How Strict is Islam in Turkey? Tips for Travelers

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Turkey is 98.6% Muslim. What does that mean for travelers who may not know much about Islam or the way it's practiced in Turkey?

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Battalgazi and surrounding landscapes, Turkey Photo © Getty Images/SkyVizyon

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Due in part to how Western media portrays Muslim countries, some travelers may have concerns about visiting Turkey. 

In reality, Islam shapes travelers’ experiences in overwhelmingly positive ways — through the indelible impressions it has left on everything from Turkish foodways to the country’s iconic architecture. 

Islam in Turkey dates back to the 8th century, when Turkic tribes fought alongside Arab Muslims against Chinese forces at the Battle of Talas in 751 A.D. Spurred by the influence of ruling dynasties, many people converted to Islam over the next few centuries.

Modern Turkey was founded in 1923 as a distinctly secular republic — a key difference between Turkey and countries such as Saudi Arabia or Pakistan — but Islam remains inextricably intertwined with Turkish culture. 

Turkish children are designated Muslim at birth unless their parents are affiliated with another religion, leading to a population that is 99% Muslim but diverse in how strictly individuals and families observe Islam. 

Regardless of where they personally fall on the spectrum, Turkish people tend to approach religion with respect and decorum. We spoke with Fatih Özkan, from the Süleymaniye Mosque Cultural Info Center, about what you should keep in mind while traveling in Turkey so you can do the same.

Muslim practices in Turkey

The most prevalent form of Islam practiced in Turkey is Sunni Islam — another departure from neighboring countries where most people adhere to Shia Islam. Turkey is also known for its Sufi community, an Islamic mystic tradition associated with the city of Konya and the poet Rumi. 

Devotees, known in the West as “whirling dervishes” use a spinning movement to deepen their spiritual connection. Some groups provide demonstrations where visitors can observe this tradition in person. 

It’s good to know the roots of religious traditions but, ultimately, Özkan cautions against putting too much emphasis on the different titles and sects of Islam, which the Prophet Mohammed never mentioned and are not in the Koran. 

Call to prayer in Turkey

One way that observant Muslims show their devotion is by praying throughout the day. 

In every Turkish city, the call to prayer reverberates from mosque speakers five times daily, announcing central tenets of the Islamic faith and reminding Muslims to pray. The first one takes place before sunrise and admonishes the faithful to remember that “prayer is better than sleep.” 

When they hear the call, practicing Muslims stop what they’re doing, kneel facing Mecca, and pray. Non-Muslims are not expected to partake in this, but there is some etiquette you should practice when you encounter others who do: 

  • Avoid standing in front of anyone who is praying 
  • Stay silent during the call 
  • Give worshippers their space and refrain from taking pictures of them.

Ramadan

Ramadan, called Ramazan in Turkey, is a month-long period of fasting that Muslims around the world observe each year, usually in May and June. (The actual dates vary according to the Islamic lunar calendar.) Participants eschew food and beverages — this includes water — from sunrise to sunset, breaking their daily fast with a celebratory meal, or iftar.

Taking part in the fast “is a kind of praying,” explains Özkan, and people who do are intentionally “kind of starving” as a way to build empathy. “They are trying to understand what poor people feel. Otherwise, how can we understand that?”

No one expects visiting foreigners to fast – many Turks don’t. But if, during Ramadan, you happen to be traveling in any Muslim country — or even a predominantly Muslim community or neighborhood — you can be courteous by not eating and drinking in public during the day. Opt for indoor seating in restaurants and if you need water, sip it discreetly. At sunset, head to restaurants to sample special bread, dates, and other delicacies that are traditionally served at the iftar meal.

Visiting a mosque in Turkey

Visiting a mosque is one of the best ways to learn about Muslim culture and experience unparalleled examples of Islamic architecture and design, which is typified by jewel tones, gold embellishment, and constellations of geometric patterns. Many historic mosques, including the Süleymaniye Mosque where Özkan works, are part of larger complexes that once included schools, cemeteries, and shops. 

Mosques are open to all visitors except during prayer times. (Non-Turkish Muslim travelers are always free to join in prayers, says Özkan.) You can also engage registered guides for an educational tour of mosques like Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, and Kariye Mosque. 

During prayer, the Süleymaniye Mosque Cultural Info Center offers 20-minute presentations about Turkish culture, with complimentary tea or Turkish coffee — and sometimes even soup and baklava, says Özkan. The center’s volunteers are also available inside the mosque to answer questions about the history and architecture of this striking space.

When entering a mosque, both men and women need to have their legs covered and shoes removed. Women are expected to cover their heads with a scarf. (Don’t worry if you forget; most mosques have scarves you can borrow.) 

Note that many Muslims come to mosques to pray or read the Koran or just relax in a sacred space even outside scheduled prayer times. Respect them by refraining from public displays of affection, taking pictures of them, or engaging in disruptive and loud behavior.

Eating and drinking in Turkey

Islam does have some guidelines for food and drink, but they are unlikely to affect travelers, particularly in major cities like Istanbul. 

Pork is not widely available and very few restaurants serve it. Alcohol, on the other hand, is, even though Islam technically prohibits intoxicants. 

That being said, Özkan suggests having “clear limits” when you are drinking in public. Keep it close to your hotel if you can and understand that no one really wants to deal with drunk, rowdy foreigners. 

Other public behavior to avoid in Turkey

In addition to public drunkenness, public displays of affection are not customary in Turkey. While kissing both cheeks is a typical greeting, kissing on the mouth is considered private. 

“Muslims in Turkey and generally [in the] Islamic world, they keep these touches [and] physical things in their houses,” says Özkan. 

