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Politically torn Turkey thrives on tourists

There is a story about Marmaris beach. Our local friends told us that the village used to be very poor and reliant on fishing industry and agriculture. In the past, which would be before 1960, when land was divided among children, the fertile land in the valleys was given to the sons, the beach and the barren fields behind it were given to the daughters. While more tourists discovered Marmaris, the daughters developed resorts and hotels on their beach, which in turn made them wealthier than the inland farmers. Until this day, they say that the tourism industry in this area was built by women. The former Ottoman empire turned holiday paradise has quite a lot to offer today; from steaming hammam and picturesque villages to high-end resorts and excursions. Unfortunately, its political climate causes a lot of people to stay at home.

During my two-week trip I stayed at a hotel named Gölmar Beach on the far end of the bay the towns Marmaris and Içmeler share. The two of them are only five kilometres apart and easily accessible by ‘Dolmus’. These are small buses that are usually packed with people, the name also means ‘stuffed’. The hotel was at the very start of the boulevard of Içmeler, being the town’s first I stayed there during the first weeks of July with my family. Sunbeds on one side, restaurants on the other, walking along the boulevard provides everyone with a sense of vacation, but as you turn towards the town and head for the shopping streets, that’s a different world all together, especially at night. The music of several bars and clubs mix together with the voices of salesmen luring you into their stores to get a taste of their cheapest prices. Restaurants are flaunting their best food, waiters are dancing on the bar. Anywhere you go, you are always led right back to that street.

Marmaris is a little bit bigger, there is a boulevard, a row of hotels and the main shopping street. Yet you’ll find most tourists right behind the harbour at the end of the beach, that is where the bazaar is. The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘bazaar’ as a market in a middle eastern country, yet around here, it is more akin to a mall with countless shops full of fake branded clothes and accessories. The bazaar is where you are expected to haggle excessively and end up with multiple shop owners chasing you down the hallways. The acceptable way to haggle, according to our guide, is to act as if you’d pay only half the price while pretending to aim for a third of it, then agreeing on two thirds and leave them thinking they won.

I would lie if I say that I was completely unbothered by politics at the time, but when we met a couple that was residing in Marmaris in the summer during the military coup of 2016, I realised quickly that there was little to fear. They told us that one day they heard helicopters flying overhead, nothing more. However, the town did suffer from it in other ways. A large hotel by the name of Munamar Beach went bankrupt and the building is empty to this day. Not only did the tumultuous politics cause tourism to decline, the Turkish lira also has an inflation rate of 16,7% and the hotel prices increased by the same amount. It may sound like the tourism industry in Turkey has entered a downward spiral, but I am hopeful, there are always more people who want to tan on the beach, eat delicious lamb kebab, visit the castle and rent a jetski. The only thing you need to watch out for is not wanting to leave.

This article was first published in the Freshmen edition (Year 50 of Girugten – issue 01 –  September 2019).



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