yOUR GUIDE TO aNKARA
Introducing You To Kocatepe Camii
Before we begin,"Camii" is simply "Mosque" in Turkish. However, it is not pronounced the same as it would be pronounced in English. The letter C in Turkish is not the same as the letter C in English. In Turkish, C is pronounced as the J in English. Camii would be pronounced as "Jaami".
Kocatepe Camii is a popular destination for tourists. It holds the title of being the largest Mosque in the city of Ankara. However, that is not the only reason tourists flock to it. Kocatepe was built with an Ottoman architecture style, for this reason it resembles a lot to those Mosques built in the Ottoman era, such as the famous Sultan Ahmet Mosque (also called the Blue mosque) in Istanbul. Due to the establishment of the mosque local businesses and shops have also benefited greatly. It has attracted many Book shops, cafes, restaurants and most importantly, more people. Over time, the Camii has become an icon that is most associated to the city of Ankara, along with the already existing icon, Anıtkabir. To read about some other historical places in Ankara, including Anıtkabir, click here.
The construction of the Kocatepe camii took a very long time to be completed, 20 years to be exact. It began in 1967 and was completed in 1987. But the initiation of the project goes even way before that. Prime Minister Adnan Manderes asked architects to put forward their designs for the construction of the Mosque in late 1950's. The project was initially handed to a famous architect and politician, Vedat Dalokay. However, a lot of the locals opposed Vedat Dalokay's design for being too modern. They wanted to see a Mosque that represented continuity of tradition rather than a Mosque that revolutionized the places of worship and therefore departing from tradition. So the consturction of Kocatepe Camii was brought to a halt till 1967. The project of Hüsrev Tayla and Fatin Uluengin was then selected for its traditional and conservative style. This design was inspired from the works of "Mimar Sinan" (Sinan the architect) a legendry Ottoman architect who also helped design the Taj Mahal for Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor.
In order to show you how the Kocatepe camii has evolved over time over time, I found an old picture of it and merged it with a picture I took myself. The picture on your left shows the Kocatepe Cami under construction. By sliding the bar in between, you will be able to compare and contrast the two pictures.
Another interesting fact relating to Kocatepe Camii is that, after Vedat Dalokay's project was rejected, he was invited to Pakistan to design a mosque in its capital city, Islamabad. After substantially changing the design he had originally worked on for the Kocetepe Camii, it was then used to construct the very well known, Shah Faisal Mosque of Pakistan. It was named after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia who had immensely funded the construction of the Mosque. To know more about Vedat Dalokay and his work in the field of architecture, you can read this paper written by Dr. Nelum Naz while doing her Post doctorate in the department of Architecture at Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara.
Exploring The Kocatepe Camii
Having the history out of the way, let me tell you of my own experience. I have personally been to Kocatepe Camii a total of 3 times. My latest visit was yesterday, for this post. I will describe to you what I saw and how it felt and do not worry If you are not able to follow me, just scroll down and have a look at the pictures later, it will all make sense, trust me.
Seeing the Kocatepe Camii for the very first time it felt as though I had travelled back in time. This was because I was contrasting its traditional design and massive structure, to the very modern, lean and tall buildings that could be seen from its courtyard. The Mosque has 4 minarets, each of which is approximate 85m in length. Four smaller semi-domes surround the largest and the highest dome. And all those domes are surrounded by much smaller domes, in a symmetrical pattern. To view an aerial video that would really put things in perspective for you, click here.
Once I took my shoes off and was inside the Camii, I asked the female security guard for her permission to take pictures of the Mosque and started snapping away with my camera till the battery ran out. The very first thing that got my attention was a very massive round chandelier that was hanging from the highest dome right in the middle of the Mosque. The large chandelier was decorated with countless lamps around its center, all of which were facing upwards. Around the chandelier, there were many smaller chandeliers which were all hanging from the same dome, however, separately. An old man who was sitting next to me started explaining to me why there were 32 in particular. He said that they represented 32 farz (obligations), and then broke it down for me. The 6 articles of faith, 5 pillars of Islam, the 12 obligations of prayers (the external and the internal obligations of prayers are each 6), the 4 obligations of the ritual ablution before prayers (called abdest), the 3 obligations of the major ablution (called gusül) and finally the 2 obligations of the dry ablution (called teyemmüm). To have a look at what these obligations actually are, take a look at this link. He then went on to say that the Camii has 5 doors because each door represents each of the 5 pillars of Islam. At this point I realized how much attention to detail was paid during the construction of the Mosque. The praying area was spacious and simple, while the pillars, arches, domes and the walls were sophisticated in terms of design and color combination used for these designs.