Turkish women also tend to dress more modestly than their Western counterparts, particularly in conservative communities like Fatih or Uskudar in Istanbul or smaller towns and villages. That being said, Özkan believes that men should refrain from staring at women — something male travelers should also keep in mind during their time in Turkey.

“Allah created us and… we have a freedom” of behavior, he says, but “that free will brings us responsibility.”

Religious extremism in Turkey

Just because a community is conservative doesn’t mean it is a hotbed of religious or political extremism — or a threat to your safety. 

Despite what Western news media may imply, Islam doesn’t make people more violent than any other religion does. You’re no more likely to encounter extremism in Turkey than you are in your home country. 

Freedom of speech and assembly is handled differently in Turkey than in Western countries, so if you encounter protests or demonstrations during your travels, it’s best to simply walk on by. Also, check your government’s current advisories before traveling to southeastern Turkey, an area of fluid politics due to its proximity to conflict in Iraq, Iran, and Syria. 

All smart travelers know the importance of paying respect to local customs and beliefs. But you are much more likely to be bitten by wild animals or get struck by lightning than you are to be kidnapped or caught within the midst of a religious or political upheaval while traveling in Turkey. 

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52 Comments

  • ADNAN TUNC said

    You can wear whatever you want in Turkey.. That's true, we are not in 1960's when mini skirt was a hot fashion in Turkey and rest of the world, but what a woman wears is her own decision.. In every country men just look after a woman who wears short things but that's not a big deal.. Secularism in Turkey is fundamental, it's world's one of two countries which secularism is the main law of the constitution (among with France) Especially Western and Southern Turkey both based on social democracy

    Reply

  • Vishal said

    This religion looks like god has created humans just to worship him . Is the Islam god psycho?

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  • Noura said

    About the last comment written by Vishal, I would undoubtly respect what you say, but I am kindly asking you to never judge before you know the truth. If I were you i would read first about Islam and write whatever i desire after that when I have a clear image about the whole scene.

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  • DOUG said

    HAHAHHA The most stupid things I've ever read! what a misleading article! which idiot wrote this? Have they ever visited Turkey? What does it mean never comment on food in Muslim countries? If something is shitty you have righ to anounce it freely! Especially in Turkey Islam has no effect on public rules but only in morality of people and this is many times mixed with Islam however it's traditions and respect! Besides that go to Mosques if you are not Muslim you don't need to cover or wear anything special! Guys wear shorts this is very stupid to say stay away from shorts bla bla... Seriously talking here that's a bullshit! If anyone wants better and clear information with pros-cons I would be happy to help!

    Cheers and peace!

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  • Riz said

    Can a woman enter a Turkish mosque in bikini?

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    • Asif Iqbal said

      The number of escorts, prostitutes, and erotic belly dancers available in Turkey suggests that it is trying to snatch the title of "Europe's Bordello" away from Germany. This is not the behavior of a Muslim country as this article would lead you to believe!

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  • I.H. said

    Thats very disrespectful Riz
    Tell your mom not to do that

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  • Ceil said

    Turkey may be a liberal County but it's always a good idea for foreign travelers to be respectful to the culture, cusine and religion. Women wearing skimpy outfits only draw unwanted attention to themselves.

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  • melanie said

    do ALL Muslims in Turkey go to Mosque?

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  • om haroon said

    i am so glad that i have left "the civilized world" and moved to a muslim country. reading these comments remind me that i have made the right choice. this article IS appropriate except its inaccuracy about not exposing your western-ness so as to avoid being harmed, not in any muslim country i have ever lived in or traveled to have i seen westerners do anything except proudly display themselves and no-one gave them a second glance (except for myself).

    Doug, are you OK? this article isn't misleading, i think you just want attention. yes, guys do wear shorts but maybe the author is suggesting that it would be more polite not to do so as arabs are very accomodating and way less likely than westerners to intimidate or embarass someone even though they are uncomfortable with the attire they would much rather extend hospitality to the guest, even if they are dressed rudely.

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  • om haroon said

    vishal's comment just shows lack of understanding. i feel offended by your comment as i am muslim, but as such as i should welcome you by way of reasoning. choosing what's good is key in islam as the coerced will ultimately retreat to their own desires. and Allah says in the Quran "Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason." so we should understand that we have a mind to reflect, and come to logical conclusions. we are never forced into belief. we can be forced to behavior, but not belief. so to answer your question "is the islam god...?" let's assume you understand the concept of God, is it possible that the One who created everything that exists is like His creation, and therefore feels powerful by being worshiped? that's a human characteristic. it doesn't make sense that He is powerful enough to create all that exists and still need to feel powerful. if the God you speak of (from misunderstanding) liked to be worshiped then could He not have created "mindless" beings that would worship Him without argument. But He created humans with free will. imagine, is there a triumph in having an ant-like creature DECIDE to worship willfully, he's just an ant, his worship isn't valuable. let's suppose you could make all the earthworms prostrate to you every morning would you feel almighty? we created beings tend to over-value ourselves, the Creator doesn't need our worship, He already created the galaxies and what is beyond, could such a One have the frail attribute of needing to be worshiped? we weren' t in existence, we didn't even know that we weren't here. did you know that you weren't here before you were born? and this universe that we live in was also created so that we could come to the conclusion of belief by using reasoning, by looking at the intricacies of the creation, and the wisdom, order, etc. animals don't reason, they are here to help us and make our lives more joyful, and to be observed, their behavior is also a part of creation. we never hold animals accountable for their behavior the way we do humans, there is no animal justice system. we were created with reasoning abilities. Allah didn't need to create us, we should feel honored that we even exist and have a chance to live happily in the next life. by the way doesn't a reward become more valuable when it has been earned? i am sure you have never cheated on a test but if you have you are familiar with that empty lowly feeling you get when you see your perfect score, why does it feel different when you studied instead of cheated? the reward becomes a reward when we see hard work come to fruition. so maybe the reward of the next life will become an elation for us because of all the suffering we have done in this life. and isn't it hard to be patient (worship), pray 5 times a day (worship), fast for 30 days in a row (worship), pay some of our money to the poor (worship), are you starting to see why worship is for us? it is mercy upon us because without it we will be deluded and empty, our souls yearn for the spiritual connection to our Creator, and that comes through worship in the form or obedience, that is our instant cashback for this life-spiritual connection, and the ultimate reward, the final score is in the next, and the sense of satisfaction and bliss we will feel will be in direct proportion to the hard effort (worship) we have paid in this life. Not, by the way, because our work deserves such a huge reward but because of our intention to be thankful in this life. He is The Thankful, The Grateful. And He actualizes our tiniest efforts.

