Category Archives: Turkey

Can Singapore model be applied in Turkey?

Following from my last article, I would like to find some answers as to whether Turkey could replicate the success of Suzhou Industrial Park in Diyarbakir.

Actually, some work has already been carried out in this field.

A reputable businessman and philanthropist, Erdal Aksoy, aims to replicate the project in Diyarbakir in order to create an eco-system for 1 million people in the region, including Syrian migrants.

Turkey has a strategic role in natural gas transit because of its position between the world’s second largest natural gas market, continental Europe, and the substantial natural gas reserves of the Caspian Basin and the Middle East.

Since Turkey is well placed to serve as a transit hub for oil and natural gas supplies as they move from Russia, Central Asia, and the Middle East to Europe and other Atlantic markets, the project is to develop an energy industrial park as the main platform to:

  • Create employment to improve lives in order to stabilise the region, particularly at the borders.
  • Leverage the energy resources and infrastructure in the region and target markets in Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
  • End the refugee crisis in Turkey and Europe.
  • Eradicate terrorism and maintain stability in the region.

The project will involve social housing (HDB equivalent in Singapore or council housing in the UK), education centres such as nurseries, primary schools, and universities, as well as hospitals for the health services.

To ensure that it is built on strong foundations, the project is intended to be a public private partnership involving the Turkish government and possibly other governments.

Surbana Jurong, a Singapore company that also provided the expertise for Suzhou Industrial Park, has already drafted the project and the Turkish government has already been briefed and promised support for the project.

The next step is to find other sustainable and strong partners, especially from Asian countries such as China and Singapore, to support the project.

Mr Aksoy is quite open to sharing the project with anyone that would like to enhance and take ownership of this huge socio-economic innovation.

The realisation of a project of this scale could bring stability and prosperity to the region, and could potentially be replicated in other parts of the Middle East.

Personally, I believe that this is an exciting project and that everyone who wishes to contribute to peace of Middle East shall be involved in it.

All the best from Singapore.
Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

 

 

 

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Tourist Trap in Istanbul

I do not feel very comfortable about writing this article, but I want to make public this true story, which was experienced by a Chinese friend of mine in Istanbul recently.

To start with, Istanbul is a wonderful city with many attractions, and visiting only once is not really enough to understand the vibe and culture. In addition, generally speaking Turkish people are very hospitable with a kind attitude towards tourists. Unfortunately, my friend experienced something very different, which does not represent Istanbul and Turkish people.

Since there was a whole week’s holiday in China a couple of week ago, my friend took the opportunity to fly to Moscow and then to Istanbul to spend a few days there. Like any ordinary tourist, he was visiting the usual Istanbul tourist attractions, such as Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in the Sultanahmet area.

He was travelling alone; since he is Asian, it was not easy to guess that he was a tourist, and he was approached by a stranger initially asking for a lighter. Since he is not a smoker, he politely told him that he did not have one, and then the conversation started. According to the local guy who approached my friend, this area is very touristic, and he offered to give him a lift and show him local places, which unfortunately my friend accepted and the story begins here.

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He was taken to some places, although he does not know exactly where they were, and in the end they sat down in a restaurant and ate dinner together. Given that the local guy had spent the last hour or so taking him to some places, my friend offered to pay for the dinner and did so.

Then, all of a sudden, the local guy offered to take my friend for a night out, and he accepted the offer. They initially went to his hotel, where he changed his outfit, and then he took him to a kind of striptease club, of which he does not know the name or the district (although it is possibly in Sisli).

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After spending an hour drinking and chatting with some half-naked women, they asked for the bill, which turned out to be 12,000 Turkish lira: in other words around USD 4,000. Having travelled and lived in many countries, my Chinese friend was amazed and asked the local guy how this could be possible; he was told that this is quite a normal bill for a night out in Istanbul (in 1 hour).

Apparently a security officer then escorted the local guy outside to an ATM to withdraw money and he came back with 6,000 Turkish lire, so he paid his half. Then my friend was escorted to the ATM, and he withdrew 6,000 Turkish lire and closed the bill.

