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Free Travel Guide of Turkey Pontic coast: East of Trabzon - Trebizond

PART4: OF TRAVEL, TRABZON

Of and Surmene look a lot like each other. In fact they are polar opposites. Surmene leans left; Of is dyed-in-the¬wool conservative. Surmene has the
thickest "Black Sea" accent: Of's is equally thick but different. Traditionally there has been no love lost between the two highly idiosyncratic communities.
Of has a long tradition as one of the strongest bastions of Islamic piety in the country. In the past century, the Of and Çaykara districts claimed no less than 350 medreses (theological schools), an unbelievable ratio of one per sixty inhabitants. Their graduates had a high reputation for religious learning throughout the Ottoman Empire.
Things have not changed much: Dr. Sait Yazicioglu, the current Director of Religious Affairs, in effect the Turkish analogue of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is a native of the district. Just about every village proudly displays the sign for its Kuran Kursu, the modern equivalent of a medrese, where children between 6 and 18 years of age learn to recite and interpret the Quran. Hocas (Muslim learned men) and hacis (those who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca), identified by their thick beards and white skull caps, seem to form a majority in the streets. The most palpable sign of the spirit of the place is the astonishing number of mosques. Many of these are enormous multisto¬ried buildings that dwarf the villages in which they are located-colossal monuments to traditional piety and modern construction techniques. Some have a positively fairytale aspect, standing alone on a wild green mountainside.
To add another touch of the bizarre, many of the region's inhabitants have grown up speaking Greek as their first language, especially in the inland areas around Çaykara. Hocas explain the apparent incongruity by pointing out that questions of race and nationality are meaningless before the universal appeal of Islam. Historians unruffle nationalist feathers by pointing out that the adoption of Greek was itself a late (probably medieval) development. A tribal language seems to have survived until as late as the 17th century.

TRAVEL TRABZON SERANDER


One can only speculate about the origins of the district's religious culture. Some have suggested a link with the celestial beauty of the surrounding landscape. On a less poetic note one may point out that the valleys of Of were first converted to Islam at a relatively late date. Prior to their conversion 1690s, they had the reputation of being a notorious bed of lawless bandits. From a more sanguine perspective, their clans were too independently-minded to submit to the control of an outside authority. Was religious devotion an antidote, then, to the memories of an unruly past, a badge of honor worn to set off the scorn of outsiders or a sign of hardearned "civilization"?

 

 

Free Travel Guide of Turkey Pontic coast: East of Trabzon - Trebizond

 Part 1: Tea Plants
Part 2:
Markets
Part 3:
Sürmene
Part 4:
A Muslim Redoubt
Part 5:
A Lakeside Eden
Part 6:
Rize and Environs
Part 7:
Lazland
Part 8:
A Little Berlin

Part 9: Bull wrestling in Artvin

 


 

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