If you read my last blog post, or if you happened to pass through Istanbul, you’re aware of the large number of animals wandering the streets specifically cats. Istanbul’s vast roaming cat population, which has earned this ancient city the moniker “Catstantinople,” is a mixture of strays and domestic pets though the differences are surprisingly minimal. One would not expect the scraps of even a highly populated area such as Istanbul would not be able to support a correspondingly high number of felines. Yet, the kediler (cats in Turkish), for the most, part are relatively healthy looking. At the expense of having piles of cat food strewn across the metropolis, the Turkish people seem to collectively care for cats feeding strays and other peoples’ cats alike whereas, in America, these cats would receive a decidedly less warm welcoming. Istanbulites treatment of cats, despite not being bestowed the title of “man’s best friend,” is telling (beyond the economic benefits of not having to pay for cleanup as well as the pleasantry which is being able to go about one’s daily without tripping over cat carcasses).
Though their animals rights may not be on par with their European neighbors (Holland has a walkway going over busy streets for cats), Turkey has been (according to the Turks I've spoken to) and is an extremely welcoming country perhaps even more so than America and Italy (unless you’re a crusader). In America and Italy, people give you directions; in Istanbul, people will get up from enjoying their chai and walk you to your destination. In America and Italy, your friend will share half their sandwich; in Istanbul, people who have fasted all day, who don’t speak much English, who you’ve just met, will invite to share in their iftar (Arabic for breaking the fast). By no means am I calling Americans and Italians inhospitable, I’m saying Turkish people take hospitality to a new level. I believe this is due in part to the economic development of America and Europe which both an extensive business culture which is, at times, cold. Hopefully, Turkey’s continued economic growth will not come at the expense of its friendly culture.