Beneath the biggest dome was a glass case showcasing a gift from the King of Saudi Arabia to the Prime minister of Turkey, in 1993. That was one year before I was born in the capital city of Saudi Arabia! It was a strange feeling that I was standing in the capital city of Turkey and viewing a gift that had come from home which I had no idea about before. The gift was a model of the "Prophet's Mosque" in Medina. I have been to the mosque quite a few times so I found myself analyzing the model more than anyone else did, perhaps I was trying to see how accurate the model was. Along with this glass case was a seating area for those visitors and tourists who wanted to observe the way Muslims prayed and worshiped in the Mosque.
I then walked around taking pictures of the Arabic calligraphy on the ceiling. Two names were written on each corner of the mosque, a total of 8 names. They were as follows; Allah and Muhammad, Abu Bakr and Usman, Umar and Ali, and finally, Hussain and Hassan. The first 2 were the names of God and the Prophet of Islam, respectively. The next names were of the first 4 Khalifas (successors after the Prophet Muhammad), they are also called as "Rashidun" by many Muslims (Rightly Guided) as they were few of the closest companions of the Prophet who were also his successors. The last 2 names belong to the grandsons of Prophet Muhammad, who were also sons of Ali.
The security guard told me that only when it was time for the 5 compulsory prayers, the ground floor was dedicated to men, while the 2 floors on top was allocated for women. So basically, I was able to go upstairs to get some better pictures.
While on the second floor, my focus shifted towards the arches and the pillars holding the ceiling, the designs on the walls and the color combination used. It was therapeutic. It is impossible to describe through words the beautiful art that decorated the mosque, so enjoy the pictures that I managed to take for you!
Finally, I would like clear a common misconception! The popular Turkish coffee chain "Kocatepe kahve evi" (Coffee house) is probably not named after Kocetepe camii... Because the Kocatepe kahve evi began in Istanbul, in 1949 and the construction of the Camii began more than 15 years later. However, I am unable to spot the common denominator here.
If you are in Ankara and want to go see the Kocatepe Camii then follow the map below, by now I am guessing you know the drill! The instructions are for the newer readers.
Since you all have been amazing readers who always have something for me to explore, I will use this post to introduce you to Kocatepe kahve evi if you are not familiar with it yet. It is a very popular Turkish coffee chain that as you might have guessed by now, has amazing Turkish coffee! You can purchase their coffee but will not be able to make it nearly as good. This is because they use hot sand to make their coffee... yes you read that just fine! Have a look at these pictures that I managed to take while at one of their branches. Enjoy!
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If you love coffee and are tired of going to high-end, overpriced coffee shops, then Bülten street is the place you need to go! This street has many small and cosy coffee shops that I prefer over any well known coffee chain in Ankara for many reasons. In order to give you an idea of why I prefer these coffee shops, let me introduce you to one of them in particular, Lungo Espresso Bar.
The coffee shop is small and usually less crowded, I have no clue why that's the case but I like it like that. I hope it remains that way even after I have introduced you to it! The seating is very comfortable and the environment is perfect for studying, reading and chatting with your friends while sipping a hot mug of coffee or tea. Lungo Espresso Bar will remind you of a traditional Turkish "coffee house", however, with a touch of modernism to it. Plenty of electric sockets are available if you want to use your laptop at the coffee shop. Since the weather is tremendously cold and it is snowing almost everyday, working on one of the tables inside the shop while facing the window, you will be able to enjoy the amazing view of the snow outside. The heating in the coffee shop is spot on. There are 2 electric heaters for people who prefer to sit in seating area outside aswell.
Coming to the most important factor, the beverages itself! Lungo Espresso Bar has no menu or at least I was not offered one. How is that a good thing you may ask? Well, this is because there are too many varieties of coffee and tea from different Countries that you can choose from. Having no menu means you have an opportunity of asking for a beverage that is different every single time, depending on what you feel like having at that particular moment. The employees working there try to serve you something that suits your taste rather than providing you with a menu and expecting you to guess cluelessly. This gives space for individual taste. The employees working there are able to do this by asking you verbally what you want from your coffee or tea and then suggesting drinks in accordance with your taste. They also let you smell the different coffee and tea that they have so that you may gain an understanding of how it is going to taste like. A small chunk of brownie and cookie is served with every hot beverage!
The price?! It's way cheaper than all the large coffee chains around. No lie. To give you an idea, a large mug of Americano made from the beans of your choice will cost you around 7 TL and a Latte will cost you around 8TL!
This post would be incomplete without the pictures of the coffee and the place itself, so here you go!
Finally, where is Bülten street? It's very close to Tunus. Take a look at the map below, it will help in guiding you to this street. As mentioned before, there are plenty of coffee shops similar to Lungo Espresso Bar on this street so feel free to explore! To hear other peoples views on Lungo Espresso Bar and see more pictures, have a look at their page on FOURSQUARE.
Thank you for all the suggestions and I hope you continue to send me your feedback!
