Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Editors Presented to
Her Royal Highness
Princess Michael of Kent

Descended from Catherine DeMedici and Diane de Poitiers, Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent was born in Bohemia and descends from ancient European lineage on both sides of her Family. She is the wife of Prince Michael of Kent, grandson of King George V and the first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. She is the author of three bestselling historical books, including The Serpent and the Moon which was awarded Le Prix Histoire in 2005.

Meeting Her Royal Highness was the result of Expat Harem’s US book tour sponsor, Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan, gifting our anthology to the Princess at Kensington Palace earlier this month. The next day, the Princess, apparently quite taken with the book, asked Demet Hanım to arrange for us to meet during her visit to Istanbul!

It was an intimate dinner for six at Demet Hanım’s magnificent home, the Zarif Mustafa Paşa Yalı, a 19th century Ottoman mansion opposite the Rumeli Hisar fortress. Once owned by the coffee magnate of Sultan Mahmut II, the Bosphorus mansion, built on the ruins of a Byzantine monastery, is said to still contain its sacred water source, or ayazma, in the garden.

Coming fresh off his well-received show at September’s New York Fashion Week was the Vienna-based world-class international fashion designer Atıl Kutoğlu, loved for his Ottoman-inspired fabrics and cuts, utilizing miniatures and calligraphy on lustrous materials like silks, leather, and velvet.

Hosting Her Royal Highness in her nearby home and joining us at dinner was Turkey’s first lady of the arts and patroness of Turkish culture, Çiğdem Simavi. Istanbul representative for Christie’s auction house, Çiğdem Hanım is also the founder and president of KÜSAV, the Foundation for Fine Arts and Cultural Heritage. From 30 November- 3 December, along with the EKAV Foundation, KÜSAV will hold an exhibit of jewelry design at EKAV Vakıf Sanat Merkezi in Zincirlikuyu, Istanbul.

Demet Hanım, one of Turkey’s leading businesswomen, is the proud new owner of the television channel FashionTV Turkey and aims to create an annual Fashion Week Istanbul, to join New York, Paris, and Milan! Demet Hanım has also recently founded a research and development facility in Rize for the advancement of stem cell research in Turkey.

Surrounded by such enchanting dining companions, basking in the mesmerizing majesty of the Princess --it was a fairy tale evening we won’t soon forget!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Designing Women: EH Editors Speak at Dutch Ambassador’s Residence

The capital city of Ankara provided a metaphoric backdrop to Monday’s presentation at the residence of the Ambassador of the Royal Netherlands, at the gracious invitation of Betsy Udink, journalist, author, and spouse of Ambassador Marcel Kurpershoek.

Ankara’s contrasts of new architecture with old seemed to mirror the nation’s paradoxes, a topic which courses through Expat Harem and our presentations...We stepped off the plane at Esenboğa airport into its recently opened terminals-- graceful sweeps of glass, metal, and granite; then on the ride downtown we passed under ultramodern asymmetric suspension bridges for pedestrians. Soon came Ulus, the historic section of the city, where century-old Ottoman bank buildings boasted flat eaves and pointed-arch windows, while on the highest hill beyond that, the ancient castle of Ankara with its Roman-era walls stood watch over the city of 5 million.

In the heart of the city, the Ambassadorial residence was an adroit marriage of modern and Ottoman. Designed in the 1980s by Uğur Eken, the home synthesizes Selcuk-influenced black and white geometrics with stylized lines of contemporary Dutch design, and its central atrium, where we made our presentation, mimicked the floor plan of an Ottoman house.

The invitation to speak was an honor made even more special by our hostess’ credentials as a journalist and author of Allah & Eva (2006). She has spent more than 30 years living in Islamic countries. Betsy said she “enjoyed tremendously” the anthology and asked us to elaborate on the editing process. She also confided that when she was first posted to Ankara she received numerous gifts of Expat Harem copies and has been happily regifting them!!

The crowd of 25 were drawn from members of the Dutch-speaking community like Danielle Cath and Alette Akgün, as well as staff of several foreign missions like Irit Roman, from the Embassy of Israel and Müjde Erkenez, who works at the Belgian Embassy. The Turkish media joined as well, represented by producer İrade hanım from the national television station TRT, and her announcer Elizabeth Ayten Berent, a native Texan who has lived in Turkey for 41 years. It was good to see again Arzu Özyol, the president of the Business and Professional Women Club of Ankara, who hosted Jennifer at the club’s opening last winter, and to meet Wendy Serter, a Dutch woman who heads an informal club of foreign wives in Ankara. We were also thrilled to connect with Füsun Ağusman, a teacher at the U.S. Department of Defense School who lived in Holland for 17 years and whose daughter Lale in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amsterdam is coordinating the TURKEY NOW international relations program scheduled for December.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Editors Win Daughters of Atatürk “Woman of Distinction” Award

Especially on this day of remembrance of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (revered founder of Turkey’s Republic), Anastasia and I are thrilled to have been honored amid a group of accomplished women from four nations in this year's Daughters of Atatürk "Women of Distinction Award"-- among them leaders of commerce, activists and scholars and founders of humanitarian programs, all bringing their view of Turks and Turkey to the world.

