Accompanied by a 35mm exploration in all its lo-fi glory.
5 AM. Adana, Turkey. I normally wouldn’t be up, but I’m still on Sydney time where it’s 1 PM. In my hotel room, the door to the balcony is cracked open to circulate some fresh air and the curtains drawn back so I feel a little less lonely. There’s a direct, unobstructed view of Sabancı Merkez Camii, the country’s largest mosque. It stands as a towering symbol of religious antiquity and moral authority, despite only going into service in 1998. A mere blink of the eye ago in comparison to the grand narrative of the nation’s rich history. A rich and storied history of empires rising from the ground up, and crumbling under foreign control at the dawn of modernity; of overcoming conflict and struggle; and of a people thriving in spite of hardship.
The mosque itself is situated in amongst the heart of Adana’s urban sprawl, on the edge of town where our guide, Mustafa, says the old meets the new. A gentle call to prayer rouses. In between the lulls and pauses, you can hear the symphony of traffic interwoven within the early morning atmosphere. And that is essentially the ethos of Turkey; as both a physical location and an idea. It’s a place of duality you can literally see in the streets. Tradition and progress. The past and the future. Happening constantly, everywhere at once, but centred right here and in this very moment. It’s about parsing through the complex and the intricate in order to get back to basics.
On a personal level, I had no idea what I was going to find here. I had only officially resigned from my old job not three hours prior to boarding Qatar Airways Business Class. Suffice it to say, this was an interesting moment of transition. Admittedly, I could have also done some more research before jetting off to a foreign land. All I had known about Turkey was whatever bits of information I had retained from high school lessons on the former Constantinople, now Istanbul, and what the anxiety-ridden headlines that seem to be more commonplace these days aimed to report. I’ll be the first to admit, this trip wasn’t without some initial concerns. In more ways than one.
Something you need to understand about Adana (and by extension, Turkey as a whole) is that it is in every sense of the term, uniquely singular. And although you may recognise glimpses of a world similar to your own, some things are truly just theirs. A billboard of a brooding model advertising jeans, for example, may appear identical to a Western Levi’s billboard. But upon closer inspection, you realise it’s selling a brand known as “Mavi” (Turkish for “blue”, go figure). Where corners of a metropolis back home might have a space reserved for car dealerships, Adana makes room for storefronts of those very same brands; except rather than selling entire cars, they sell the car parts. And that very sentiment can be said about every other cultural aspect to be experienced in this forgotten corner of tourism. Whether it be a landmark, historical site, or restaurant, there are entire worlds to be explored with self-contained origin stories, cultural logic, and practices.
The land possess a raw, unspoken beauty; unapologetic and unwavering. Adana is a place that presents all it has to offer on a silver platter to anyone who is open and willing. The natural scenery is a sight to behold. Outlining the sky with their rugged outlines, the sheer image of canyons which forces you to walk for a fair few kilometres are so gorgeous, you almost don’t mind christening your brand new white Converses with dirt and blister fluids (gross, I know).
The magnitude of the architecture is one that can never be dismissed. Every brick was calculated to last, and grows impossibly stronger as time mount against it. You really get the sense that wherever you’re standing, under whatever kind of roof it may be, pivotal figures of eras we can hardly conceive did indeed imbue these structures with their presence, and irrevocably changed the course of today with decisions made right there and then.
And the markets provide a refreshing take on shopping, as opposed to the McCorporate dealings we’ve become accustomed to with the advent of shopping centres. They invite you to really browse, to engaging in a dialogue with with a shopkeeper more than happy to chit-chat and past the time. Samples are generously given out with a smile before you make a definite choice, and regardless of the outcome, purchase or no purchase, there are never any hard feelings. Sometimes, they’re just content with you trying their wares because they have quite literally dedicated their lives just to share it with others.
At one point, one of our other guides mentioned how the brief week in which we were to stay was “Such a short time to know Adana… these are small things…”. And she was right. No amount of articles can completely capture all the nuances and details of what it’s like to be there firsthand. To breathe the air with your own lungs, see the stones with your own eyes, and to create a bond with the locals– these are all just some of the small, basic things that matter, but builds towards something larger and more difficult to fully grasp. It builds towards Adana: the idea and the place.
Qatar Airways is now flying directly from Doha to Adana. You can book your at qatarairways.com, along with over 150 other destinations across 80 countries.
| Read about ‘The Unrivalled Hospitality of Adana‘. |