‘I glimpse her ahead of me’ – a solo female traveller follows her hero across Turkey

Green-eyed Gertrude Bell belongs in Charles Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta, that slab of velvety antique that enthralled the English (they were not yet British) in the love-affair phase of their relationship with the Arabs. County Durham-born to a wealthy industrialist father, Bell (1868-1926) was a key player when the Powers tried ineptly to mould the Middle East, as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. She is well covered in the literature and appears in a large hat alongside Churchill in conference photographs. But as Pat Yale announces in this new book: ‘Her time in Turkey has been largely overlooked.’ Bell travelled extensively in that country before the first world war (starting

On the trail of Roman Turkey with Don McCullin

The genesis for our book Journeys across Roman Asia Minor was hatched in the autumn of 1973, when Sir Donald McCullin was a young man. He had been assigned by the Sunday Times to work with the writer Bruce Chatwin on a story that would take them from a murder in Marseille to the Aurès highlands of north-east Algeria. It was an emotionally gruelling journey and they rewarded themselves on the way back by stopping off to look at a solitary Roman ruin. No photographs were taken, but the memory of this place from all those years ago remained embedded in Don’s imagination. Three decades later, that seed bore fruit,

The ‘historic’ national dishes which turn out to be artful PR exercises

In 1889, Raffaele Esposito, the owner of a pizzeria on the edge of Naples’s Spanish Quarter, delivered three pizzas to Queen Margherita, including one of his own invention with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, their colours taken together resembling the Tricolore. The Italian queen loved the pizza, and Esposito duly named it after her. In that restaurant today hangs a document from the royal household, dated 1889, declaring the pizzas made by Esposito to be found excellent by the queen. And so was born the Pizza Margherita, a dish now synonymous with Naples. The queen’s seal of approval in the wake of Italian unification, which had proved difficult for Naples, came

Portrait of the week: Rishi Sunak defends Kathleen Stock, food prices rise and AI extinction warning

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, supported a visit to the Oxford Union by Professor Kathleen Stock, who believes that there are such things as women: ‘University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled,’ he said. He said in a separate announcement that he would ban companies from giving out free samples of vaping supplies to people under 18. He then packed his bags for a visit to Washington, DC, in the coming week for talks with President Joe Biden. Delaney Irving, aged 19, from Vancouver Island, won the women’s race at the Cooper’s Hill cheese-rolling event near Gloucester. Food prices continued to rise rapidly, according to the

Portrait of the week: Rise in sick leave, more rights for renters and moving mountains

Home The number of people not working due to long-term sickness rose to a record 2.5 million, many with mental sickness or back pain, according to the Office for National Statistics. Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said that income tax could be cut by 2p in the pound if Britons who had left the workforce during the pandemic returned to work. Pay growth in the public sector rose to 5.6 per cent, the highest rate since 2003. Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing union, said that the Health Secretary should ‘start off in double figures’ in pay negotiations. The Bank of England expected

Turkey is at an existential crossroads

The wonderful Barbara Kingsolver wrote that hope is something you should not admire from a distance, but rather live inside of, ‘under its roof’. Last week I lived under the roof of hope as the campaigns for the first round of the Turkish presidential elections drew to a close. This is an existential crossroads for Turkey, my motherland. The AKP under Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been in power for two decades. Although they started off on their journey with promises of liberal reforms, a democratic constitution, and plenty of rhetoric about joining the EU, they have become increasingly nationalist, Islamist, patriarchal and authoritarian with each passing year. Women’s rights have

Douglas Murray

How to fake it till you make it

Not to sound too much like Kamala Harris during one of her peregrinations on the nature of time, but the thing about the future is that it catches up with you awfully fast. For a while we have been warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence and the special hazards of ‘deepfakes’. It seemed so futuristic when we saw a deepfake of Barack Obama some years ago, which demonstrated how easy it was to put words into someone’s mouth that they did not say. Well, now we have had an example in real time. Or at least the electorate in Turkey have. Personally I am not persuaded that Turkey’s election