I was disgusted by this experience, and, with his permission, I decided to publish his stories with his pictures from that specific night out. This guy even continued to SMS my friend even after he had landed in Shanghai.

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As mentioned at the beginning, Istanbul is a great city for tourists, and Turkish people are quite hospitable to tourists, since it is part of the Turkish culture to make sure that foreigners feel at home when they visit their city. Unfortunately, this experience is a little odd.

I hope it will not be replicated with somebody else and that nobody will suffer from it.

Best wishes from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Israel – Turkey – GCC Union?

Whilst I was studying as an undergraduate in Turkey in 2003, I was asked by my professor to present an alternative plan to the EU for Turkey.

Back then, Turkey was struggling to start accession talks with the EU on the back of several issues.

My very basic plan then was to bring Turkey together with Israel and the GCC—the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE)— and I named this project Sukru’s Utopian Alliance.

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When I presented my plan, it received some attention from my fellow students and the professor, but I have to say that they were not truly fascinated by the idea.

While I was on holiday for two weeks 13 years later, my brain somehow started again to ponder on the same project, and this time I am more equipped to address the issues concerned.

When we look at the reasons for the foundation of the EU (formerly the EEC), we see that it was necessary to form bonds between European countries such as France and Germany to make sure that their economic interests were aligned in order to avoid another world war in the coming decades.

Even though the EU has suffered in the last couple of years, at least the aims of bringing economic interests onto one platform and preventing another world war have succeeded.

The EU does not want to allow Turkey into the Union, at least for the foreseeable future. The GCC and Israel have no chance of joining the EU since their lands are located entirely in the Middle East.

Turkey and Israel have long historical, economic and cultural ties. In fact, Turkey was one of the first countries to recognise Israel. Furthermore, Turkey has fairly good relations with the GCC. In this equation, Turkey can play a key role in bringing Israel and the GCC into a union.

The part of the equation which is clearly hard to solve is how can Israel and the GCC agree to be on the same economic platform?

From Israel’s point of view, the country has developed economically and reached around USD 40,000 per capita. This is a tremendous success without any natural resources. In the meantime, there is a continuous security threat which reduces the country’s true potential and Israel, like any other nation, does not want to fight continuously with its neighbours.

From the GCC point of view, the USA is already rapidly diversifying its energy needs and they are very likely not to need as much oil from the Middle East as is currently the case. We can already see the effects of this, as the USA does not show the same level of interest as previously.

If the GCC is not able to diversity its income sources, it faces a big potential economic threat. Places such as Dubai and Qatar are trying to achieve this diversity fast, but since human capital is mainly imported, I personally do not see the current system as sustainable.

And the GCC does not really function very well alone. Interestingly, there are also some internal conflicts. It is no secret that Qatar and Saudi Arabia do not get along very well.

Turkey has relatively cheap labour, massive land and a skilled white collar work force. Israel has a huge talent pool, where the proportion of university graduates in the country is the highest amongst the developed world. Furthermore, not only does it have a wealth of graduates, but it supports a culture with an entrepreneurial attitude.

The GCC has an extensive land area, and still valuable natural resources such as oil and gas, but it lacks human capital. These different parts of the equation can combine to help create an economic union to leverage their potential.

A potential union will not only help us to solve the conflicts between the countries quickly, but also could potentially draw people closer and help them to understand each other better.

I know it sounds like a utopia, but big achievements always grow from what many believe to be impossible.

Of course, we also need politicians with clear intentions, no hidden agendas and international support to establish this platform.

A project on this scale would be a stepping stone for the Middle East and the end of its bloody history.

So why not try?

Best regards from Singapore,

Sukru Haskan

 

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How EU lost Turkey?

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I was lucky to attend one of the most established schools in Istanbul, Nisantasi Isik Lisesi, from Kindergarten to High School.

