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Travel - How Gay Is Istanbul?... Oh, So Gay!...

by Rien Ultee in Travel and weekendtrips , 18 oktober 2006


After my visit to Bodrum and Antalya, about which I reported in the previous issue of Gay News, it was time to travel onwards to Istanbul with its rich history. Istanbul has twelve million inhabitants and is truly a city that never sleeps; live goes on twenty-four hours a day. Istanbul is a large city with many lively neighborhoods. A good map and the use of taxis or public transport are essential. The restaurants have no fixed closing times and there are plenty of outside tables to have a drink or a bite to eat.

Gay Istanbul is liberal and lively. The city is a big magnet for gays from all over Turkey. The many clubs, bars and discos offer lots of opportunities to meet people. The nightlife is concentrated mainly around the Taksim Square.



Lambda Istanbul is an important gay & lesbian organization in Turkey and plays an essential role in the emancipation of homosexuality. Lambda follows and archives various gay and lesbian activities, such as the Gay Parade. In a country with more than 90% Muslims it takes a lot of activities to make a change. There are lots of obstacles and frequent intimidation. Lambda is very happy with the support it receives from COC-Nederland and there are several Dutch gay politicians who are working on the rights of gay and lesbian Turks.

In the era of the Ottoman Empire homosexuality already had a history of about five centuries. It is generally known that some of the Sultans enjoyed sex with boys in Hamams, the Turkish bath houses that were (and still are) meeting places for casual sex. Unfortunately (much of) this tradition has been lost under Western influence.



Turkey has very much a macho culture, although you wouldn’t say that when you visit Istanbul’s bars or the fantastic disco Love Dance Point. The Turkish gays seem to party as carefree as their Dutch brothers and sisters. Gay life in Istanbul could be called exclusive and diverse: intimate restaurants with private performances of beauties as well as large discos where they dance till early morning.
The people seem to be very friendly and tolerant, compare that to Amsterdam!

The 5.Kat Café Bar is great for the view on the Bosporus, the good food, the cute waiters and a pleasant crowd. When you enter this place you’re embraced by an atmosphere of warmth, coziness and a certain exciting sensation. First you go up four floors and you feel you’re in the tower of a castle. The city lies at your feet and at night the many birds flying around seem to reflect light. Everything is lit, like a fairy tale from a Thousand and One Nights. Book a table in advance because all of Turkey wants to eat here.



Istanbul has so much more to offer and it will be worth your while to check out its cultural treasures.
The Topkapi palace is from 1584 and used to be the residence of the Ottoman sultans. There’s a permanent exhibition of sacred Muslim relics and remains, Chinese porcelain, weapons etc. The Aghya Sophia Mosque is one of the great architectural miracles, built as a basilica in the sixth century. The Blue Mosque opposite the basilica is famous for its blue tiles and the unique six minarets built by Sultan Ahmet.
The diversity of churches and religions show Turkey’s tolerance. So if they just fix the legal rights of gays than they’re very welcome in the EU.



Special thanks to:
Seal Travel: www.sealtravel.com;
Mantrav: www.mantrav.nl;
Guest Travel Services: www.guesttravel.com;
Abdullah Aytekin (our guide in Istanbul): aayteking@guesttravel.com

Websites of some places:
Noi bar/disco: www.noibar.com
Love disco: www.lovedancepoint.com
5.Kat café/bar: www.5kat.com



 







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