50 Interesting Facts about Turkey and the Turks

Turkey is an amazing country with a rich history and beautiful nature. It is an extremely popular tourist destination. In this article, we have collected 50 interesting facts about the country itself and its people to help you make a first impression and plan your holiday in Turkey.

The 50 Most Amazing Facts about Turks and Turkey

1. Turkey is one of the few countries in the world that spans two continents. The largest part of Turkey is located on the Anatolian Peninsula, which is geographically considered part of Asia. A smaller portion lies on the Balkan Peninsula, traditionally considered part of Europe. The boundary between Europe and Asia runs through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

2. Historically, the Anatolian Peninsula has been referred to as Anatolia. This name derives from the ancient Greek word Ἀνατολή, meaning «East.»

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3. Archaeologists have discovered late Neolithic settlements in Turkey, with Çatal-Güyük being considered one of the oldest cities on Earth, dating back nine millennia. Surprisingly, this ancient city lacked fortress walls or the typical public buildings found in cities.

4. Turkey is home to the ruins of two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Legend has it that the Temple of Artemis was destroyed by Herostratus in the 4th century B.C., while the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus fell victim to a powerful earthquake in 1494.

5. Throughout ancient and medieval history, the territory of modern Turkey changed hands frequently, witnessing the rise of various kingdoms and empires, including the Hittite, Lydia, Urartu, Greater Armenia, Alexander the Great’s armies, and the Romans. After the Roman Empire’s fall, the Byzantine Empire established its dominance here. By the late 11th century, Seljuks from Turkestan conquered Anatolia, eventually giving way to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire emerged as a dominant state in Turkey’s territory and lasted until its final dissolution in 1922.

6. The popular Turkish TV series «The Magnificent Century» revolves around the heyday of the Ottoman Empire. It is based on the love story of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his Slavic-born concubine, Alexandra, known by her Turkish name, Hürrem. The series gained international popularity and was broadcast in over 50 countries, making its actors like Halit Ergenç, Meryem Uzerli, and others into international stars.

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7. Modern Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923, following a protracted war of independence. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk served as its first president, and Ankara became the new capital.

8. The Turkish Angora, a popular domestic cat breed, originally hails from Ankara. These cats were introduced to Europe back in the 16th century, though the modern breed wasn’t developed by breeders until the mid-20th century.

Турецкая Ангора

9. The largest city in Turkey is Istanbul. It was founded in 667 BC by Greek settlers. Initially named Byzantium, it later became Constantinople and eventually Istanbul. In Russian chronicles, it is referred to as Tsargrad. Today, Istanbul is home to more than 15 million people and spans both sides of the Bosporus, straddling the continents of Europe and Asia.

10. One of Istanbul’s main symbols, the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, holds deep significance for both Orthodox Christians and Muslims. The cathedral was originally constructed in 324 and became a museum in the last century. In 2020, it was renamed the Great Mosque of Hagia Sophia.

Мечеть Айя София

11. Turkey is bordered by four seas in the Atlantic basin: the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara, and Black Sea. Geographers sometimes identify a fifth sea, the Cypriot Sea, located in the northeastern part of the Mediterranean.

12. The best beaches in Turkey are located on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the resorts of Antalya, Oludeniz, and Alanya. Beaches along the Black Sea are less popular with tourists due to the colder water, although there are some incredibly beautiful places here as well, such as the golden sandy beach of Sinop.

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13. The longest beach in Turkey is located in the Antalya province, near the town of Kalkan. This beach, known as Patara Beach, stretches over 12 kilometers with a maximum width of 1,500 meters.

14. One of Turkey’s symbols is considered to be the tulip. It is from here that these delicate flowers were introduced to Europe in the 16th century, although biologists believe that the native land of tulips is Iran. It wasn’t until the 17th century that the Netherlands became the world’s center of tulip cultivation.

15. The twin peaks of Mount Ararat are a symbol of Armenia, but the mountain itself is located in Turkey. Legend has it that this is where Noah’s ark landed after the Great Flood. Ararat is an ancient volcano, with its last eruption occurring in 1840, meaning the threat of a new cataclysm still exists.

16. Turkey has a population of over 84 million people, the majority of whom are Muslim. The country is secular, and religion is separated from the state. However, Turks hold their faith in reverence, and tourists are advised to respect Muslim customs.

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17. In the country’s public buildings, you can see a black arrow on the ceilings pointing in the direction of Mecca, as Muslims face Mecca when they pray.

18. Turkey is home to many different indigenous nationalities, including Greeks, Armenians, Azeris, and Assyrians. However, almost 97% of the population is composed of ethnic Turks and Kurds.

19. Turkey’s economy is based on industry, but the country is better known for its agricultural products outside its borders. It is a global leader in growing hazelnuts, cherries, pomegranates, dates, and apricots.

20. Prior to 1934, Turks did not have formal surnames. They used the suffix «-Oğlu,» meaning «Son,» added to their names. In 1934, Turkey’s first president, Kemal Ataturk, enacted a law requiring everyone to adopt a surname. For example, the surname Ataturk means «Father of all Turks.»

21. While Turkey may not be commonly associated with skyscrapers, they do exist. The Brilliant Skyscraper in Istanbul has 66 floors and stands 311 meters tall, making it the fourth tallest skyscraper in Europe.

22. The Asian part of Turkey is connected to the European part by four bridges across the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. The longest of these bridges is the Canakkale Bridge, completed in 2022, which spans 4,600 meters and is the world’s longest suspension bridge.

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23. Turkey is known to tourists not only for its beautiful beaches and exotic entertainment but also as a global shopping destination. Millions of tourists visit Istanbul every year to explore local shops, boutiques, and markets, which offer some of the most affordable goods in Europe. Travel agencies even offer five-day shopping tours to Istanbul.