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  • Hakan said

    One guy asked are Turkish all Muslims? lol only on paper. Turkey is not %99 Muslim, it is the biggest bs ever. None of my friends pray or got to a mosque and most of the Turks that claim they are Muslims are not Muslims at all. In rural areas there are more conservatives but in Cities, not many really care. You don't need to go to a Mosque to worship god. Turkey is not an Arabic country and it insults many Turks that Turkey is Middle Eastern country. There is no bs like Middle East in Geography, it is called Asia!!! Middle East was put in place to give a bad name to Muslim countries. Turkey is secular thanks to ATATURK and Ataturk is the reason why Turkey is different that all other Muslim nations. We all know where most Muslim countries in global scale. They are usually down the bottom. Turkey will always be secular and modern Turks have nothing in common with mostly over religious Arabs. Religion is personal and it cracks me up when people choose a country bc it is Muslim, Christian, Jewish whatever. Most Muslim nations are in deep chaos. Don't come to Turkey if you are uneducated or extremely religious. We have too many of these idiots that are ruining Turkey. Developed countries rely on Science not Religion!

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  • jennifer said

    I have been to Turkey before. A person is not forced to do anything, and if you are not muslim, there is no need to wear head cover. Men can wear shorts under the knee, but again, it is not a must. If you enter a place of prayer, you still don't need a head cover, but wear appropriate, be respectful.

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  • Romany said

    My sister lived in turkey but not in a holiday town and we were very careful to cover up, as we were the only white people around, the locals were wonderful leaving food at the gate often, the village food was to die for simple but delicious, and so cheap and they all laughed in the bus when we asked for our stop in Turkish, I got told one day to cover my feet but I made sure I had leggings in under my dress and a cardigan on, holidaying in Turkey was totally different and a Weston people wore very little and no one seemed to mind. The culture is different in different parts of Turkey, and simply ask a local what’s acceptable but one day shopping we saw a woman shopping in a bikini and she caused a bit of a stir as she would here but I love tukey and only had one odd experience on a bus going over the mountains when a man stared at me for half the journey until the bus driver shouted at him to stop. But apart from that each visit has been amazing. We were at a cafe near tlos and it was my birthday they sent someone to buy a cake and found happy birthday in the pc to play, and then asked us to choose English music to put on this was in the winter and it was full of Turkish men, women and men don’t dance or sing together so they really put us first, and they taught my husband a local dance but allowed us to watch. Lots of English live in turkey but in ex pat areas I loved the fact we got to see the real Turkey.

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  • Hasina said

    You definetly did not read any further on Islam and you deceided to comment about the Islam and Allah. This shows how you are quick to comment after reading half the story. Mohammad requested to Allah that the people will not be able to pray 50 prayers so Allah reduced the prayers to 5 prayers. And Allah was also testing Mohammad. Allah already knew they will not pray 50 prayers and leave the prayers altogether, thats why Allah made 5 prayers for us.

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  • Kalfan said

    Hi my dear all friends , I am not good at English so my Muslim brothers and sisters may Allah help you to increase your knowledge to spread Islam all over the world and my dear non Muslim brothers I am very happy that you all are researching our religion deeply like this mashah allah it’s also Allah's gift okay guys I wanna tell only one thing for now , if you want to study Islam don’t look at Muslim people and what others are saying about Islam because no one is perfect in this wold we are human beings so better you read the QURAN till the end not in half ????????okay guys if my some word hurt you I am sorry because I am not good at English salam

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  • Yanni said

    Turkey is technically not "Middle East"

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  • Sara said

    I laugh when Turks mock arabs and think they are "better" and that they get offended when they are called "middle easters" - well i have just come back from Istanbul and to be honest its almost the same as Jordan - only difference is that there are more tall buildings (probably because the size of istanbul is almost the size of the whole of Jordan) - so stop the hate please, because we are all the same. Muslims and non-muslims we are all humans. And please stop the outdated thinking of "oh my country is secular and therefore it's not stupid like religious countries" because by fact Turkey is far from developed when you look at developing religious countries like the USA and the UK (christian), Saudi and many more. Please just stop. People in istanbul are far from "rich" in restaurants they beg for you to come in and give some tips. We are all humans, no one is superior to the other. instead of differentiating each other based on religion, race and status, we should seek to protect human interests of equality and respect.

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  • Allan said

    I’m a Lebanese/Australian moslem & have visited Turkey/ Istanbul . I think & see Islam is present in turkey & is the foundation of this strong beautiful country. God bless Islam & turkey.

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  • Zeynep said

    Seriously, there are some parts in Istanbul that are rather extreme about this but overall it's not that much of an issue. For example, wearing shorts that are above the knees (or mini-skirts and clothing that reveals more skin than your average wear) in areas like Basaksehir or Kayasehir wouldn't be wise. But that doesn't mean there aren't places you can't wear them! In fact, the cities at south are much lax at these matters since the climate is too hot to cover every inch of your skin.