For this post, I spoke to a very good friend of mine, Onur Kırmızı, about life in Ankara. If you have been curious about what life in Ankara is like then hopefully this interview will be able to quench some of your curiosity.
In order to know about a place, it's absolutely essential to speak to people who live in that place out of their own free will and choice. This is because, only they will be able to tell you what makes that particular place special or different. Onur is one of those people. He chose to come to Ankara for his university education out of all the other cities in Turkey that he could go to.
In this conversation with Onur, I was able to understand why he made this decision. Together, we were able to speak about the different aspects of Ankara; housing expenses, things to do on the weekends, places to eat, having a pet, how to deal with security threats and a lot more.
This is the first time I have ever done a post which involves my own voice, like literally. So your constructive criticism is welcomed... Not!
Just kidding, your constructive criticism always makes me write better. So have at it!
I hope you enjoyed our conversation and were able to benefit from our knowledge of Ankara that we acquired during the past 3 years living here. I would feel that my purpose has been served if anyone of you was able to learn a single new thing about life in Ankara.
Keep in touch to explore more of Ankara!
Your feedback is appreciated as always.
One can never completely explore a place without having tasted food that is unique to it! That is exactly what we will do in this post, explore a restaurant whose style is unique to Ankara. The idea came to me when many of you readers asked me to do a post exploring the food scene in Ankara. What better way to do it than explore ASPAVA, more importantly, explore one of the first ASPAVA in the world? There are many ASPAVAs' popping up not only around Turkey but the entire world, however, it was Ankara that gave birth to it. Before we go ahead, let me answer the 2 most frequently asked questions that people have when they are being introduced to ASPAVA.
What does ASPAVA stand for?
"Allah Sağlık Para Afiyet Versin Amin" (May Allah Give Health, Money and Welfare. Amen.).
What makes an ASPAVA different from other restaurants?
It's their style that makes them different. An ASPAVA makes sure that their customers are stuffed with food and satisfied regardless of what they may have ordered. They do this by loading the table with side dishes absolutely free of cost (called "ikram")! Appetizers, sweet dishes and tea are all on the house and you can also ask for a refill. Another thing that sets an ASPAVA aside from other restaurents is that it has to be open 24/7.
Since we have that out of the way, let's return to exploring Ankara. I wanted you to feel as though we were out exploring Ankara's food scene together, so I decided to switch things a little and tell you the story of my exploration in the form of a photo essay. You are about to see what I saw, unfortunately, you will not be able to taste the amazing food that I devoured. Unless, through this post, I am able to convince you to visit an ASPAVA and experience the delicious food yourself. Out exploring ASPAVA, I turned into those annoying people who snap pictures of their food every 2 minutes. However, this was different, it was for a noble cause! Or at least that's how I kept reassuring myself, and I am actually turning into one of those people that I so enjoy making fun of. I suggest that you do not torture yourself by viewing these pictures while you are hungry! You can click on the picture if you are curious to know more about a particular dish. It will direct you to a page where you can find detailed information regarding how it is prepared. Finally, you can find the location of the ASPAVA that I visited, towards the end of this post. Let's jump right in to the pictures I took while exploring Ankara!
I was not going to end this post without letting you know how much I spent at the ASPAVA! Not as much as you might have imagined. The Beyti cost me just 22 ₺ ( around 6.25 $). The cheapest main course on the menu was lahmacun and it would cost you 10 ₺ (around 2.84 $). The fact that one could eat so much for that amount is simply mindblowing. I plan on becoming a weekly customer like Ömer too! I'll just have to spend twice the time at the gym...
I am back as I promised! This blog post is for those of you who find pleasure in exploring and enjoy getting lost in history. Ankara is a city of great historical and cultural significance and I am about to give you my pick of the top 4 places that will definitely take you back in time. If you want to tap into the past and make your stay in Ankara even more memorable, then do not forget to allocate at least a day to visit these places. The maps in this post will help you through your exploration, so don't be afraid of getting lost. Let’s begin Exploring Ankara!
1. Anıtkabir ("Memorial Tomb")
Obviously this was going to be my first pick! This place is far more than just a historical place. It is not only the final resting place of Atatürk ("Father of the Türks") but also a symbol of modern Turkey. People flock to Anıtkabir on Victory day, Republic day, the day of Atatürk's birth and his death. So if you happen to be in Ankara on 30th of August, 29th of October, May 19th and November 10th, then do not forget to visit Anıtkabir to see the atmosphere and witness the electricity. Apart from the mausoleum, Anıtkabir has a very impressive museum that displays items, weapons and documents from the Ottoman era. Many of Ataturk’s belongings are also showcased for people to see. Entry to Anıtkabir is free of cost. It is open for visit, every day of the week from 9am - 5pm. Every time I am at Anıtkabir, I always manage to find myself in awe. The most recent was 4 days ago, on the 10th of november. Don't worry, I did not forget you guys! Here are some pictures I took just for you.
2. Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi ("The museum of Anatolian Civilizations")
This one will take you way, wayyy back in time. The oldest artifacts exhibited in the museum date back to almost 10000 BC! A trip to this museum will make you realize how trivial the time we spend in this world actually is, and that is empowering! All our personal problems simply begin to feel rather petty, as you begin to comprehend how little time we as individuals have in this world. You get to see objects from the Paleolithic Age, Early Bronze Age to the Hittite period. You can also see artifacts from the Greek, Roman and the Byzantine period. That is a lot to explore! The building of this museum itself has a rich history; the main museum building is built on "Kurşunlu Han”, which served as a caravanserai, during the period of the Ottoman Empire. The entry ticket for this museum is ₺20 ($6). If you do have the "Müzekart" (Museum card) you are able to enter all museums in Turkey that are controlled by the Ministry of culture and tourism, for free! I got my card at the entrance of this museum as there was a student discount on it, and surprisingly it cost me only ₺20! It was a very difficult choice to make, I was not sure if I wanted to buy just one ticket for ₺20 or get the museum card for the same amount and visit countless museums for free... Anyways, the museum is open for visit every day of the week from 8:30AM - 4PM. I strongly suggest getting the museum card If you plan on visiting many other museums and ancient remains throughout Turkey. Sit back and enjoy some pictures that I took at the museum.
3. Rahmi Koç müzesi (Rahmi Koç Museum)
If you are following my list in order and are at the museum of Anatolian civilizations, then getting here would only be a matter of 5 minutes’ walk. Rahmi Koç museum is a private museum so your museum card will not work here. However, the entry ticket costs just₺8 (around $2.4) and ₺4 for students. There is also a discount If you show up in a group of 10. This is going to be money well spent, I promise! After visiting the museum of Anatolian civilizations you could consider this museum to be showcasing things that are relatively "recent history". The museum is very well organized. Instead of sorting items in only chronological order, the museum is rather divided in history of different subject matters. For instance, the museum has sections titled, "History of Engines", "History of Rail Transport”, "History of Aviation", "History of Computers" and so on. This kind of sorting makes it very easy to observe how particular technology has evolved over time. You are able to see the evolution of warfare, photography, communication, transportation, gaming, etc . This museum made me realize of how old I have become, by placing a PlayStation 1 on display. To think that I grew up playing that thing and now it's in a museum, that's not an easy pill to swallow! "Picture? … or it did not happen!” Okay!..
4. Ulucanlar Cezaevi Müzesi ( The Ulucanlar Prison Museum)
This is approximately 13 min away from Rahmi Koç museum by walk. Follow the map and you will be alright! You will be walking through the old city so trust me, this walk is only going to make you thank me more. There are many small and cozy cafés/restaurants on your way. You could stop by at any of these to have a cup of çay (tea) and gözleme to go along with it. The small streets will make you think twice if you are actually in the city of Ankara. Once you reach Ulucanlar cezaevi muzesi though, be prepared to get heavy-hearted and gloomy. This museum is very different from the others in the post. This is because It used to be an actual prison from 1925 till 2006. It has a history of being used as a political prison, where people (mostly authors, poets and journalists) were imprisoned and hung for speaking and writing against the establishment. The atmosphere is awfully despondent; dark and cold cells, with mannequins sitting in confined cells along with rats on the floor. This puts you in the shoes of those prisoners that have actually spent time in there. Places like these make you content with your situation in life and grateful for living a life of freedom. The entrance ticket to the museum costs just ₺5 ($1.5), ₺3 for students and free for people above the age of 65 and for those who have a disability. The museum is open for visit every day of the week, except for Monday. The timings are 10AM - 5PM. Here are some pictures of the prison museum.
Once you are out, take a deep breath and try to comprehend how blessed your life of freedom is.
I hope you enjoyed the post! Stay tuned if you want to keep Exploring Ankara.
Your feedback is greatly appreciated. So long!
Hello to all you new Ankara dwellers!
If you have been trying to find reviews of places to visit or things to do in this beautiful city, that too in English, then this blog is for you! Using my personal experiences and suggestions from my "Ankaralı" friends, i'm going to formulate posts that cater directly to you, with pictures and my feedback.
Trust me, I know what it's like to be a stranger in Ankara; the cultural shock, the language barrier and most importantly having no clue of where to go and what to see. Worry no more! Because, this blog is going to be your guide and your friend.
So sit back and stay tuned, as I take you for a tour of this majestic city that has so much to offer. We have a lot to explore so do not forget to tag along for the journey!
I am a 22 year old student living in Ankara. I love going out and exploring new places, especially those places that hold a historical significance. I feel that the lives we have, are too short to waste our time in the same place doing the same thing.