were able to find an interpreter in Istanbul who made it possible to interview
several people who did not speak any of the European languages that we
understand. On the other hand we did not manage to do the same during
our stay in Capadocia and Maya's knee injury meant we were unable to work
in any other rural areas of Turkey. In Syria respondents were the most
reluctant to speak that we have come across so far but we managed to conduct
several successful interviews with a suitable range of respondents (some
of which with the help from a Belgian student of Arabic languages). Because
we had not planned to travel though Iran and Pakistan we did not prepare
for work here, so the small number of people we talked with there was
no more than a bonus.
During these four and a half months the research continued
in sometimes difficult circumstances. Nevertheless we talked with more
than 35 people.
We found some important
changes in comparison to previous legs of the fieldtrip as far as the
topics covered during the interviews are concerned. Frequently issues
following the events of 11th of September came into the conversations.
Also, while viewpoints based on religion had already been important in
West Africa (they had been almost completely absent in Europe), we found
that the amount of discussion of religion increased greatly again. In
Syria we could almost speak of a 'religion overdose'.
We had conversations with a total of 10 specialist respondents and no
less than 25 members of the general population.
The first group consisted amongst others of: Mihaly Simai, a Hungarian
economist involved in Future Studies, the Imam of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul,
Zya Onis, a Turkish political economist, a leading seismologist of the
Marmara research Institute, Sheikh Kiftaro, the Grand Mufti of Syria,
a Syrian attorney specialised in women's issues and a Pakistani researcher
into the social consequences of drought.
The second group of respondents was as varied: we spoke with housewives
in Istanbul, with young entrepreneurs in the same city, with devout Muslims
and their teachers as well as with a young musician and a top ranking
doctor and Syrian youth involved in such subversive activities as break
dancing as well as shopkeepers in an old part of Damascus.
We started out with far too much kit but
were able to send some back. On the road we enjoyed the hospitality and
support of many people whom we are grateful now to consider part of our
Our biggest logistical problem on this leg of the trip was Maya's physical
health. From the very beginning she suffered bad knee-pains and when we
left Istanbul she sustained a relatively serious injury. She had to recover
from this for more than a month and even after some successful days riding
since, we are still unsure of the final outcome of this issue.
We produced a series of illustrated articles on the basis of our visit
to Istanbul but have -despite promises to the contrary from Belgium- so
far been unable to publish them. Hopefully this will be solved in Dehli during
our round up of this section of our journey.