The school was founded in 1885 in Thessaloniki by teacher Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; it then moved to Istanbul after some years, as the war made it impossible for the school to operate in Thessaloniki.

It is a secular and democratic school which has developed many successful businessmen, academicians, politicians and many other public figures in all walks of life.

As a consequence, I grew up in a secular and modern environment with European Turkish values. During my time at High School, this was not considered at all unusual. It was standard. We always felt that we were part of Europe.

When I graduated from High School in 2001, Istanbul had a population of less than ten million.

I would say Istanbul was just another European city in my childhood, with a mix of oriental and western history and some beautiful landmarks.

2005 was an important year for Turkish society, since Turkey’s accession talks were about to start. I remember attending many talks on this topic just before going to London for my postgraduate studies.

After completing my studies in London, I remember feeling that I was missing out on something important, as Turkey continued to grow at a tremendous rate and I was spending my time in London. Actually, many people shared my impulse and returned to Turkey between 2007 and 2011.

And then things started to change dramatically. The economy continued to perform relatively well, but the almost double digit growth was gone. In the meantime, the EU accession talks failed to get anywhere.

Out of 35 chapters, only one was closed. What did Turkey lack that Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and other countries did not?

France, Germany, Holland and Austria always looked upon Turkish accession to the EU with suspicion. Whilst they have some relevant points and valid concerns, I believe there was a degree of unnecessary prejudice against Turkey and even today, in 2016, this is a valid observation.

And now we are at this unpleasant juncture.

Even though, geographically, part of Turkey is in the European continent, Turkey is no longer looking towards the west. This is not the choice of Turkish politicians and the Turkish population, but it is a result of the relentless and baseless efforts of many EU countries.

This will undoubtedly have significant consequences for Turkey and the EU in the near future. In addition to this stretched relationship, it does not really help to have the EU parliament deciding on sensitive issues in Turkish internal politics, either.

Elif Safak, a famous Turkish novelist and the author of Bastards of Istanbul, published a new article in the Financial Times to appease my fellow British citizens, declaring that Turkey no longer wants to be more European, but actually less.

Today, the estimated population of Istanbul is around 17 million, and I keep asking:

Wouldn’t the EU be stronger and safer with a strong Turkey?

Wouldn’t it be a very good example for the rest of the Muslim world?

Wouldn’t Turkish accession prove that the EU is a multicultural and diverse society rather than a so-called Christian club?

There is no doubt that a lot of people will be affected by these decisions. Unfortunately, the most affected is the secular and modern Turk who has so far advocated European values and democracy. Some of these Turks have already left, and many of them are considering leaving the country.

It is painful to feel that you are being abandoned by the people and the institution that you have most trusted and supported throughout your life.

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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It is more than a club, it is Besiktas!

As Bill Shankly, a former manager of Liverpool FC, said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”

I personally assure you that it is not actually football in general, but Besiktas specifically that is a matter of life and death.

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Some people think it is not very intellectual to align yourself with a sports club. First of all, Besiktas is not merely a sports club, but a strong social community where many people have known each other for many years, and they are like a real, big family.

It is such a powerful family that it helps other Turkish sports clubs, who not only steal the chants of Besiktas, but also adore its character and soul.

As the Daily Mail wrote in 2015 after the club’s victory against Liverpool, “Brendan Rodgers’s side were greeted at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium with a loud and intimidating atmosphere as the Turkish fans made it clear the opposition wouldn’t get an easy ride.”

In the Besiktas community, there is no real social hierarchy. You can find a billionaire drinking beer with a factory worker in the heart of the Besiktas borough before each game.

Besiktas is the public; the public is Besiktas!

Sometimes, when I try to step back and really look, I see a lot of similarities between us and religious communities. (Okay, we maybe drink a bit more than them …)

It is everything, as one of our chants says; it is the meaning of our survival.

It is not about the world record decibel level in the Liverpool game, nor about victory over a rival… It is about the soul and the character of the club and its supporters.

