Are you off back to the UK or elsewhere to see family and friends for Christmas? If so, you’re in luck. Forget fighting the Christmas queues in other countries and get your pressies here. Turkey is full of exciting souvenirs that would make the ideal gift or stocking filler. Even if you’re in the UK and fancy buying something Turkish, online stores like Amazon have lots of things they can deliver straight to your door, there are also lots of shops online in the UK that supply Turkish goods. Here are a few ideas I’m sure anyone on Santa’s ‘good list’ would enjoy…
Turkish Delight. Yawn! Ok, I’ve started the list with the most predictable gift but nevertheless, Turkish Delight is well loved the world over and the stuff you get here tastes a whole lot different to the chocolate covered bars with dayglo filling you pick up in Tescos. Here in Turkey, you get the real deal. Head along to a Turkish Delight store and fill your own box full of nibbles in all manner of flavours, covered with all sorts of different things. My particular favourites are the mint and rose – but the walnut filled ones rolled in desiccated coconut are also special. You can pick up ready-made boxes easily in the local supermarkets, at the local Pazar (market) or souvenir stalls. It’s an affordable, albeit a predictable gift.
Nargile (Shisha / Hubba-Bubba Pipes)
The nargile is often thought to have originated from Turkey but actually came to the country from India during the days of the Ottoman Empire. Turks and Arabs smoke shisha socially, filling the pipe with their favourite flavours of tobacco (apple, lemon, pomegranate, mango etc.) and handing the pipe around in a circle amongst friends. There are lots of bars in Fethiye and the resorts now offering nargile pipes to punters. Normally a specially trained member of staff will come over with the pipe and a handful of mouthpieces so each person has their own as the pipe is passed around. The coals are kept piping hot and topped up regularly throughout the evening. Nargiles make a great gift, even if the receiver isn’t a smoker, some of the coulourful and ornate designs make great ornaments and accent pieces for the home. They are relatively inexpensive (c80TL+ or c£17) and you can pick them up easily in Fethiye Old Town Paspatur, in the resorts during the season, at markets or online.
Nazar Boncuk (Evil Eye Pendants)
Pass on a little luck with a Nazar Boncuk. Here in Turkey, it’s believed that displaying these attractive shiny blue amulets, with a distinctive ‘eye’ on them, will fend off the widely feared ‘evil-eye’. All superstition you may think, but to many Turks, if anything goes wrong in their life, the ‘Nazar’ is blamed. You see these fancy deterrent eyes everywhere! Hang them at eye level at the entrance of your home to keep away unwanted guests. Wear a necklace with an eye-shaped pendant to bring good luck and keep away unwanted attention, pop one on the dashboard of your car or buy a key-ring and it will keep you safe. Believer or not, a shiny blue eye is a charming gift for anyone and comes with an interesting tale that’s sure to go down well over a sip or two of mulled wine.
Turkish Mosaic Lamps and Candle Holders
The history of the beautiful mosaic lamps you see in Turkey is fascinating and dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Back in pre-electric days, candles, oil lamps and primitive torches were the main forms of lighting. Light was seen as a luxury by many of the elite so, to impose their status, they ordered local craftsmen to decorate glass bowls in various colours to home their candles and oil-lamps thereby creating atmosphere in the rooms of their palaces and mansions. These designs evolved over time and mosaic lamps were born. Coming in many colourful and intricate designs; stand-alone, candelabras, pendant lamps – all unique, each creating a different feel for the home. Mosaic lamps really are special and the ideal gift to take home provided you ask the vendor to make sure the glass is well padded and wrapped for the journey. Prices for a little tealight holder start at a few lira, with electric lamps starting at around 60TL (c£12) rising dependant on size, design and materials used. A mosaic lamp is gift that’s sure to impress even the most discerning of recipients.