    And eating - okay guys I don't know about you but I've never heard about those rules? And I live in Istanbul. I mean, YEAH, if you don't like your meal tough luck and you don't bitch about it but that doesn't mean you gotta eat it if you don't want to, or maybe they got your order wrong (that happens ALL the time especially if you tell them to not put some ingredient in your meal) and nothing is wrong with telling them that they got it wrong. People are usually relaxed around here.

    Not all Turkish people go to the mosque to pray, not all Turkish people even PRAY, and lastly not all Muslims pray (me being a prime example.) Of course, not ordering food from outside around the prayer hours is considered polite and considerate. And on another note, DON'T GO OUT IN A CAR DURING FRIDAY NOONS. The traffic is immense (ESPECIALLY IN ISTANBUL) because it's the "sacred day" and almost everyone goes to the mosques to pray. Weekends are absolutely dreadful cause you can't go anywhere without getting stuck in the traffic. Monday after 10-ish before 16-ish is good if you want to go sight-see.

    Welp, I guess that's all. I'm just trying to get out of the country before I'm stuck here with nowhere else to go.

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  • Wyd said

    I've been in Istanbul. I have some points abt visiting it.
    First, not all hotels will accept a male and his female friend (except as husband and wife) to stay in a same room. I stayed in a 3 star-hotel.
    Don't go around the city at around Friday prayer because most men will go to mosque. I think men who don't perform daily prayers will visit a mosque on Friday. We can hear a prayer call (adzan) around the city center 5 times a day.
    Non Muslim women who wearing a sleeveless blouse will be asked to wear a robe or a long dress provided by the mosque before entering the mosque.
    Sellers will offer us a cup of hot tea when we are looking for goods in their store. They will say an Islamic greeting (assalamualaikum) when they re seeing foreign customers come over.
    The best thing that I remember is Turkish people will greet me politely and kindly with a smile when I'm walking around the city.

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  • Traveller said

    I am confused reading the post and reading the comments. None doesnt seem to be consistent. I am planning to visit Turkey and have watched many Turkish Tv Series and Movies. They seem to be very open about what they wear and drink and all that. So can someone who actaully live in Turkey shed some light on this ? We see so many open dresses in shows, even many actors and actresses in real life are very free in their outfits ( as far as posted photos are concerned) they openly show drinking alchohol and smoking ; so it is really big deal or are the people commenting exgarrating something that is not already there.

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  • Miss Anonymous said

    yes I've noticed the same things in the tv series coz they tend to be much more liberal n free.

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  • Bert said

    First of all, conservative clothing means no excessive cleavage. Turkey is one step back in terms of sexuality compared to western countries. It would be awkward like walking around having one breast out in Germany. You'll get stares. Other than that you don't need to cover your hair. You will have no problem walking around wearing t-shirts and pants.

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  • Shahid said

    The comments on dress when visiting mosques are common sense. No you cannot wear a bikini to a mosque. And it is the same when visiting the Vatican in Rome. Men must wear pants and ladies cannot be sleeveless and must have pants also. House of God is exactly that.

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  • ender said

    of course at the street and in the mosque are different concepts. in turkey men can wear short and it is very popular among turkish guys. and as a woman yes, but if short is too short at some place you may face some disturbing looks.

    if you want to enter the mosque mans short must cover their knees. actually mostly if your short is close to your knees is ok. and as woman they have to cover their hair with scarf (at least some part.) and cover at least to their elbows and under their knees.

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  • gözde said

    I'm a 30-year-old woman from Turkey. I understand the Turkish people who read this and gets offended but these are very accurate, friendly and non-judgemental suggestions for the tourist who does not know the area. There is no reason to be offended by what is written. There are certain social rules to any other Western European city, which is not the center of the universe for ideal living, which are if written down, can sound scary. I can write the things I've seen in Los Angeles and man, it can be very scary!

    I, myself, as a person living in Turkey, respect to ones who feast during Ramadan and don't eat in public. I don't want to take attention to myself especially in public, so I take care of how much I show off, unless If I really want to show off. I respect the ones who pray, like my grandfather, so I don't pass in front of him during his prayers. Yes, I think criticizing food, publicly, is inappropriate, one should appreciate being able to eat, everywhere. If the food is not tasty or unhealthy, which can happen, one can notify that in personal attitude or stay away. Yes, extreme politic views occur so you have to know what you talk about before you talk. Turkey, in general, has a political tension environment so for a tourist it is not worth to be involved in these tensions. It won't be dangerous but unnecessary.

    So, I agree with these short but efficient suggestions and wanted to say that it is very accurate, well done!

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  • LYNDA FILLER said

    I arrived in Turkey for a visit in Feb and came back to stay longer in April. I love Istanbul. I'm a Canadian woman and have spent enough time here now to comment. Yes, if you wish to go into the Blue Mosque you will be expected to cover your head, your shoulders and the man at the entrance will turn you back if your skirt is short--cotton pants are available to purchase or borrow, I'm not sure. I was living in Mexico for several years in the hot tourist areas. It was common to wear tank tops. I'm very conscious of not standing out because I'm single and don't want to attract the wrong attention. So I wear short sleeve t's with no cleavage. It's what the other girls do. I haven't been to the beach areas but yes, Istanbul is secular. My friends say don't worry. But be respectful.
    It's a beautiful country, amazing culture, funny aggressive people in the tourist areas. And do read about Islam, the real Islam religion. It's an eyeopener for sure. Thank you, Turkey for making this girl feel very welcome and safe in your country.

