mi). Turkey’s capital city, Ankara, is located in the northwest central part of the country.
  • Historical Background: The history of the geographic area occupied by the modern state of Turkey & the history of the peoples who occupy that state are quite different. Linking the two is the history of the Ottoman Empire. That empire was a vast, pan-Islamic state that expanded, beginning in the 14th century, from a small Turkish emirate located within the boundaries of the present day Bursa (Turkey), to include holdings across North Africa, southeastern Europe & most of the Middle East by the end of 16th century.
  • Education & Literacy: In 2004 Turkey’s overall literacy rate was 87.4 percent, but the rate was only 79.6 percent for females. Eight years of primary education are mandatory between the ages of 6 – 14. In 2006 some 77 universities were in operation, employing 82,000 staff members. Total higher-education enrollment was 2.1 million, including 700,000 at Anadolu University, the only non-residential university. Private universities, which have expanded significantly since 1990, accounted for 4.3 percent of higher-education enrollment. The largest private university is Yeditepe University in Istanbul. Except for the Open University, entrance is by national examination, which made admittance highly competitive in the early 2000’s. Turkish university graduates generally are successful in entering international postgraduate programs.
  • Judicial & Legal System: When the Republic of Turkey was established, the Islamic law of the Ottoman Empire was replaced in 1926 with a secular system borrowed from the Swiss & Italian legal codes. Prosecutors have wide authority in the investigation of cases. All cases are heard by judges, not by juries. Minor civil & penal cases are assigned to civil & penal courts of the peace, respectively. Every province also has one penal & at least one civil court of first instance, each consisting of one judge, to hear routine cases assigned to the next level. Central criminal courts hear more serious criminal cases, these courts consist of a judicial panel of 3. Commercial courts are a branch of the civilian court system, handling all cases arising from business & trade relationships. In 2002 Turkey abolished the death penalty in peacetime. A new penal code, responding to some but not all of the membership requirements of the European Union (EU), went into effect in June 2005.
  • Electoral System: Suffrage is universal for citizens 18 years of age & older. As of the constitutional referendum of October 2007, the president is elected by popular vote to a term of five years, with one additional term possible. This amendment abolished the system by which the Grand National Assembly elected the president, who under that system required two-thirds of assembly votes to be elected in the first or second round of voting. Direct parliamentary & local elections are held (separately) every four years (reduced from five by the 2007 constitutional amendment), but the president or the Grand National Assembly can declare elections at an earlier date. The assembly called the 2007 parliamentary elections four months ahead of the scheduled date because of a crisis over selection of the next president. Turkey has had a multiparty system since 1946, but restrictions on the formation of new parties & the potential for the judiciary to disband parties have been controversial issues. Although constitutional amendments in 1995 & 2001 limited the conditions under which the Constitutional Court may disband a party, in 2008 that court was able to consider closing down the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) for violating the requirement of secular governance.
  • Monetary Unit: Turkey’s currency is the Yeni Turk Lirası (New Turkish Lira; YTL). Lira comes in coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 & 50 kurus & a 1 lira coin, & notes of 5, 10, 20, 50 & 100 lira. After decades of rampant inflation – as high as 70% – the Turkish lira started to stabilize in 2003; by 2004 inflation was down to around 12%. The Yeni Turk Lirası was introduced in January 2005. However, it still makes sense to wait until you arrive in Turkey to change your money into lira since you will probably get a better exchange rate inside the country than outside.
  • Weights & Measurements: The metric system is the legal standard.