I was only six years old when my father took me to my first Besiktas game. It was like a dream, since it was the start of the three year domination of Besiktas.

I sadly lost my father only three years after our first Besiktas game, and I decided to go to games by myself from the age of 12.

In Turkey, it is a courageous act to go to games at that age, since Turkish football can be dangerous. However, the more you follow the road to the Besiktas stadium in Istanbul through the trees, the more you become addicted to this passion.

It is in this stadium that I have made so many friendships, met so many wonderful people. Even our new stadium is fantastic, thanks to our current president, Fikret Orman, though I am sure many of us are still nostalgic for the old stadium because of its wealth of memories. We, Besiktas supporters, are addicted to nostalgia…

We don’t trade the present for the future, but we will always happily trade the present for the past.

Last weekend, Besiktas became champions of the Turkish Super Lig for the first time in seven years. This is the source of tremendous joy that is impossible to define in words.

But you know, even had Besiktas not become champions this season, they would always have remained the champions of our hearts.

As a person who doesn’t have the ability to write a single love letter, this is the only love that inspires me to write and which makes me miss my hometown: Besiktas, Istanbul.

Long live Besiktas and the Besiktas community!

CHAMPIONS BESIKTAS!

P.S. Distance can be problematic and long-distance love can be challenging, but not for Besiktas. Of course, I travelled for a whole day from Singapore (about 8,000 km) to be there with the team I love.

For Turkish followers: ASIL OLAN HAYATTIR, HAYATTA BESIKTAS!

All the best.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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EU Migrant Agreement with Turkey

On 18 March,  European Union and Turkey decided to agree to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU.

I personally believe this agreement is a hall of shame statement for not only for European Union, but also for Turkey.

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If  you are a regular reader of my blog, you would remember that I have written a short piece on insincere EU attitude towards Turkey for many years and this is now another seal on the subject.

The EU and Turkey agreed that:

1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey;

2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU;

3) Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU;
4) Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated;

5) The fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016. Turkey will take all the necessary steps to fulfil the remaining requirements;

6) The EU will, in close cooperation with Turkey, further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Once these resources are about to be used in full, the EU will mobilise additional funding for the Facility up to an additional €3 billion to the end of 2018;

7) The EU and Turkey welcomed the ongoing work on the upgrading of the Customs Union.
8) The accession process will be re-energised, with Chapter 33 to be opened during the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union and preparatory work on the opening of other chapters to continue at an accelerated pace;
9) The EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.

We are facing the largest involutarily human movement since the World War II and the “civilised countries” are failing to do whatever they need to.

Instead they are very busy with pushing the dirt under the rug.

EU should adopt a more viable and smarter approach towards Turkey rather than simply dangling carrots.

I am wondering what would be the Turkish stance when the visa liberalisation for Turks will be delayed for whatever reasons in the coming months.

I want to finish my article by a great quote by Larry Brilliant.

“Civilizations should be judged not by how they treat people closest to power, but rather how they treat those furthest from power – whether in race, religion, gender, wealth or class – as well as in time”

All the best.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Financial Times, Thank you!

Financial Times published my letter on October, 30th regarding recent developments in Turkey.

Thank you for featuring me!
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Link for the letter: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/5b441c12-7e54-11e5-a1fe-567b37f80b64.html

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EU and Turkey: A Sour Love Story

The migrant crisis has been ongoing without a proper solution for some time now, and this week Chancellor Merkel visited Istanbul to cooperate with Turkey to address the issue.

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One may ask: “How come Turkey became an important source for a solution?”

I am trying to find these answers in my article this week. Or simply: “Is Turkey really an important variable in the solution equation?”

I personally respect Chancellor Merkel, as every single leader in the biggest EU economies has changed since the global financial crisis, except Angela Merkel.

For instance, Gordon Brown was replaced by David Cameron in the UK, Nicolas Sarkozy by Francois Hollande in France, Jose Zapatero by Mariano Rajoy in Spain, Silvio Berlusconi by Mario Monti and then Enrico Letta and Matteo Renzi in Italy.

