5th World Youth Congress Part II:
The Cultural Experience
From Turkish Sufi dances to fortune telling, the experience of Turkish culture and history was an integral part of the WYC, alongside the regular workshops, meetings and panel discussions. There was some form of cultural event everyday of the first week.
The exhibition was inaugurated after the welcome speech of the Minister of State. There was a show featuring the Turkish march and traditional dance. It was followed by a barbeque buffet with kebabs of all kinds and Baklava, a delicious sweet. Next to all the stalls, a stall served black Turkish coffee to everyone. The remains of the coffee liquor inside one's cup were read to tell the future!
The following day, we went to visit Topkapi Palace at the famous Sultan Ahmed. Topkapi Palaces are some of the greatest treasures of the Ottoman sultans. The famous Grand Bazaar and the Turkish bath house at Cemberlitash were nearby. We had time only to visit the grand bazaar. Later in the evening after returning to campus, there was a Turkish henna night where dancing was arranged. It is a pre-wedding celebration similar to our “Gaye Holud”.
The following two evenings had the most amazing events in store for us. The first one was the Bosphorous boat ride. All 1400 delegates were on a huge boat which took us to view the Bosphorous Bridge which connects the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side. The next stop was an orchestra inside the Aya Irini or Hagia Irene church. This church is located in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace. It ranks as the first church built in Constantinople by the Roman emperor, Constantine. J.S Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 was one of the first pieces the orchestra played. The two hours of music inside the ancient church was a surreal experience.
The second week was the “Action Project”, which took us to Manisa, an ancient and historic part of the city. As part of the “Imece” or family, we took part in activities that symbolised brotherhood and unity. We harvested grapes from the vineyards of Manisa and painted walls at the youth centre. The feeling of doing simple activities helped us grow the spirit of the WYC. My family members were: Azem (Turkish Grandfather), Babalola (Nigeria) Medea, (Georgia) Darin (Palestine), Soledad and Sebastian (Argentina), Carol (Brazil), Mia And Caleb (USA), Patrick (Germany), Syed (Bangladesh), Wojoud (Yemen), Ayoub and Aziz (Morocco), Huda (Egypt), Nelly (Quebec), Veronica (Hawaii), Ylber (Italy), Julian (Australia) and Iffat (Pakistan).
We crossed the Marmara Sea by ferry on a bus ride from Istanbul to Manisa. To my utter surprise there was Wi-Fi inside the bus and video game facilities.
At Manisa, besides our work, we took part in a mock Turkish wedding ceremony as brides and grooms were wearing traditional wedding clothes. We were taken to see Turkish carpet weaving and also where the famous Mesir paste is made. Mesir is a traditional sweet with medicinal properties made by 41 different spices.
The highlight of our visits in Manisa was visiting o the ancient Lydian capital of Sardis. It was one of the important cities of the Persian Empire, the seat of a proconsul under the Roman Empire and the metropolis of the province Lydia in later Roman and Byzantine times. The Lydians were the first people to introduce the use of gold and silver coins and the first to establish retail shops in permanent locations. The first stamped coins were minted near the beginning of the reign of King Alyattes, who ruled Lydia c. 610-550 BC. The earliest reference to Sardis is in “The Persians of Aeschylus” (472 BC).
Our stay at Manisa ended with a visit to the city's governor. The local newspapers reported all the events we took part in. We had television coverage too, making us feel like real celebrities
We had some time before leaving for Istanbul, so we went to visit Izmir, one of Turkey's largest cities. Izmir is a port city and well known for its beautiful coastline along the Aegean Sea.
During the last two days of our stay, I visited the Hagia Sophia, the Blue mosque and Galata tower. Each of these monuments has a magnificent aura, which transforms one back into the past. We were also taken to “Minia-Turc” where intricate miniatures of all the famous places of Turkey were displayed. Taksim Square was the last place of our visit. Sheesha lounges with Sufi dancers whirling with religious songs on the traditional lute, Taksim square summed up the mystic experience.
The visit was something to remember for the rest of our lives.
(The writer is doing her MSECO, Dept. of Economics, United International University)