Turkish Spices and Spice Sets
Turkey falls at the point where East meets West and has been at the heart of trading routes for centuries. Camel traders used to travel the Silk Road peddling their spices in towns and settlements. A trip to Istanbul Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market and you will still see and smell the countless spice stalls with their pots and urns brimming with all manner of freshly ground herbs and flavours. Here in Fethiye, you will find open stalls on the Tuesday market, or other local pazars selling all manner of spices (just pick up a little first and smell it to check it is truly fresh!). You can buy the ready made souvenir arrays, sometimes accompanied by a grinder, or you could buy little bags of spices, buy a few nice little condiment pots and make your own gift (I did this a few years ago and it went down really well!). Some of the best spices to get are Red Pepper Flakes (‘Krimzi Biber’ – hard to find in the UK), Oregano (Kekik), Mint (Nane), Sumac (hard to find in UK, used in a lot of Turkish cooking and meze) and Saffron ( a lot cheaper here than the UK, ground and threads found in most spice shops).
Lemon or Rose Cologne
Head to a locals house, lokanta (local restaurant) or office and chances are they will have either lemon or rose cologne on hand, normally offered to guests after food or before leaving. I went to the tax office to talk about new rental laws recently and halfway through the meeting, after the obligatory cay (tea), a gentleman came in offering ‘lokum’ (Turkish delight) and a splash of lemon cologne to freshen up – it’s the norm here, even in business meetings! Originally, until around the 16th Century rose water was the main scented water used to freshen up until Eau De Cologne finally came to Turkey and the lemon smell was deemed more attractive therefore dethroning rose as the favoured scent. It’s used for many things; to repel mosquitos, to treat mosquito bites, to freshen up and cool down or simply to hide the smell of sweat during a hot summers day. You can buy it cheaply everywhere – supermarkets, mini-markets, market stalls, even at the airport. A good affordable Turkish gift.
Turkish Ceramics. Turkey has a long history of producing wonderful ceramics dating back thousands of years, to pre-historic Anatolia (think the pottery of the Hitites and distinctive ceramic tiles of the Iznik). Pottery has played an important role in everyday life throughout time and Turkeys rich and diverse history, it’s Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman influences have all made their mark on the ceramic and earthenware we see today. Many of the better souvenir stores in central Fethiye (Paspatur) will sell pottery or ceramics based on traditional designs. Alternitively you can find them online. All manner of vases, pots, and urns are available at all sorts of different prices. Have a haggle and I’m sure you could get a good deal.
Backgammon. Backgammon or ‘tavla’ to the Turks, is a well-loved game played regularly at home, bars, and tea-houses. Almost every Turkish man you meet (and a lot of ladies) are killer backgammon players that will but your average player to shame. You can pick up backgammon sets easily, from cheap mass produced ones, to handcrafted wooden and mother of pearl sets that also make great ornaments. Take a look in the souvenir shops, on the local markets or online, it’s a lovely pressie for anyone with a competitive streak this Xmas.
Turkish Gold and Diamonds. If you really want to treat someone this Christmas, gold jewellery is a great gift sure to put a smile on your loved ones face. Turks do gold. It is the norm here to gift a bride and groom either gold coins or jewellery at a wedding or give it to parents on the birth of a child. There are jewellers everywhere. The gold here tends to be 18 or 22 carat and of good quality sold by the weight. Prices fluctuate daily but it is normally possible to haggle and get an excellent price for a ring, bracelet or necklace that would cost a fortune back home. Shop around, you are sure to find a great deal locally.
Olive Oil Soap. Olive oil soap is sold everywhere and comes with a tradition dating back more than 600 years. The best are made and scented traditionally with all-natural ingredients. They look a little rustic with a green, often speckled hue. Olive oil is widely known for its healing and moisturising properties, it’s distinctive ‘clean’ smell reminiscent of trips to the Hamam (Turkish Bath). You can pick up a bar or souvenir set cheaply in souvenir shops, or there are specialist soap shops like the Soap Lady in Central Fethiye, that specialise in all types of soaps. Another great, affordable gift that’s easy to take home.
Pashminas. A shopping trip around a traveling market, a resort or town center in Turkey and you are sure to find all manner of shawls and pashminas for sale. From as little as 10TL, you can buy a warm pashmina in all manner of colours and designs. Cashmere and silk blends are obviously more expensive but still very reasonably priced and they make great gifts – they are also very easy to pack and take up very little space in your case.
Well, there you have it, my top 11 Christmas Gifts from Turkey. There are many more of course; silver jewellery, Turkish coffee sets, traditional bath and Hamam towels or mitts, local art, beautiful calligraphy or Turkish cookbooks…but the list will never end – Turkey simply offers too much! What are you taking home for Christmas? Please comment and let us know.
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