There is no doubt that Chancellor Merkel is a strong leader. Even though I do not like her treatment of and attitude towards Greece in the last couple of years, I do believe that she has done a magnificent job in keeping Germany growing and increasing German influence in these very difficult times.

My French readers and friends may dislike this statement, but she is the sole de facto EU president today.

Unfortunately, relations between the EU and Turkey have been sour from the beginning.

Turkey’s application for EU membership dates back to 1987 and accession talks began only in 2005. Only one chapter out of 35 is currently closed, and many member states are opposed to opening new chapters. In other words, there is no accession progression at all right now.

Chancellor Merkel came up with ‘great’ incentives for Turkey to help the EU with the migrant crisis in her visit to Turkey. I will term these incentives something like “bribes” for Turkey:

  • Visa liberalisations for Turkish citizens
  • Revitalisation of talks between the EU and Turkey
  • Three billion euros in aid

In exchange, the EU demands that Turkey issues work permits for Syrian refugees so that they can be included in the Turkish work force and that it cooperates fully with Frontex to make sure the refugees are not trespassing to EU borders.

Turkish citizens have waited for a long time to be able to travel freely within the EU and Turkish citizens are not really interested any more in revitalising talks with the EU. The EU has lost its ground among the Turkish population with its insincere politics over decades. In addition, even its member states are questioning its survival probability over the next ten years, and, more importantly, its functionality.

Chancellor Merkel is taking a calculated risk by granting some minor concessions to Turkey and this approach proves that the EU is not after a long term solution.

The EU wants Turkey to create a permanent living space for most of the Syrian refugees in a single country rather than sharing this burden. In return, the EU grants Turkey small and possibly temporary concessions.

Is this just another insincere EU policy towards Turkey? Indeed, it is!

Has the EU analysed the probable consequences in terms of unemployability, further economic and political instability, crime rate, etc. on Turkey after accepting 2.5 million refugees? Would granting visa liberalisation, one-off aid of three billion euros and opening up some chapters justify any possible long term consequences on Turkish politics and economics?

That’s where the problem begins. I would like to share a paragraph from my article, “Would you like to be in the same boat?” published in August about how I would like to see Europe.

“Europe is the birthplace of the Renaissance: it brought humanism, art, development in science and policy, reform in education and self-awareness. I would expect the same Europe to bring intelligence, know-how, education, sanitation, water, healthcare and other basic human needs to these countries. Instead, politicians are proudly talking of extra fencing, dogs and police officers. Unfortunately, these measures were not really helpful and I’m afraid that they will not be helpful going forward either.”

Unfortunately Europe’s great ideology, its vision of the desired unity, has been non-existent for some years now. Of course, Turkey will grant some work permits and will help these migrants.

But it is not just the duty of Turkey. It is the duty of humanity.

Granting work permits to over 2.5 million people in a single country is not a solution. The EU wants to sweep the problem under the rug and very likely, as Turkey is a leading hand-made rug producer, Turkey has been chosen to replace the duty of the rug here!

Another insincerity from Europe has been the delay in the publication of a European Union report on Turkey until after the November election. This report is about Turkey’s human rights and free speech.

The European Union has been losing its influence for some time now and the UK is preparing for a referendum on whether or not to stay in the union.

I personally would like to see the EU stronger, more sincere and, more importantly, a true representative of its ancestors, where the Renaissance attributes of humanism, art, and development in science and policy are manifested.

I hope Turkey rejects these unnecessary and insincere proposals, not to secure a better deal, but to get some much wanted respect in the world arena, along with a fair solution to the whole Syrian migrant population.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter:@sukru_haskan

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Handy Guide For Istanbul

After publishing “Handy Guide for Singapore” two weeks ago, I have been asked by many followers to publish an article on my native land, Istanbul.

Thanks to my wife, Dilek Haskan, we managed to bring out our wealth of experience in Istanbul.