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  • Nisa said

    Taking Istanbul as an example can be misleading...
    The truth is that Turkey is a huge country and every region has their own cultures. Istanbul was the capital of the Ottoman Empire so by relation it would look more like a middle eastern city. But it just doesn't feel right to be called "Middle Eastern" as an Eastern Black Sean yknow?
    On the other hand the southeast is undeniably Middle Eastern, and so it's more culturally conservative than the north or the west.
    I guess it's more about culture..? I like to be classified as Caucasian, an Aegean or a Thracian would like to be classified as European and a Southeastern a Middle Eastern.
    To hell with Trabzon, come visit Giresun! :)

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  • Dilara said

    Guys, all your comments surprised me. I am a Turkish woman who's been in Turkey since the day I was born. I wear whatever I want : shorts, miniskirts, dresses... And trust me nobody cares what you wear :D So could all of you chill? Turkey is not ruled by religion and never will be. Seeing foreign people's comments made me realize I, as a muslim, am wearing much more revealing or comfortable clothes while in this country. Just wear what you want friends :D This is not Arabia just because we share the same religion... Please....

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  • Ghazala Anwar said

    I am currently in Altinkum, Turkey and have been co.ing here for the past 10 years, what I am confused about is that I see young, middle aged woman dressed like the English woman they all walk around with shorts, swimming costumes so skin is exposed in public, then you see some with hijabs and fully dressed smoking cigarettes in public aces, and theres me born and bred in UK and wear my traditional clothes or fully covered english clothes, I dont wear bikinis, it's not our culture and religion, in the Quran it clearly explains the type of clothing women should don, and not to expose your skin especially where there is non mehrum men.

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  • Rainer said

    As a westerner and new Muslim recently visiting Sultanahmet, Istanbul for 6 weeks, I must say Turkish people are some of the most friendly and accommodating people I have ever met. And the food and culture is amazing.

    All the best,
    Warm greetings from Norway

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  • ALLY said

    Turkey is a secular country. In Turkish constitution it's declared that the country has no official religion. Turkey is not an Islamic / ME country. Turks come from Hun empire and gender equility is the main cultural principle of Turks. Raki is the main national drink of the country. You can wear / do whatever you want. While you are entering a church in Western Europe there are some rules also, so you cannot show that special areas like it's something in general.

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  • Lynda said

    I'm a Canadian living in Istanbul for almost a year. I found the advice to be accurate. I'm sensitive to my surroundings and respectful. I do have a religious Turkish boyfriend so I understand more than others possibly. When we are in certain parts of Istanbul, even in a modern shopping center, he will gently pull away from walking too close or holding my hand. I find it respectful of the majority. However, in the trendy more Western downtown, touristy areas, there is no concern. I would not wear a short skirt even though I see it from Turkish girls, it attracts attention like anywhere else. Respect the religious beliefs. Everyone smokes--it drives me crazy. And most tourist restaurants serve alcohol. You can buy alcohol at the corner stores. It's secular and for sure Turks are strong-minded and will do exactly what they want no matter who is in power. I love that about the country. The people are warm, friendly, charming and very diverse in their beliefs. I love living here. And for months thought I was living in Europe--part of Istanbul is on the European side and the balance in Asia. I was surprised to see Turkey listed as the Middle East. Tourists all say the same things, they absolutely love Istanbul and want to come back. Enjoy your time here. It's truly beautiful.

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  • peri said

    It's so obvious that the person who wrote this article has never visited Turkey. Most of the people who say that they are muslim are not even muslim... I can say that 1/100 of my friends actually go to mosque to pray (or just pray). Also, we can wear whatever we want!! There are so many things that are not correct in this article...I won't even bother to write it all down.

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  • Wayne said

    How do Turkish people feel about cats?
    I have seen mixed things about it, but I want to be outside of the US when the elections come around, and I want to bring my two cats with me.
    What about First Nations/ Native American people, how are we treated in Turkey?

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  • Tomris said

    Cats:
    It depends on the region but cats are generally liked and cared in Turkey. There are sooooo many cat ladies here. Especially in İstanbul.

    First Nations/Native American People:
    I will try to talk about İstanbul/Antalya.
    Well, I don't think the public has an opinion about First Nation/Native American people. I haven't heard someone saying bad stuff about you or any racism. The one who has knowledge would have sympathy since some of the people believe we had similar cultures before our empires. Same for African people even tho these days American influence is pretty high in youth but generally we are just uneducated and curious about a lot of cultures and don't mean any harm.

    Dress code:
    Antalya is pretty free since it is a Mediterranean tourist city. I have seen people going out with their bikinis on a Monday at the city kilometers away from the beach. Still, I wouldn't encourage wearing only bikinis in the city. Of course, you will get stares when the person behind you is fully dressed while you are basically half-naked. You can wear shorts. Antalya is freaking hot. I wear short shorts with tank tops and I haven't seen someone interfering with me yet.

    İstanbul has places to wear a more humble dress. You can get stares at residential areas like Zeytinburnu, Güngören, Bağcılar, Bahçelievler, Fatih... And with "humble dress" I don't mean you need to cover your arms and bellow knees. You can wear cropped trousers, sleeveless tops without cleavage. You are a tourist and most people know that so don't worry.

    These dress rules aren't even about being a Muslim It is more about the culture than anything else.

    A for the mosques It is just general respect. Same for any other place of worship. You don't even need to bring your own headscarf to touristy places. They give you free.

    Well after this global pandemic we would gladly welcome anyone!




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  • Lana said

    How about puertorrican or Dominicans we are Caribbeans, how are they view in turkey? I never been but love reading on your culture many people have told me is beautiful and I would love to go one day InshaAllah ...

