Last Sunday, we joined friends for coffee at Caffe Nero, just a few doors down from where we'd met my aunt for drinks, in swanky Bebek. We parked about seven minutes down the road, along the Bosphorus, and so as we walked, we got to see people going about their Sunday.
As we approached the Egyptian consulate, right before we hit the Bebek strip, we saw a number of men standing around in their swim trunks, jumping into the water, or sunbathing on the sidewalk. It was ALL men - no women in sight. When I mentioned this to Cagatay, he said simply, "of course." Apparently the water is clean enough to swim in but with all the boat traffic and trash (the average Turk has no issues with littering), I would never dream of dipping a toe in the Bosphorus. Yuck.
However, the biggest surprise came when we got to the large waterside park right next to the Caffe Nero - there were hundreds of gypsy families picnicking there. I was probably least surprised of the group because I had no expectations - but the other three were shocked to see the Roma in such large numbers in such a fashionable neighborhood. (Apparently, the picnicking even made the front page of a newspaper the next day.)
I don't know much about the Roma except that, as in most places, they're not well liked by the greater community and have been pushed to the fringes. Personally, I can't tell the difference between a "regular" Turk and someone who is Roma, especially considering that a lot of the religiously minded women here wear headscarves, which is what traditionally identifies a gypsy in other countries. But I do know there's been some controversy here as the Turkish goverment seizes now-valuable land from the Roma and other impoverished communities in the name of urban renewal (and then moves them into distant apartments they can't afford). They controversially razed the Sulukule neighborhood, which Time says was home to the world's oldest Roma community, a few years ago, and are now focusing on a crime-ridden neighborhood relatively near us called Tarlabaşı. You can see a little bit of what Sulukule and its residents looked like in this sad ten-minute video called My Beloved Sulukule.
Anyway...(umm, I don't know how to segue from that), as we were walking back to the car - after passing the gorgeous and newly renovated Art Nouveau Egyptian consulate building - we passed this dog, sleeping on a scooter...