Turkey was incredible on so many levels and I constantly found myself drawing comparisons between what I’d heard from rumours, social media and the media and what I was actually experiencing. While we were there the media and government agencies were constantly squawking about the risk of crime and terrorism but honestly in Istanbul I’ve never felt so safe in a city so big. Of course the risk still exists and the tourist areas designed to feel that way but the average Turk are the kindest, most generous, most genuine and more importantly the warmest people I’ve met so far on my travels.
On top of the people being incredible I was also stunned by how modern the entire nation was. After travelling through the Balkans which are well progressed on the journey to modernisation, Turkey, especially in the big cities, is basically like any other western nation. Either being naïve or ignorant in my mind I pictured the country as being more like another Egypt or Saudi Arabia but what I found was a nation that had taken the better parts of being European and middle-eastern and created their own happy medium.
Of course being the 21st century I was connected to the internet the whole time and had the chance to read a lot of news reports and Facebook posts relating to the current refugee crisis and the backlash from the countries fearing a Muslim invasion of barbarians hell-bent of destroying their social fabric. It’s for this reason I think that I chose a really important time to have travelled through the country so I could see for myself what a functioning Muslim nation actually looks like and ask myself, “how bad are these people really?”
I was fairly sure on my answer for most of the trip when on a day tour I had the final push that I needed to make a decision. During our day tour around Ephesus our guide gave an impassioned speech on how ISIS and other extremists do not reflect normal Muslims and that they are widely hated and looked down upon as being mostly social outcasts and psychopaths. It’s one of those moments I really wish I had filmed to show every dumbass bigot I come across.
So of course my answer is that they are great people and that the racist tirade at the moment is a bunch of shit. If anything, western countries that have grown so cold and self-absorbed to strangers could learn from the hospitality and kindness that most Muslims show to westerners.