National Geographic : 1994 May
Along the coastal highway Turkey's Black Sea towns are awakening to a sunny fall day. The roadside blurs by: mustachioed men and kerchiefed women, car wrecks and donkeys, chickens and cows, mosques and concrete mixers, laundry dry ing on a line, tobacco drying on a fence, bus shelters full of kids going to school and adults going to work. Then the traffic knots up, and we sit in the fumes and honkings of cars, trucks, minivans, tractors, buses, and motorcycles. Now Umit Niron, my interpreter of Turkish words and sights and smells, can turn his eyes from the road and tell me what I see. The schoolkids wear uniforms, blue smocks for the little girls and boys; shirts and ties, blue blazers, and slacks for the older boys. Most of the older girls wear white blouses and plaid skirts. Others are buttoned into long, dark blue coats, and they hide their brows under pale blue kerchiefs. "Religious school," Umit says. "That is what the girls must wear." Stuck in the traffic with us is a grimy, battered bus, its windows smeared with yellow paint. The Turkish buses I have seen all sparkled, inside and out. This Lighter than air, a balloon lifts the spirits of children outside a mosque in the Eyip section of Istanbul. Both the boy and girl wear the garments of Islamic fundamentalism, which resists the idea that a country can be Western as well as Muslim. To curb the influence of Islam after he founded the republic in 1923, Mustafa Kemal, or AtatOrk, replaced Islamic law with a Swiss-based civil code. "The Republic of Turkey cannot be the land of sheikhs, dervishes, disciples, and lay brothers," he said.