  • Topography: Other than the low, rolling hills of Turkish Thrace, the fertile river valleys that open to the Aegean Sea, the warm plains of Antalya & Adana on the Mediterranean, & the narrow littoral along the Black Sea, the country is wrinkled by rugged mountain ranges that surround & intersect the high, semiarid Anatolian plateau. Average elevations range from 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level in the west to over 1,800 m (6,000 ft) amid the wild eastern highlands. The highest point is Mount Ararat (Buyuk Agri Dagi, 5,166 m/16,949 ft), which rises just within Turkey at the intersection of the Turkish, Armenian, & Iranian frontiers. There are over 100 peaks with elevations of 3,000 m (10,000 ft) or more. Other than the Tigris & Euphrates, which have their sources in eastern Anatolia, rivers are relatively small. Because the watersheds of these streams are semi barren slopes, the seasonal variations in flow are very great. The largest lake is Lake Van (3,675 sq km/1,419 sq mi); the other major lake is Lake Tuz, whose water has a salinity level so high that it serves as a commercial source of salt. Turkey’s 7,200 km (5,474 mi) of coastline provide few good natural harbours.
  • Population: The population of Turkey in 2003 was estimated by the United Nations at 72,325,000, which placed it as number 16 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In that year approximately 6% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 30% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 102 males for every 100 females in the country in 2003. According to the UN, the annual population growth rate for 2000 – 2005 is 1.42%, with the projected population for the year 2015 at 82,150,000. The population density in 2002 was 87 per sq km (225 per sq mi). It was estimated by the Population Reference Bureau that 75% of the population lived in urban areas in 2001, up from 44% in 1980. Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), the largest city, had a 2008 metropolitan population of 15,413,000. The largest metropolitan areas after Istanbul are Ankara, the capital city, with a 2008 metropolitan population of 3,932,000; Izmir (formerly Smyrna), 2,519,000; Adana, 1,489,000; Bursa, 1,499,000; & Gaziantep, 1,126,000. According to the United Nations, the urban population growth rate for 2000 – 2005 was 2.6%.
  • Language: Turkish, which belongs to the Ural Altaic group, is the official language. In addition to the Roman alphabet, modern Turkish uses the letters ç, ğ, ı , ö, ş , ü, but no q, w, or x. With only minor exceptions, words are spelled phonetically. The language is agglutinative. A 1928 language reform substituted the Roman alphabet for the Arabic script, which had been used by the Turks since their conversion to Islam. During the 1930’s there was a state sponsored effort to rid the language of Arabic & Persian words & grammatical constructions. Turkish grammatical rules are now applied for all words, regardless of origin, though many Persian & Arabic expressions persist. Traditionally, there was a great difference between vernacular Turkish & written Ottoman Turkish, the latter being heavily influenced by Arabic & Persian & almost unintelligible to the mass of Turks. This difference has been almost obliterated, though some regional differences in dialect, particularly in the villages, still make effective communication difficult.
  • Religion: Religious freedom is granted by the constitution. About 98% of the population is Muslim. Though there is no official state religion, the state maintains urban mosques & other Muslim religious properties, licenses are given to Imam’s through the Religious Affairs Department which regulates & provides religious education in the public schools. Proselytizing by either Muslim or non Muslim is proscribed by law. Laws against the use of religion for political purposes are rigorously enforced. The vast majority of Turkish Muslims are Sunni, but there is a substantial Alevi minority of %32. Although at times suppressed by law, secret dervish orders have remained active in some areas. In 1999, religious minorities included Christians & Jews, accounting for 0.3% of the population. The Greek Orthodox patriarch in Istanbul is considered first among equals of the seven patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox churches. Turkey was a safe haven for Jewish refugees from Spain & Portugal in the late 15th & 16th centuries & Jews have been living here in peace to current day.
  • Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz
  • Below are listed Public Holidays for the January – December 2012 period:
  • 2012
    01 Jan New Year’s Day
    23 Apr National Sovereignty & Children’s Day
    01 May Labour Day Public Holiday
    19 May Commemoration of Ataturk’s Youth & Sports Day
    30 Aug Victory Day
    19 – 21 Aug (18th is half day) Ramazan Bayrami (End of Ramadan)
    29 Oct Republic Day
    25 – 28 Oct Kurban Bayrami (Feast of the Sacrifice)

The information provided here is given in good faith & has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change & some of the information may become out of date. If you have any queries, please contact us for current updates.

Last Updated: 18 Nov 2011

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