Turkey is a country of more than 70 million people. Surrounded by both land and water, Turkey acts as a cultural and geographical bridge between the Middle East and Europe. It falls between the Black Sea to the North, the Mediterranean Sea to the South and the Aegean Sea to the West. It borders eight countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Greece, Georgia, Bulgaria, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Because of this strategic positioning and the West Asian and East European influences on the country, Turkey is fairly liberal and cosmopolitan while still maintaining deep tradition and religious beliefs.
The country is predominately Muslim but the degree of conservatism varies based on location. The northwestern and western coasts are more cosmopolitan and have a liberal take on religion. The most conservative area is the Central Steppes but in comparison to other stricter Middle Eastern countries, the region is still quite liberal.
Turkey is not yet officially part of the European Union but is currently on the list of candidate countries.
Rich History of Turkey
Turkey has a rich history which dates back to the 9th Century. Architecture from the time of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire is still visible throughout the country. Throughout Turkey specimens of fine historical architecture such as the Dolmabahce Palace will catch the eye of any traveler.
Sites and Attractions of Turkey
Cappadocia – These volcanic rock formations form a network of tunnels and caves. These cave dwellings were carved out of volcanic rock approximately 4,000 years ago.
Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) – Finished in 1616, this mosque is also the tomb of Sultan Ahmed. It is unique because it has influence of Ottoman architecture.
Topkapi Palace – A World Heritage Site which served as the principal residence of Ottoman rulers for about four hundred years, this Istanbul palace epitomizes the opulent Turkish architecture.
The Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) – The maze-like streets of the Grand Bazaar are home to over 4000 shops selling everything from psychedelic lanterns to aromatic spices.
Hammam – Your visit to Turkey would be incomplete without getting yourself scrubbed and massaged at a hammam (also known as a Turkish bath).
Ramadan is a month long period of fasting for all Muslims. During this 30-day period, followers of Islam are not allowed to eat during the daylight hours. Stricter Muslims will not even consume water. While fasting is not mandatory in Turkey, because it is predominately a Muslim country, Ramadan does alter the way the entire country functions during that timeframe. Much of the country has a celebratory mood after the sun goes down and many have special gatherings to break the fast each day. The dates of Ramadan fluctuate according to the Arabic calendar but it usually starts sometime between the end of June and the beginning of August.
Medical Tourism in Turkey
The Joint Commission International has accredited more than 34 hospitals throughout the country. According to a report published in the Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish news source, more than 40,000 medical tourists visited the country in 2009.
Medical travelers go to Turkey for treatment ranging from cancer treatments to open heart surgery. The vast range of services and treatments available is a pull factor bringing patients to Turkey.
Most flights from the United States and Canada will require a layover in a Western European country such as England or Germany. The total travel time is somewhere between 8-15 hours. The primary point of entry for international flights is Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport, though Ankara’s Esenboga Airport does have international flights landing there as well.
Citizens of most countries can get a visa upon arrival that is valid for three months.