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  • Amina said

    Being a Muslim we are not allowed to wear bikkini, miniskirt, pants.... We are only allowed to cover the full body with hijab and Vale and with gown... Our religion must be superior of anything

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  • Saumitra Mani said

    I find it quite surprising that, people who don't know about a religion are commenting on Islam.
    It is not the religion that is wrong, religion gives people faith, hope, guidelines how to live one's life. There are rotten apples everywhere, and sometimes they influence others with various means like money, promises, and even faith.
    if you are reading this page, i am sure you would like to learn about the ethics and culture. So keep an open mind to get something from it. If you already have presumptions about the God and the people, then throw the thoughts out and read it again.
    !! Namaste !!

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  • Jane Doe said

    I'm a practicing Muslim born, raised and living in South Africa. I'm Indian by race. I visited Istanbul, Turkey with my family in early 2019. Although we follow the religion, we are not super holy. Meaning we pray, fast and do all the compulsory things but we are a bit more modern/liberal in our thinking and daily lives...but not too much. I'm 19 and do not wear the headscarf (hijaab), the conservative black cloak or the burqa(except for prayer times). I usually wear normal clothes like jeans/leggings/t-shirts/long dresses etc. Anyways my point is that oneday we visited the Spice Bazaar (market) and there was this random middle-aged guy working at a shop that sold Turkish sweets and teas. We walked in and looked around at the products then the guy approached me and in front of my family, started asking me questions like "Are you muslim?", "how old are you?" "Do you know how to pray?" And "Why aren't you wearing the Hijab?" He also said things like "over here by 13 girls are wearing the Hijab" and "my sister was like you but i told her that Allah will punish her for not wearing it". Honestly it was embarrassing and really offensive. We were all taken aback. It still troubles me to this day. Plus another thing that I didn't like was that the turks in general don't like speaking English and it's really frustrating because we obviously don't know how to speak Turkish.

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  • Monica said

    This cannot be entirely true -- all those Turkish tv series out there seem Very westernized in their mannerism.... nobody appears to be stopping to pray during the plots and stories -5 times a day?? Really? Wow
    I did notice the series are very prudish however.... in erkunci kus they almost touched faces for 51 episodes and only really kissed about twice lol (the most they exposed were miniskirts and sleeveless) so there has to be some strict regulatory committee for entertainment

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  • Norah said

    I am an Arab and i really don’t understand why turks in the comments hate arabs and Islamic features! Is it because we are weak? Things will change and the weak will become strong and the strong will become weak, this is life. Perhaps you should remember your great empire that falls and try not to fall again by respecting your enemies and hating your people (muslims). If turks will leave islam after a 100 years of Ottoman Empire falling that means you really loses to Europeans! Have some dignity! you look pathetic when you keep saying you are a secular country! do you hate Mehmed the Conqueror now?

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  • Some Expat in crazy Turkey said

    I'm from Scandinavia and I lived in Turkey for half a dozen years. This article makes Turkey sound much worse than it is. I do need to say that these things vary greatly depending on Where in Turkey you are. In city centre larger cities such as Istanbul and Ankara, and touristic areas, nobody cares if a woman wears slightly skimpy clothes or if men wear shorts in summer. I would not however, as a man, in a city that is not a seaside tourist area walk around without a shirt on. Especially in shops. It's not a Muslim thing, it's just not the norm and would be a little awkward. I can't comment on Mosque etiquette, but some Turkish people you meet may want to stop eating or... Other activities while there is the prayer call, and may suggest a moment of silence, but they won't force you to do anything like pray. It's just their personal choice. There is a variety of people and places where etiquette changes dramatically, because Turkey is a mix of tradition and modernism, secularism and religion. I have come across fervent Nationalists that were more offended by a conversation about the Asian roots of the Turkish people than about religious conversation points. I would agree that you should not join a protest against the government, as that is unfortunately more and more likely to get you thrown out of the country. But that is a burden Turks also share with you as a foreigner, but they may get into further trouble than you will. That again isn't about Islam, but the current political climate that has been deteriorating rapidly in the last 10 years. Lastly, I want to say that I experienced a more deep sense of freedom in Turkey than in Scandinavia. Society is less rigid for foreigners, and countless times I've received help and warm welcomes from complete strangers. Turkey is a bit crazy, but I love it.

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  • Arsal said

    I have read nearly all comments but I still have a question in my mind. Are turkey's locals gradually leaving Islam or Islam is gradually flourishing among locals? I am asian and have plans of settling in Turkey. Your answers will help me a alot to make a final decision

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  • Ugur said

    Hey Arsal. Let me answer as a young Turk living in Istanbul. what you say is true Faith in religion began to decline in our country but in the 2000s we were already more secular. He further politicize the changing political climate this reason, people seem Turkey away from the line, but now secular and vice versa. What is said by our country's presidency of religious affairs also supports this. According to reports in Turkey further secularization people every year.

    In the east, except for the areas in the rural areas, you can walk around the west lane as you wish. As a faithful Turk, I suggest you not to compare the religious understanding in our country with other Muslim countries (jordan, saudi arabia, Iran etc..) selling alcohol is completely free, kissing on the street and holding hands is completely free. As a Turk who grew up in a Muslim family, my father, my mother and my relatives both prayed and drank alcohol. this is not a problem. As everywhere, the only thing expected here is respect.

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  • Beyza said

    I've read some of the comments and let me tell you first of all that almost nobody stops everything they're doing 5 times a day to pray. Actually, if you have other obligations (to other people, like working) it's not even obligatory.
    Currently, Islam in Turkey is more political than religious. It's more about conservatism and moral values.
    How you dress depends on the area you are in but people are getting more and more used to all types of clothing. In Turkey cities and districts are like their own little worlds so the demographics in a city is extremely different than another city. You can walk around half-naked in Mersin, Antalya, İzmir etc. and nobody would care but you'd get a lot of looks if you do that in Antep, Konya, Diyarbakır etc. (but those places are also getting used to, mostly because of students and tourists)
    I live in an extremely conservative part of Istanbul and I walk around in a very short short, nobody says anything.