24. Europe’s largest shopping mall, the Cevahir Shopping and Entertainment Centre, is also located in Istanbul. Situated on Büyükdere Avenue, it covers a total area of more than 420,000 square meters and houses nearly 350 shops on its six floors.

Торговый центр Джевахир

25. The institution of marriage is highly respected in Turkey. Only 2% of the adult population in the country live alone and do not start a family. In a quarter of all established couples, the wife is older than the husband, and one in four women prefers a caesarean section to a normal delivery.

26. In Turkish families, spouses never address each other by name. They use endearing epithets like «my darling,» «my soul,» and «my angel,» believing that names are reserved for communication with friends and acquaintances, and that genuine loved ones do not require such formalities.

27. Turkey has its own tea ceremony, distinct from the Oriental one. Here, tea is brewed in a special double teapot. Turks consume tea in significant quantities and at a high frequency, serving it in small cups shaped like tulip buds.

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28. Turkey is also renowned for its coffee. The recipe for Turkish coffee calls for the use of a Turkish coffee pot, a special copper pot with a long wooden handle. The coffee is brewed with sugar and consumed very hot from small cups.

29. Turkish cuisine combines elements of Greek, Balkan, Caucasian, and Arabian cuisine. The food is prepared following Islamic dietary laws, such as pork being available only in resort areas for foreign tourists.

30. Among the most popular Turkish dishes are various kebabs with grilled meat, flatbreads, chorba soups, and imam bayaldi, a dish featuring baked aubergines.

31. Turkish sweets are highly popular among tourists, including baklava, tulumba, lokum, pishmaniye, and others. A trip to Turkey wouldn’t be complete without savoring their delightful flavors.

Турецкие сладости

32. Fish and fish dishes can only be found in Turkey during the cold season when the fishing season becomes intense. In the summer, there is almost no fish in Turkey, and it becomes very expensive.

33. Turks generally do not have a strong preference for alcohol, traditionally ranking as one of the lightest-drinking nations in Europe. However, you can easily purchase alcohol in specialized shops in the country, including the famous Raki, an aniseed vodka with an alcoholic strength ranging from 40 to 70 degrees.

34. There’s no rush in the Turkish way of life. Turks are rarely in a hurry, and being late for an appointment is quite common. It’s not just a matter of punctuality; it’s a part of national tradition. People here live in the moment and derive great pleasure from it.

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35. Turks are known for their hospitality, but they may also drop by unannounced at any time. They can spend hours conversing about various topics, including trying to acquaint foreigners with the intricacies of local life.

36. Etiquette in Turkey is quite nuanced. A man typically avoids sitting with an unfamiliar woman, and in public transport, women and men often sit separately. It’s not common to shake hands with women, as it might be misconstrued as a more personal gesture.

37. Many common gestures in Turkey may be misunderstood by foreigners. For instance, shaking your head to the left or right implies a lack of understanding. Snapping fingers indicates approval, while placing a hand on your chest signifies either rejection or gratitude.

38. It is customary to remove your shoes when entering a Turkish home. Both guests and hosts should take off their shoes at the entrance. Turkish hosts often provide slippers for their guests, but guests can also bring their own.

39. In Istanbul and some other cities in Turkey, you may frequently spot bald men wearing black headbands. These individuals are not members of any sect or community but have come to the country for hair transplants. Premature hair loss is common among Turks, making hair transplant procedures very popular in the country.

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40. You can often spot women in the country with henna-painted hands. This signifies that a Turkish woman is preparing for or has recently attended a significant event, such as a hen party or a wedding.

41. Turks are known for their inclination towards gambling and taking unnecessary risks. Altercations can quickly escalate into brawls. Football, among all sports, is particularly respected and beloved in the country.

42. Turks have a fondness for haggling and negotiation. You may initially be quoted double or triple the price, and bargaining for every lira is a common practice. Haggling is considered a matter of honor.

43. Antalya is often considered the most budget-friendly resort, while Bodrum is renowned for its sophistication and hosts popular golf courses. Turks tend to prefer beach vacations along the Aegean Sea.

44. In addition to the sunny beaches, Turkey boasts ten ski resorts, many of which are located in regions with rather high mountains, some of which have snow-covered peaks throughout the year.

45. Turkey is home to several of the world’s largest oceanariums, including those in Istanbul with 6.8 million liters of water and in Antalya with 7.5 million liters.

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46. Turkey places a high priority on environmental protection. The country boasts 45 national parks, 250 nature parks, and 31 protected areas.

47. The province of Denizli is renowned for the famous thermal springs of Pamukkale, with water temperatures ranging from 40 to 100 degrees Celsius. Over the centuries, calcium from this water has shaped terraced baths adorned with snow-white stalactites.

Памуккале

48. The first hammam in the East appeared in Istanbul. Locals visit the hammam to share news and socialize with friends. In the hamam, the ceilings are always designed in the form of a cone so that water droplets run down the walls rather than onto the heads of the bathers.

49. The fez headdress is named after the Moroccan town where they were made. Historically, however, the fez dates back to Byzantium in what is now Turkey.

Турецкий Ван

50. In addition to Angora cats, Turkey is famous for another exotic breed: the Turkish Van, a breed that has historically inhabited the vicinity of Lake Van in eastern Turkey. These cats are known for their colorful eyes and their unusual affinity for water, a trait uncommon among felines.

Please:

Friends, if you have more interesting facts about Turks and Turkey, please share them in the comments. This country is rich in amazing stories, culture, and traditions, and many would love to learn more. We would be very grateful!

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