Toilets and Bathrooms
Street Wise
Sexual Matters
Sensitive Subjects
Village vs.Town
Body Language


Out of Doors

A Turkish street is a place bubbling with vitality. Exciting as well as surprising, it is a scene of events with minute details which combine to give the authentic character to the whole.

In early hours of the day a horse-drawn cart carrying fresh fruit and vegetables will try to squeeze through the narrow alley created by the latest models of Mercedes cars, hooded to protect them from the invasive dust, and parked on either side of the road in front of the rows of houses. The buildings themselves are a mishmash, some dilapidated houses with patches where the whitewash has long been stripped off, others well maintained tower blocks of modern, luxurious flats, sometimes higher than the minaret of the local mosque.

Little girls, arm-in-arm, giggling and looking like newly blossomed white lilies with huge ribbons perched in their head, will hurry past the shopkeepers who sit on chairs in front of their shops, with worry beads in their hands to occupy them until a customer walks in. Little boys break a twig each while passing, only to throw it into the communal waste bin a few yards further on. A simitçi boy (a seller of rings of crisp bread sprinkled with sesame seeds), his shaven head shining under the early beams of the sun, will do his best business of the day, while other children in their blue uniforms and white collars sing the national anthem in the garden of the district school, gathered around the dark bronze bust of Ataturk, which looks like the work of their art teacher rather than of a commissioned sculptor.

The caretakers of the blocks of flats (the Turks call them apartments) will ignore one another lest they forget the memorized list of items they are supposed to carry back to the flats, and walk in haste to the corner shops with their huge basket carriers. A man at the corner will be looking through the newspaper while his shoes are taken care of by a shoeshine boy. The young coffee-house apprentice will carry in his brass tray, jingling glasses of tea, to be distributed to different shop keepers.

People will hop in and out of taxis, cars, minibuses, buses - all hooting their horns to scare other drivers off, so that they will have the right of way. Street vendors, uniformed soldiers, beggars, retired men on their daily stroll, stray cats and dogs, will all appear in good time. The air will buzz with radio music of all types.

A woman who is hanging her washing out on her back balcony will shout at her neighbour upstairs to look down first before shaking the bread-crumbs out of her table cloth, still feeling relieved that at least she is not shaking out her carpet. The home-help in baggy trousers on the top floor will step onto the sill to clean the outside of the windows, bringing the spectators' hearts into their mouths. Another woman will lift bread in a basket tied to a rope and then let it down from her window to the ground.

In the afternoon the children will play hide-and-seek, hopscotch or football in the street and jump around the heaps of sand, timber and brick on the construction sites of which every street has one or more, at all times. Ladies of leisure, anxious not to damage their high heels between cobbled stones, will hurry to their 'coon king' card parties. A man in a bathrobe will call down from his balcony to the caretaker to check why the water has stopped all of a sudden. A cortege of campaign cars, covered with banners and flags, will pass, emitting loud music from the speakers and millions of small papers from the windows. A man will jump out of one of the cars to stick a poster on the wall of a deserted building, which is thick with hundreds of posters already stuck there, ranging from advertisements for nightclub singers to those for washing powders.

A porter who is bent under a high pile of crates will leave his load in front of the greengrocer and wait for his meager pay. When he receives it, he will kiss the bank-note and brush it against his brow, in gratitude to God. A lorry driver will park his vehicle in the middle of the road and disappear into the coffee-house for a quick round of backgammon, oblivious of the queue of cars forming outside and of the anger of their drivers.

As cooking smells overpower those of the exhaust fumes, the homecoming husbands will buy a watermelon or two from the vendor who has piled up his goods by the side of the road. The streets, which are normally quiet by nine o'clock in winter, will liven up again in the hot season after dinner. Young people will congregate at street corners to show off their clothing: Nike, Adidas, Levi's, Wrangler, Benetton, and whatever other labels are currently in fashion. Modest women, their hair imprisoned under headscarves, will sit on their doorsteps and talk, while groups of young men stroll abut aimlessly, leaving a trail of sunflower seed husks behind them. Voices of protest from the television addicts will simultaneously travel into the street from the open balcony doors bemoaning the temporary local power cut, almost as if orchestrated by a magic wand.

After midnight, the crowds will gradually disappear, until finally all that can be heard is the continuous chirruping of the crickets in the summer and the occasional barks of the stray dogs in winter.