    And about Turkish TV shows, yeah I'd say most people in urban areas are modern (even the conservative religious people are living very modern lives) but it's not common to see people making out outside (except clubs) or French kissing on TV. You can call it whatever you want but we consider those things private. I remember the rules were way more relaxed when I was little (in the 90s) and I have some trauma because of some German movies I watched when I was alone in the house. Honestly, I'm kinda annoyed by the opposite, which is the fact that it's quite hard to find a French movie without any naked scene or a character cheating. We are definitely more traditional when it comes to relationships and loyalty.

    And about the decline of religion, this is happening all over the world. No offense to anyone but you just need to read the books and history of religion, a little bit of neuroscience and psychology and it becomes extremely clear that all religions were made up by men. There are dozens of religions in the world with millions of followers and many religions came and went for thousands of years, to believe only your god is the true one doesn't make much sense. Religions will die out unless they upgrade themselves according to science, things like creationism have no place in 2020, and taking any of the holly books literally is quite dangerous. When education levels increase, religiousness will decrease. That's why governments who want to control and manipulate the people always lower the quality of education and aim at raising kids who memorize instead of analyzing and questioning.

    But this is not extreme in Turkey at all. I have forgotten that it was Ramadan a couple of times and ate (even on a bus) and nobody said anything. Actually, they don't have the right to do so as poor and hungry people can't tell other people to stop eating in front of them when they're hungry. The purpose of Ramadan is to understand them. And Turkey had the biggest Pride Parade in Eastern Europe until this day. They've banned it in 2015 but actually, support for LGBT community is increasing ever since the ban. And the majority of the big cities voted for the opposition (and pro-EU, pro-human rights) party. Erdogan is currently under %40 in the polls. The younger generation is definitely much more liberal than their parents. (thanks to education and social media, since their parents didn't get to see how different lives were in other parts of the world) and more and more Turkish students are going to Erasmus exchanges. This is probably the first time in Turkish history where women with headscarves are entering higher education at these numbers and are voting for CHP (which actually banned them to attend a university with their headscarves) which is a huge deal. I see girls like that with rainbow flags on their Instagram photos every day. Turkey is the most liberal Muslim majority country after the ex-soviet countries.

    And even though alcohol consumption is quite low (which is great) you can get alcohol anywhere no matter where you're from (in Morocco for example only tourists can), and there are so many bars in city centers. But we generally prefer drinking tea/coffee and chatting with friends, playing board games etc. to drinking heavy drinks and getting wasted. I drink stronger alcohol only when I go to a party or to dance which is once or twice per week maximum, less in winter. And we almost never day drink. Drugs are also extremely rare, you'll never find drug dealers in parks etc. (Once we were hanging out in a park at night with friends in Ankara and one friend from Brazil said that he would be very afraid to do that in his city) And I have multiple Italian friends who don't want to return to Italy because they used to be addicted to drugs and Turkey was like free rehabilitation for them lol. Most young people don't find drugs cool.

    I have never seen someone praying outside on the ground but if by some rare chance it happens to you, just don't stand in front of them. Shouldn't be difficult.

    And lastly, Turks are extremely friendly and warm. They'll offer you tea, food, to show you around. It's a very community-based culture so it's less about politeness and more about genuine kindness and closeness. A random person on a bus will give you his/her card if yours made a sound to declare there isn't enough money inside, or offer to help to carry your heavy suitcase. For Europeans, this may feel annoying as they have more "I can do it myself." attitude but we just like to help. Also, Turks are quite curious so brace yourself for personal questions lol

    You can't know Turkey unless you live in Turkey. But as someone who has dozens of friends who never returned after they came, I recommend everyone to give it a try.

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  • Sinem said

    Culturally I would say
    - Black Sea region and the cities on the west of Istanbul are mostly similar to the Balkans, nationalistic and stubborn. You wouldn't wanna mess with a woman from the Black Sea region.
    - All the sea-side regions have a Mediterranean culture similar to Southern Italy and Greece, very open, very warm, very social.
    - Central Anatolia: Mixture between Balkan and Middle Eastern Culture
    - Eastern regions are Kurdish and Middle Eastern Culture.

    And Istanbul is all in one :D

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  • Managed Cyber Security said

    I love greece especially their mythology

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  • Can said

    Please read! Im a turk living in Turkey, but im born and raised in germany and moved to turkey when I was 15, and living here for almost 10 years.
    So there are many false information here in the comments. So first The reason İs because some Turks in turkey are hating Islam, some are muslims but try to show turkey as a mordern country where all women can go to a Mall with bikini, and some tourist who came here met just the wrong person or hotel and are thinking that all people here are such like this.

    Now read carefully this is the only honest comment you will ever need to read:

