As a new and ongoing feature, we’d like to provide our readers with street-level observations about Turkish daily life. This will be the first and, coincidentally, it will describe a scene from Ankara, Turkey’s capital.
For the past two weeks I’ve been in Ankara and I noticed an interesting detail about Ankara’s street life. In Çankaya Municipality there‘s an area which can be called “Embassy Hill” — for those who know Ankara’s shopping facilities, that’s the slope looking down on Panora Shopping Center. The hill, until recently, was grassland, but large embassies have sprouted on the hill, with several more apparently in the works. Kazakhstan’s humongous embassy facilities are there, plus Georgia, Azerbaijan, Palestine, Indonesia, the Turkish-Japanese Cultural Foundation building, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, amongst others.
The topmost sections of the hill are still vacant lots, but wide, paved streets run through the real estate to provide access to the embassies already present. Most of the streets are named after heroes from the Turkish War of Independence, like Fethi Okyar, Kılıç Ali, and Refet Bele. Towards the northern edge of the hill there’s an excellent view looking over most of Ankara’s central areas, and that’s where the Tunisian embassy and the Saudi Arabian embassy residence are located.
As one can imagine, the presence of hilltop vacant lots with scenery in the southern suburbs of Ankara provides excellent hang out space for the local youth. Indeed, even during daytime hours on a weekday, one will observe the delikanlılar zipping their modified (suspension lowered, “phat” tires) compact Peugeots, VWs, and the occasional BMW up to the top of the hill to hang out and quaff a few beers. Flattened Efes cans and broken bottles are the main roadside features on the entire hill.
All of this sounds like perfectly normal urban life, but there is one more aspect that adds variety. Between the Saudi Arabian and Tunisian facilities is a large parking space surfaced with the ubiquitous red paving stones used in Turkish cities. This parking space, of course, provides yet more space for the youth to hang out in, which is exactly what happens.
So the view from the northern side of the hill, looking over Ankara, is like this: on the southern side of the street, the Tunisian embassy (painted elegantly in the classic Mediterranean white-and-blue) and on the northern side of the street, maybe 50 meters further down the hill, the Saudi residence. In between is a large parking space, usually with a car or two parked and young men hanging around. Smashed beer cans litter the pavement. The Saudi flag flutters in the background.