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SIGHTSEEING/NEIGHBOURHOODS

Historical peninsula: This neighbourhood should be your first stop in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, The Basilica Cistern and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are the must-see sites.

For shopping and the ultimate eye indulgence, sample various spices from around the world in Spice Market and visit Grand Bazaar for a shopping experience unique to Turkey.

  • Grand Bazaar/Historical Peninsula Shopping:

Iznik Art and Iznik Works for Iznik pottery and tiles

Armaggan for jewellery, objects d’art and homeware. They also have a boutique hotel located in a ‘yali’ on Bosphorus.

Dhoku for great carpets – they even sell to my wife’s favourite stores Anthropologie and ABC Home in the US.

Taksim: Historical street with lots of cafes and restaurants. Visit Galata Tower here. You should also visit Serdar-i Ekrem Street for local designer stores.

Besiktas/Ortakoy/Bebek: You can take a boat from Besiktas and have a tour on Bosphorus, enjoy great views of both European and Anatolian side.

While you’re here, stock Turkish delights at Lokum Istanbul.

Nisantasi: Hip district for shopping, in-demand restaurants and cafes

EATING OUT

Traditional restaurants:

  • Mikla in Taksim district for modern Ottoman style cuisine
  • Hamdi in historical peninsula for Turkish meat dishes; you should try pistachio kebab here
  • Hunkar in Nisantasi
  • Pandeli Restaurant in Spice Market is dated back to 1901 and visited by historical figures and American actors such as Audrey Hepburn and Robert De Niro
  • Karakoy Lokantasi for traditional Ottoman cuisine; try Hunkar Begendi here
  • Ciya Sofrasi if you visit Anatolian side

Modern restaurants:

Turkey doesn’t have Michelin star restaurants yet but we definitely have some restaurants that deserves it such as Nicole and Alancha.

  • Nicole in Taksim
  • Alancha in Nisantasi
  • Colonie and Gaspar in Karakoy with a bar and restaurant
  • Munferit in Taksim (closed on Sundays)
  • Changa in Taksim; this is a very well decorated restaurant (Wallpaper Design Award in 2007) with good food
  • Sunset in Ulus; great food and an accompanying great view
  • While you’re here, you can stop by Ulus 29 which is nearby to have drinks over views

Seafood/Fish restaurant:

You should try one of these while you are in Istanbul

  • Rumelihisari Iskele Restaurant: This is my favourite fish restaurant..
  • Kandilli Suna’nin Yeri: Humble fish restaurant in Uskudar on Anatolian side; you can take the boat from Besiktas and go to Uskudar in 5 mins
  • Kiyi: in Tarabya

Night life (these bars/clubs have restaurants too)

  • Reina on Bosphorus; one of the usual suspects. Not always the best crowd but spectacular view
  • Anjelique on Bosphorus; I like this one better than Reina
  • Nuteras in Taksim overseeing old town
  • Su Ada: If  you are in Istanbul in summer. It’s an artificial island in the middle of the sea with bars and restaurants and a pool.
  • 360 Istanbul in Taksim; 360 degree views of the city

SHOPPING

  • Galata neighbourhood in Taksim is the area that has many Turkish designer shops on Serdar-I Ekrem Street

While you’re here, visit Dogan Apartmani – a spectacular building of Italian architecture built in 1800s and Georges Hotel (a design boutique hotel) for drinks over views

Visit Asli Tunca’s luxury interior boutique which is located in the residence that is decorated with a modernized Ottoman style

  • Nisantasi

Beymen is a very popular high end department store

Haremlique for high quality bed and bath products

Yastik by Rifat Ozbek for hand woven pillows with Ikats and Suzani embroideries

Machka and Yargici are ladies’ favourite Turkish stores, you can find both in Nisantasi. You can have lunch in Delicatessen or Beymen Brasserie while you are here.

If you are into Turkish style decoration items, one store to visit is Pasabahce. There is another great store you should visit called HirefThis store is not in Nisantasi but in a shopping mall called Istinye Park.