    First at all I would say that turkey is the best country in the world which practises Islam. But what does that mean? Does it mean that you have to cover like in iran, or are not allowed to drink alcohol? No it doesn’t. Because Islam says that everybody can practis their own believes as the wish. So let me explain turkey:
    -you can buy alcohol in almost ever market (no joke in almost EVERY. In fact (fun fact) most small markets make their profit due to alcohol (and sadly cigarettes), otherwise they wouldnt have a good income.
    -as a women you can wear short clothings. In fact (I’m a German citizen and go to Germany often) there are even more girls in turkey who wear short clothings then in germany. That’s no joke. Turks who never left the Country and only see western girls from tv or youtube tend to think that all western women wear all the time bikinis even when they go to the market. But I garantee you if you come to turkey you will be shocked that most girls even west sexier and better clothing than you(and you will be even jeloous I garantee you that from the bottom of my heart) because turkish women and many men are very fashioned in clothing.
    -if you come to turkey you will maybe meet some guys who are very perverse. But in which country you don’t meet guys like that? Its sad but true. In the bus or metro yes you will see that kind of delusional guys. But not because you are wearing short clothing. They do it all the time. They do it to our turkish girls, wifes etc. the best thing to to is to ether ignore these poor idiots and just leave the area, or to call to a authority Person, like the bus driver or the rastaurant manager. In fact in turke we don’t like behavior like that, we even best them up. Expecially if it is a tourist who comes to our country who want to see the beauty of turkey (and maybe Islam) we don’t want these idiots to represent our culture in such way. But these men are in every country. I’m sorry if you met or will meet one of them. Just ignore. Be aware of taxis, because a lot of taxi drivers are uneducated guys and CAN tend to get your number for „help“ or do inappropriate things, just be careful (naybe have your phone and camera open for evidence)The same is appllied for Turkish girls. But don’t worries, it just sounded like every taxi driver is a perverse what isnt the case. In fact I think that in most countries these positions are held by those guys.
    - In Antalya (where also most tourist go) I saw some women go with the bikini to the mall( which I never saw in Germany) so I would even say that in turkey you can be more relaxed. Nobody said anything, but of course people will look like in every country. Be realistic in every behaviour you do and don’t judge the country or religion.
    - - not everything I’m saying is for every city in turkey. In the east of turkey you have to behave more strict. You cant go out with a bikini in mardin. But you can in Antalya. Most tourists go to west turkey anyways.
    -you can drink alcohol in public. For example in İstanbul there are a lot of parcs with hundreds of people just sitting with friends and drinkin beer and have a good time. A lot of them are even teens, who are just chilling . As a tourist you can even join them, they will love you and maybe even buy you a beer..
    -if you love clubs keep in mind that in turkey in the weekends there are a lot of bars and clubs and People are goind there do mich that some are very Full, so a lot of Turkish bars or clubs want you to come with a girl if you are just a Male. The reason is because the bars and clubs are so full anyways on weekends, the owners don’t want pervert guys to come drink and harass girls. So they want you to come with a girl. But if you look like a Western tourist and have your passport or western ID you can show it and say you’re a tourist, most when not all will accept you even if you are just guys. They wont break you. And as always money speaks (expecially if you are a tourist)
    -the only thing I can say about turke where you have to worry is if you are gay(Male) here are gay people and transgenders, transgender hooker etc, but they don’t Do it in public. That’s the only thing you have to worry about turkey. People here don’t like to see two males kissing in public, here are a lot of homofobic people. They maybe even harass you if they see you with another guy holding hands or kissing. Be aware of that. Do these thing in your hotel room.
    -kissing in public: it’s so funny when I read the articles and comments. Come in guys. In turkey people always kiss in public. They cuddle in parcs on banks they kiss. I even had a girl grinding on me for 15 minutes next to a bus station. Okay Dont overdo it and make sex on the highway, but you get the idea. It would be maybe better with small and quick kisses, don’t overdo the sexual and french kisses in public, but the reason is there are many older people here or families with children who can look in a bizarre way to you, but I guess this is normal. Most younger people won’t even care, the ones who care are just jeloide people, trust me. If they had a girl or man like yours, they would even kidd in the bus.
    - you can enter a Hotel if it isn’t your husband or wife. I didnt understand the comment here. Maybe you visited a wrong hotel. In fact smaller hotels make a good amount of money by younger people going to a hotel for a quick adventure with their partner. There are even a lot of hotels who rent rooms for some hours. Come on guys who writes these comments. You just were in the wrong places..
    -I don’t know if you have to cover in mosques if you are a tourist.. I guess for a 10 20 minute tour in a mosque it isn’t really important, If they say cover then just cover and leave. It is true that there are clothing to cover in most mosques though.. you can cover your Head in a fashoined way and go in, just don’t go in with a bikini or shorts or skirts, its more a thing with respect. But if you go in with a short or don’t cover your head it might be that they ask you to do so, but most won’t say anything is my guess, people here are not like if you don’t cover we will throw rocks at you, in fact if someone overdo his „Islamic“ believes in a way of misrepresenting or doing harm to Islam, most Muslims will interrupt the man and say something and be on your side. As long as you don’t do a Big harm like shooting at the mosque building or going in with a bikini.. we are not stupid, we will not on the side of a man who haresses you just because you don’t cover in a mosque(you are a tourist after all, maybe you didnt know the rules, maybe you forgot) we are not silly people. In fact we love tourist everybody who visited turkey will tell you this
    -of course there are bad people like in every country, but I went to a lot of countries (thanks to my German citizenship) and I can Tell you in turkey you will love the most people. You will be shocked. You will say „why was I so worried about“. I visited a lot of countries and Turkish girls and men (the younger generation) are on fact the most fashioned
    People I saw in clothing. We like fashioned clothing. We like cool Outfits.
    These are thing that come to my mind.. search on google cities like İstanbul Antalya İzmir and type girls or beach I don’t know just search and look how Turkish people look like..

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  • hasid said

    Turkey is an Islamic country. Turkey will one day rule the world with Islam Inshallah.

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  • ateistturk said

    Come on guys, we are talking about Turkey, but not about iran or saudi arabia. First of all, the government wants to show people as muslim even if they are not. For example in state records i am a muslim but in fact i am pure ateist. I can say that 20% of population is not muslim. 50% of population is muslim but not even once goes to a mosque. They are just calling themselves as muslim in terms of an identity. Only %30 are like middle-easterners. My wife is a russian and she tells that women in russia do not wear as women in turkey. She tells me that if women wear such things in russia, russians will call them as whores :) so come and have an awesome holiday, if that is your goal

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