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Agence Future Logo 4.3: Istanbul

The Aya Sofia

It took 38 hours to reach Istanbul from Budapest. The train entered Turkey's largest city almost at walking pace. For more than an hour building grew ever denser. We saw multi story housing with balconied pastel fronts in wide roads and narrow streets with old style (ottoman) wooden houses at oblique angels, darkened by brown coal fumes. The weather was bright during our first two days in Istanbul. A blue sky provided the backdrop for the multitude of minarets and domes of the mosques and high-rises; it made the water of the Bosphourus-straight tingle with luminescence. It was the weekend and hundreds of men had gathered on the waterfront with their fishing rods and buckets to catch the small fish that have become abundant since a cleanup of the once gravely polluted water was ordered by the authorities. The following weeks the region would be encapsulated in endless rain and wind as well as freak snow storms that also got the Greek islands in the vicinity.

Our first impression of the current state of affairs and a gloomy outlook on the near future in Istanbul was provided by the many near unemployed tourist touts, restaurateurs and carpet salesmen who took every opportunity to convey how the war in Afghanistan had ruined their business. "Bin Laden and America, they kill my business." No one was willing to put odds on tourists returning en mass any time soon. Hope for improvement of the situation by summertime was cautious at best.

Women with and without headscarf look at lingerie Open air market near the Bosphorus

Our first interview took place at the Sultan Ahmet mosque in the old town. The Imam there spent the hours between the afternoon and the sunset prayer, explaining some of the principles of his religion. He also drew a picture of a future dominated by strife between nations, driven primarily by America's surge for hegemony in Islamic regions of the world. Later we interviewed several devout Muslims who seemed mostly confused by the situation and unhappy with their country's position in the Afghan-American conflict. A distinct displeasure could also be recognised in the statements of intellectuals such as, Aseguk Baykan, a sociologist at Koç University and Semma Suvarioglu, a psychologist who runs her own business and teaches at several reputable colleges around town. They suggested that while Turkey's actual geopolitical positioning holds potential for a conciliatory role in current world politics, Turkish politicians had done nothing to exploit this potential and assert the countries significance on the international level.

With Baykan we also talked about the changing urban environment of Istanbul, Turkey's largest and fastest growing city. The conversation with Semma on the other hand, concentrated mostly on the conflict between material and spiritual values in a society faced with rapid modernisation. With Zia Önis of the Koç University we talked about the significance of the potential of EU-membership in the countries internal politics, and the cyclical nature of evolutions in relation to this. He discussed his mid-range expectations for the (diminished) role of the military and his worries about developments concerning the Islamist and Nationalist movements.

Fishing in the Bosphorus The oldest shopping centre in town going places
With the help of a final year student of the Bosphourous University (where courses are taught entirely in English), we conducted five full-length interviews with people from the general population in a lower middleclass suburb of Istanbul. Their hopes and wishes for their personal future varied with their specific circumstances (from building a house to having more grandchildren or being able to travel around more easily). Their views on Istanbul's future concerned the bureaucratic nature of local government, the dwindling national economy, mobility within the city, increased immigration form rural areas and the earthquake potential in the region. On a world scale, all expressed concerns about the war being waged in Afghanistan. Some talked about ecology and development. Although we had been led to assume that we would find great reluctance in Muslims to discuss events in the future, we found most respondents very forthcoming and happy to present educated guesses on the world of tomorrow as well as to formulate desires and fears.

And it rained a lot in Turkey Later we spent a day in the old town on brief question-and-answer sessions with our interpreter and the video camera. The first half of the session took place in the Grand Bazar and the second on the Blue mosque's Ramadan book fair. On this occasion most respondents referred primarily to the countries poor economic condition.

Finally, since so many respondents had talked about their fears of earthquakes in Istanbul, we looked up a seismologist. Serdar Ozalaybey works at the Marmara research centre. During the morning we spent with him, he talked about his research into the likelihood of further earthquakes hitting Istanbul and their estimated strength. On the basis of his research, he explained the tools and methods used for prediction in seismology. In the afternoon we explored the set-up of the whole research centre and its 'technology free zone'. The free zone is an area where businesses and individual researchers can develop new technology and applications with definite perks. Tax benefits (no TVA and advantageous regulation for import and export) are enjoyed and sharing facilities and infrastructure reduces overhead costs.

Lesen Sie mehr über Agence Futures Reise durch den Mittleren Osten:

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Letzte Änderung: 20.05.2012