The final countdown: Turkey is on a knife-edge

‘Kilicdaroglu’ is a pronunciation nightmare for the non-Turkish. Yet after this Sunday’s presidential elections, international news presenters, who have struggled for 20 years with President Erdogan’s soft ‘g’, might have to work harder to articulate the name of the social democrat leader of opposition. ‘You may call him Mr Kemal [his first name] until he wins,’ I’ve been saying to journalist friends. It’s the kind of simplification that people from complex, non-western countries are self-trained to give so our maddening realities can be better understood: ‘To feel Turkey, imagine the acute polarisation during the Brexit referendum continuing for 20 years. Add to that a far more ruthless Trump with political

Thousands may still be trapped under the rubble in Turkey

Five days after Monday’s massive earthquakes, the combined death toll in Turkey and Syria has passed 20,000. Local aid workers say around one-third of the casualties are in the Hatay province. The regional capital, Antakya, built on the ancient city of Antioch, is a popular tourist destination famous for its cuisine and cosmopolitan multi-ethnic atmosphere. Many of the mosques, churches, and synagogues in the city’s picturesque old town were also destroyed. On the third morning after the earthquake, a thick layer of smoke settled in the valley where Antakya lies – a residue from the fires the survivors built to keep warm during the freezing night. On the fourth day, many

Who cares about Syria’s earthquake victims?

At 4 a.m. on Monday, when the earthquake hit, most of the 4.5 million people living in northwestern Syria were asleep. Thousands of buildings collapsed, burying their residents alive. The majority of those living in this small corner of Syria had already been displaced from their homes in other parts of the country by the civil war. The northwest is the final stronghold of Syria’s opposition and is the main target of president Bashar al-Assad’s grim campaign to retake full control of the country. Before the earthquake, some two thirds of the area’s basic infrastructure ­– public housing, water and sanitation, hospitals and medical clinics, roadways and power generation –

Has a Quran-burning protest ended Sweden’s Nato dream?

A crowd gathered outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm on Saturday afternoon to watch far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burn the Quran. Paludan, who leads the anti-Islam ‘Hard Line’ Danish party, was watched by dozens of photographers, police officers and bemused passers-by. Paludan is no stranger to controversy: he has previously been convicted under racism and defamation law. This latest stunt was called to show his party’s opposition to immigration and, he says, to stand up for free speech. Now, though, the stunt has become a diplomatic crisis for Sweden – and there are fears that its bid to join Nato could go up in smoke. Sweden is in the middle of trying to end

Erdogan’s plan for war, and peace

There are ‘global issues that we both have on our plates’, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, mysteriously, when he met with his Turkish counterpart last week. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, standing by Blinken’s side, thought the same. ‘We will focus on areas of partnership in bilateral and regional issues.’ Diplomacy as usual, then. Behind the boring platitudes lies a serious rift between Turkey and the United States. In late December, Syrian and Turkish defence ministers met in Moscow in the first proper meeting between the two governments in a decade. There are plans for another meeting between foreign ministers that could lead to a direct meeting between Turkey’s

Turkey isn’t the only option for a Christmas feast

Christmas is coming – but if the geese are getting fat, the turkeys aren’t terribly happy, cooped up indoors on account of avian flu. Around half of the free-range birds produced for Christmas in the UK have been culled or died due to the illness, according to the British Poultry Council – and for those that remain, the government’s anti-infection measures mean they aren’t ranging anything like as freely as before. Some butchers, including the Ginger Pig chain, have announced they aren’t selling turkey at all. So if we can’t get a happy turkey, what should we be eating on Christmas Day? Turkeys might seem like the stalwarts of the

