At this point I would like to explain a few things about my research, my intentions, and the chronology of these articles. In order to discuss the issues that this research mission is intended to touch on, I must explain the logistical framework that I intend to write in. In regard to the empirical aspects of this experience, a clear and objective representation of the city that I am living in must be relayed to you. Every cultural, social, religious, and political aspect of this country needs to be discussed. Whether or not these aspects can be revered or rejected is completely up to the reader. What is most important to acknowledge are the implications of the developments in this society that I, as a writer, am trying to bring to you.
Undoubtedly, the only way to truly comprehend these ideas, one needs to experience them as thoroughly as possible. My main goal is to have my readers relive these things with me and through my writing. I can tell you about the famous drink “Raki,” or about the way the Turkish feel about Ataturk. I can even explain the feeling one gets once they hear their first morning prayers in an Islamic society, but these things do no good if I do not properly discuss the way these attributes contribute to how this society deals with sustainability and ecology. These connections, however, can only be explained through a process of writing, rediscovery, more writing and a few “a-ha” moments. I can only hope that you are enjoying this journey as much as I am. With that said, let us talk about development.
During my first few days here one of my favorite activities was to hop on either one of the hundreds of mini-buses, a big bus, or the metro, and get off at a random spot with the hope of getting completely lost and working my way back home. Doing this accomplished two things: The first objective was to stop and ask directions from anyone I saw (even if I had an idea of where I was heading), which in turn opened up the door for conversation with locals and first-hand interviews with people who gladly spoke their views. Secondly, I was forced to walk around the city, take everything in, and see how this city is developing. Consequently I have been exposed to the intense development that is occurring in this city. I have never seen so much development in my life excepting Los Vegas three years ago, but it is always hard to remember Vegas.
This city seems to be growing exponentially. There are cranes, cement machines, and big trucks constantly in motion putting together new mosques, skyscrapers, apartment buildings and malls everywhere. Ankara is the business and legislative capital of Turkey, while Istanbul carries the title of the cultural capital. The differences between these two cities can be seen in the architecture and infrastructure. With a city of more than 4.5 million people, a dependable transit and roadway system is necessary to provide a means of economic and social development. Because of this, the city municipalities are constantly reinventing the landscape.
As much construction as there is moving toward the sky, there is development underground as well. There is an enormous underground transit system ranging from two major metro systems to a complex series of underground tunnels and passageways, which pop out of nowhere and come out halfway across the city, which makes Ankara look like my older brother’s backyard before he took care of his gopher problem. The traffic is still somewhat unbearable, but this is coming. Nonetheless, the amount of cars, buses, and taxis is only trumped by the hundreds of thousands of people I see on the metro every day. This city is constantly hustling and bustling, its citizens are constantly on the move. My Goleta stroll has somewhere along the line turned into a Manhattan stride and I am not sure how I feel about this. Either way, this city is growing and it is growing on me.
From the people that I have spoken with about Ankara’s steady development I have learned about a few key issues that I would like to speak about in the upcoming articles. One revealing aspect about this growth can be seen through the construction of a gigantic mosque on the way to Bilkent University. This mosque is still under construction but its immensity rivals that of Istanbul’s pride and joy, The Blue Mosque. This is representative of the connections that exist between the powerful political, religious, and economic entities in Turkey.
From my understanding, government contracts to keep Ankara growing are being handed out, without the bidding process, to Islamic businessmen and religious organizations throughout this country. Millions of lira’s (the Turkish currency) are being exchanged back and forth between these groups. The cycle is quite recognizable: The businessmen give massive funding to the campaigns of the major parties that run for office and, in turn, once these politicians are elected they hand out contracts to these developers, and the cycle continues. Secondly, these new developments need new real estate, which has generally come at the cost of the poorer and marginalized groups being pushed out of their slums and shantytowns to make way for high-rise apartments and shopping malls. These issues do not seem that much different from what happens all over the U.S except for the whole Islamic businessmen part. But hey, it’s Turkey. Right?