Turkish superstitions – truth or fiction?

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Turkish superstitions - which ones do you believe?

Even though I don’t think of myself as superstitious, I don’t walk under ladders or step on cracks in the pavement. There’s no actual proof these things bring bad luck, but I think it best not to tempt fate, because you never know. Now, having lived in Turkey for such a long time I pay attention to Turkish superstitions and a lot of other customs too, just in case.

I came from a family where food was never ever wasted. Leftovers were the order of the day and nothing that was vaguely edible ended up in the bin. My Turkish friends aren’t so keen on leftovers but one thing they will never throw away is bread. They believe bread comes from Allah and is the giver and the gift of life. Stepping on bread or even accidently sitting on a bread box are considered insults. When a piece of bread has fallen to the ground someone will always pick it up and place it somewhere high up and say bismillah, in the name of Allah. Any slices and loaves that have gone stale are hung on gates for those who can’t afford to buy it, or if in a village to be fed to the animals.

Bismillah - used to start all Muslim prayers.

Whether I’m at home with my husband or out with friends, I never directly pass them a knife. If I do, it will sever our friendship. My husband loves to cook so when I gave him a knife for his birthday I insisted he give me a coin to stop us from fighting in the future. It might just be one of many unprovable Turkish superstitions, but you never know.

I know not to compliment new babies for fear someone might put a nazar, or evil eye on them. This is one of the Turkish superstitions I take very seriously. Anxious parents make sure to pin a small nazar somewhere on their child’s clothing, in case somebody inadvertently slips up. The belief in the evil eye is very strong in Turkey, even in the city, but there are many things people do to protect themselves. If a curse is placed on an individual, they will put on a muska – a small amulet usually inscribed with the word bismillah which starts all prayers, and containing a prayer written on a tiny piece of paper blessed by an imam. Another thing to remember is not to cut your nails at night. Turks believe it guarantees your life will be short. You also have to throw out all nail and hair clippings because they can be used to put a spell on you.

My much treasured muska

When I wish for something to happen, I always say inşallah but if I’m worried something bad might occur I pull my ear lobe, tap on the table and blow a kiss. It’s the Turkish version of touch wood and so far, so good.

Every May 5th finds me meeting up with the people I want to spend the rest of the year with. This is Hidrellez, a time to celebrate the coming of spring and the start of new life. Red is the colour of New Year’s Eve in Turkey . From underwear to food it will ensure luck.

I travel a lot in and out of Turkey a lot and it’s believed that pouring water in the wake of someone’s departure for a trip ensure their journey flows as smoothly as water. It also guarantees they’ll return. One time I went to catch the seabus from Kadikoy to Bakirkoy on my way to the old airport to catch a plane back to Australia. My best friend Sonay ran to the nearest café and begged for a cup of water to throw on the ground behind me to make sure I’d come back. It worked!

These are just the customs and habits I follow now that I’m almost Turkish. If you’re planning to visit soon, check out my helpful tips for planning your trip.

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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