It’s good to be back on the back benches

After the shale gas vote, I was literally sent to Coventry – to visit the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre. It is a remarkable facility that helps take batteries from development through to production. It means companies only need the hundreds of millions of pounds in investment once they have shown that their product works and is saleable. It was funded by the Faraday Battery Challenge, and I was there to announce a further £221 million of taxpayers’ money. This is one of the rather better ways the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spends money, while some of our policies seem designed to ruin industry. I am particularly concerned

Inside the Booker Prize

It’s been a great week for the powerful fantasies of fiction (see more below), but over the weekend no novel anywhere in the world could compete with the fantasy of British politics. Continental Europe watched spellbound as the Prime Minister and her Chancellor humiliated themselves and the standing of the UK. The reactions of the different nations were predictable, but none the less excruciating for that. In Germany, where journalists have disconcertingly deep knowledge of British constitutional history, the reaction was dismay, as a distracted friend inflicts yet further damage on themselves. As for France: King Lear is playing at the Comédie-Française for the first time in its history, so

Runaway inflation is proving costly for Turkey’s oil-wrestlers

Edirne, Turkey There is a distinctive sound that an oiled-up palm makes as it slaps against an oiled-up pair of leather shorts. Both squelchy and sharp, this noise rings around the Thracian town of Edirne each July as it hosts Turkey’s biggest oil-wrestling championship. As the name suggests, contenders are greased up with either olive, corn or sunflower oil before they start to fight. The competition begins with a languid ritual in which the wrestlers stomp around each other, touching the ground and themselves before commencing their tussle. The winner must then flip his opponent on to his back, often by reaching into his shorts and grabbing hold of a

Turkey’s grain diplomacy

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is once again using Turkey’s geopolitical position for his own ends, this time dictating grain shipments from Ukraine through the Black Sea. Turkish customs authorities detained a Russian cargo ship carrying Ukrainian wheat on Sunday, following a request of Kyiv. The Russian cargo ship Zhibek Zholy left the south-eastern port of Berdyansk over the weekend carrying 7,000 tons of grain, worth about £1.75 million. The Russian-appointed head of the occupied region had hailed it as the first commercial ship to leave a Ukrainian port after months of war. He said this would take desperately-needed supplies to friendly countries, according to Politico. The reality is, of course, that

Nato is no longer ‘brain dead’

Finland and Sweden will be formally invited to join Nato today. Them joining the alliance will bolster Nato’s presence in the Baltic and make it easier to defend Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The alliance now has a clear, strategic purpose again Turkey had objected to the two countries joining, regarding them as too soft on Kurdish separatists, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees as ‘terrorists’ threatening his country. But having received some concessions on that front, Erdogan has dropped his objections. There’s also speculation that the US will sell F-16 fighter aircraft to Turkey in exchange for its cooperation on this matter. It is remarkable that Sweden, a country which has so

The odd couple: Israel and Turkey’s tentative alliance

 Jerusalem On Friday night, when the Israeli government usually shuts down for Shabbat, the Prime Minister’s office issued an emergency briefing. An attack on Israeli tourists in Istanbul was ‘imminent’, it said. Israelis in Turkey were ordered to stay in their hotel rooms for fear of assassins, sent by Iran. There was no attack that night, as it happened, but the threat to the many Israelis in Turkey remains. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has become increasingly enraged by Mossad’s assassinations of IRGC officers in Iran, and decided that the best and easiest way to get revenge is to target the thousands of Israelis in Istanbul. Both Turkish and Israeli

Life in an age of hyperinflation

Istanbul, Turkey On Saturday mornings, Istanbul’s markets and greengrocers are packed with housewives in search of a bargain. Anxious women compare cabbages while chefs haggle over bunches of parsley, passing across thick wads of ten Lira notes – equivalent to about £5 a decade ago, now worth just 50 pence. The rising cost of food has become a national obsession in Turkey. Menemen, a staple breakfast dish of scrambled eggs with tomato, onion and fried green peppers, has seen the cost of its basic ingredients shoot up by 132 per cent in a year. Some shops in the big cities have invested in digital price tags – those little grey electronic