Midnight Express is another favourite boutique of my wife carrying a good selection of Turkish and foreign designers.

Fey: A vintage boutique highly coveted by my wife

Modern Museums: Both are on Bosphorus and have great exhibitions all year round.

  • Istanbul Modern
  • Sabanci Museum

WHERE TO STAY

If you want to be close to the old city and museums, you should stay at Sultanahmet and Hotel Amira is the best place to stay here.

They are currently number one on TripAdvisor and they treat their guests like family.

Alternatively, depending on your budget you may like to stay in Kempsinki Ciragan Palace. It used to be an Ottoman Palace and is situated on the Bosphorus.

All the best from Singapore,
Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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A Decade Away from Istanbul

The date of 15 September 2015 marks the completion of a decade away from Istanbul in my native land, Turkey.

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It is always good to look back and analyse your challenges, mistakes and successes to improve yourself.

I am still young but a completely different person from who I used to be.

What has been my experience in the last 10 years?

I would definitely rate my experience as 10 out of 10.

Here are the reasons why.

Once I was out of my comfort zone, I realized what a spoiled upbringing I had had.

Your parents want to give you everything and that’s not really good.

I was living in central London and I had some of my old friends from Turkey and new friends from my courses.

Initially, it was too much fun!

But then I realized that I had to wash my clothes, change my bed linen and even sometimes cook!

I truly wasn’t aware of all these tasks being done by somebody else all those years!

Lesson #1: The first few weeks in London taught me that I had good intellectual capacity, but I was not at all prepared for everyday life.

Even paying the bills on time and keeping track of what I spent was a totally new concept for me.

Once I started to get going with the basics, I was fine but I was not aware that life was about to get tough.

Without being immodest, I can say that my graduate course on international business economics was going very well. I was very confident that I would be one of the very few students who would get a distinction at the year’s end and I did!

In the meantime, I started liking the challenges and most importantly London! And I made the decision to stay there.

So I needed to find a proper job.

Istanbul was my playground and I could reach anybody through my network but London was something new. I did not know anybody except a few friends who were also students.

Lesson #2: I learned that I had to rely on myself to get things done. Nobody would give me a job here as I have no contacts in London.

So I started networking and applying !

This was a great challenge.

And I did it!

Now I had a job and I stayed in London.

New challenges lay ahead.

I enrolled on a graduate programme for new employees from all over the world: Brazil, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the UK, Germany, Iran…

While I was a student, I chose whom to spend time with.  A new episode in my life was about to start…

Lesson #3: I understood how important it is to interact with everybody, not only with loved ones!

More importantly, I learned that I have to build relationships with those I don’t like as well!

Having been in London for some years, I had friends now from all over the globe.

Time was ticking by and I was exposed to many different cultures, which fostered my curiosity and confused me as well, sometimes.

Lesson #4: This encouraged me to travel to different countries to understand my friends’ cultures and I also read a lot about them.

I should know the history of people with whom I am dealing and more importantly I should understand their background and what influences their decisions.

And then I discovered that I don’t even know my own background properly. Unfortunately, history lessons in Turkish high schools are not wide-ranging.

I am still learning…

Lesson #5: As Richard Branson famously says, “The more you travel, the more you read and the more you read, the more you travel”. I am in a learning circle right now which I doubt I will ever want to leave.

A Danish gentleman, Peter Klein, was my first CEO and I remember what he told me during my first days of employment.

“University does not teach you much but it does teach one main thing and that is the ability to update yourself continuously”.

Maybe university did not do that but living abroad in the last decade definitely did !

To sum up, I had a really fantastic decade living outside my comfort zone. It became so addictive that I am not sure I want to step into my comfort zone again.

I encourage you all, especially new graduates, to get out of your comfort zone and work abroad.

Unfortunately, the world is not so rosy and the best way to learn is to get out of your comfort zone and mix with different types of people.

All the best from Singapore

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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