Our fellow 2006 Woman of Distinction honorees include the chairwoman of Sabancı Holding, Güler Sabancı, named one the 30 most powerful women in Europe by the Wall Street Journal; British historian and author of Osman’s Dream, Caroline Finkel; and Leslie Peirce, professor of Ottoman and Middle Eastern history at New York University and author of The Imperial Harem.

(Atatürk pictured above with Turkey's first female aviator, Sabiha Gökçen).


November Begins with Media Frenzy

Following our interview in Bodrum with Gökmen Yücel, his resulting article for one of Turkey’s leading news agencies, Anadolu Ajansi, was published in 12 Turkish newspapers (as “breaking news” on two newspapers’ websites), was read on radio stations like Moral FM, and led to an interview that day with the state television station TRT which aired on TRT2 news on 7 November.

This is the first time Expat Harem has vied for so much headline space with people like Turkey’s prime minister Tayyıp Erdoğan (in 4 papers) and Saddam Hussein (3 papers)...and in 3 other papers with David and Victoria Beckham.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

“Bodrum, Bodrum”
That famous song by Turkish trio MFÖ has always romanticized my vision of Bodrum, a resort town on the craggy Aegean shores of western Turkey. With a medieval Crusader castle dominating its harbor, the picturesque town of whitewashed houses certainly lived up to my expectations when Anastasia and I arrived this weekend. We were invited to give a presentation at the Marina Yacht Club for the 7th Annual Ladies’ Lunch, organized by and for the local expat population. The area has about 5,000 foreigners in residence.

Dubbed “the next St. Tropez” by the New York Times, Bodrum may be a summertime hotspot for Turkish and international celebrities and the paparazzi who love them, but its bold-faced history reaches back a millennium and a half. Founded as Halicarnassus by the Dorians in 450BC and ruled by Persians, Macedonians, and other renowned civilizations, Bodrum’s ancient treasures are still being unearthed-- often unwittingly during the construction of new houses, says Chris Drum Berkaya of the local English language newspaper The Bodrum Observer, whose archaeologist husband is often called out when an antiquity is found.

Anastasia, fortunate enough to spend most of summer in Bodrum, gave me a tour of the place. Though to a Michigan girl like me November means dreary cold, the town’s citrus trees were heavy with fruit, and the quince, olives, and pomegranates were ready to harvest. Bright bougainvillea blooms, jasmine bowers, and other flowers still radiated colorful halos around the houses. Hard to believe it was snowing back home in Istanbul!

Despite heavy thunderstorms early that morning, 120 women streamed into the event as rain and clouds gave way to sunshine. During the Buck Finns cocktail hour on the veranda, Anastasia and I signed books until they sold out. We were thrilled to meet so many of Bodrum’s energetic and enterprising foreign women. Among them were event organizers Jane Baxter, Christine Davies, Leslie Joy Rhoades, and Priscilla Windsor Brown, whose voluminous rolodexes played a part in the inception of this annual event; Dina Street of Zephyria Yachting; chef Angie Mitchell, whose book Secrets Of The Turkish Kitchen has been known to save cross-cultural marriages; Victoria Boz, an adventurous New Zealander; translator Antonella Culasso who claims to be “the only Italian in Bodrum!”; various longtimers like Nikki, who’s been in Turkey 17 years, our good friend from Istanbul, real estate agent Robi Olson (11 yrs), and Julie Aras (16 yrs) who finds Turks everywhere, including a McDonald’s in England!; then there was fiesty Lucy Nazim, a Turkish Cypriot/British repat, who is following a path in neuro-linguistic programming; Duygu Nayir, the owner of seafront cafe Kırmızı; German yoga instructor and writer Monika Munzinger; one of the four Gillians present was inspired to begin writing the book she knows she has in her; and mercurial New York animal behaviorist Rosemary Tramantano is sure to inspire someone else to write a book about her! We met these ladies and so many others. We were thrilled to speak to such an enthusiastic crowd and look forward to reading their stories when we begin the second edition of Expat Harem.

At the marina mall we stopped in at Iki A Books, where a very friendly Ismail Bey immediately ordered the English and Turkish editions of our books. Afterwards, we strolled down what’s known as Barlar Sokağı to Harmony Books, who are pleased to take special orders for the anthology.

Thanks again to Gül Kaynak, manager at The LifeCo Bodrum Detox Center in Göltürkbükü, which generously provided our serene accommodations this weekend. At the purification spa set amidst mandarin orange groves, we took full advantage of the facilities –a hamam, an infra-red sauna, a steam bath and an invigorating yoga class on Saturday morning with Melek hanım! We refreshed with wheatgrass and orchard-fresh drinks at the juice bar.

We had a media lunch on the bay with the Bodrum Observer’s Chris Drum Berkaya, and Gökmen Yücel from the local Bodrum Yarım Ada newspaper and the national news agency Anadolu Ajansı. Our interview appeared today as breaking news on the front pages of Milliyet and Hurriyet national newspapers! It was certainly the first time we have ever shared headline space with Saddam Hussein!

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