General Information



General Information | Visa | Embassies | Consulates | Regulations | US Regulations | Travel Tips | Accommodation | Historical | Weather | When to go ? | Electricity


Touring Turkey
Tour Conditions
Contact Us
Tour Maps



Facts & Figures

Land and Climate


Turkish Flag





Official Name  :Republic of Turkey
Capital  :Ankara
Area :780,000 Square Kilometers, 301,000 Square Miles
Population :73,000,000 (2010)
Population Growth Rate :1,05 percent
Population Density  : 94 per square kilometers, 242 per square miles
Life Expectancy :73
Literacy Rate :88 percent
Languages :Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic
Religion :Muslim : 99 percent, Other : 1 percent
Government :Presidential Republic
Formation :29 October 1923 (Succeeded Ottoman State)
Constitution :7 November 1982 
Voting :Universal at age 18 
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) : 1.119 Trillion US $ (2010)
GDP per capita : 13,392 US $
Monetary Unit :1 Turkish Lira (TL) divided to 100 Kurus
Exports :Textiles, metals, tobacco, leather, wheat, cement, dried fruits, nuts, iron and steel products, olive oil, automobiles and trucks, chemicals
Imports :Liquid fuels, machinery, iron and steel, transportation equipment, chemicals, electrical and electronic equipment, plastics, rubber
Industries  :Textiles, food processing, mining, steel, petroleum, construction, lumber, paper
Agriculture :Wheat, tobacco, cotton, olives, sugar beets, pulses, citrus fruits, nuts, barley, oilseeds, tea, vegetables, rice; sheep, goats, cattle, poultry, dairy, eggs, meat, honey, hides
Natural Resources :Antimony, coal, petroleum, natural gas, bauxite, manganese, chromium, mercury, copper, borate, sulfur, iron ore

Top of Page




Turkey is bordered on the northwest by Bulgaria and Greece; on the north by the Black Sea; on the northeast by Georgia and Armenia; on the east by Iran; on the south by Iraq, Syria, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the west by the Aegean Sea.


Although it is made up mainly of mountains and hills, Turkey can be divided into seven distinct geographic regions: Thrace and the borderlands of the Marmara Sea, the Aegean and Mediterranean region, the Black Sea region, western Anatolia, the central Anatolian plateau, the eastern highlands, and southeast Anatolia. Thrace and the borderlands of the Marmara Sea contain a central plain of gently rolling hills. The region’s eastern portion reaches 2,543 meters (8,343 feet) atop Mount Uludag. The coastlands of the Aegean and Mediterranean region are narrow and hilly, while those of the Black Sea rise steeply to the heights of the Pontic Mountains. Western Anatolia consists of irregular ranges and interior valleys separating the Aegean coast from the central Anatolian plateau, Turkey’s largest geographic region. The plateau is completely surrounded by mountains. The eastern highlands are the country’s most mountainous and rugged region and the site of Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest peak at 5,137 meters (16,854 feet). Southeast Anatolia is a rolling plateau enclosed on the north, east, and west by mountains. 

Major Rivers and Lakes

The eastern highlands are the source for both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which eventually empty into the Persian Gulf. The Kizilirmak, which empties into the Black Sea, is the longest river (1,150 kilometers/715 miles) entirely within Turkey. The Buyukmenderes river, called the Meander in ancient times, drains western Anatolia into the Aegean Sea. The river’s slow progress through many loops and bends gave rise to the term meander in English. 


The Mediterranean and Aegean shores of Turkey experience long, hot summers and mild, rainy winters. Istanbul averages 0°C (32°F) in January and 23°C (73°F) in July. Average annual precipitation totals 697 millimeters (27.4 inches), most of which falls in December and January. Along the central Anatolian plateau, a continental climate prevails, with hot summers and colder winters. The plateau receives only about half as much precipitation, but it is more evenly distributed throughout the year. The eastern highlands experience even longer and colder winters. Along the Black Sea, the climate is mild and rainy. Southeast Anatolia records the country’s highest summer temperatures, averaging more than 30°C (86°F) in July and August. 

Top of Page


The People

About four-fifths of the people in Turkey are Turks. Kurds, who form the majority in southeastern provinces bordering Syria, Iran, and Iraq, constitute the largest national minority. The remainder of the population is composed of a variety of smaller groups, including ethnic Greeks, Armenians, and Sephardic Jews. Urban residents represent 76 percent (2010 estimate) of the population. Ankara is the capital. Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, was once called Constantinople and was the center of the Byzantine Empire; it is still the industrial, commercial, and intellectual center of the country. 

Top of Page



Turkish, the official language of the country, is related to the Uralic-Altaic languages spoken across Asia from Finland to Dongbei Pingyuan. The language has evolved over many centuries and has experienced major reform during the 20th century. Arabic script was used during the Ottoman Empire period, but a Latin-based alphabet with some extra letters has been used since 1928. Most of the Kurdish minority speaks Kurdish. Banned for many years, Kurdish is enjoying a revival. Although some bans on its use (such as in schooling and broadcasting) are still in effect, it may now be used in publications and public speaking. Arabic is spoken in the regions bordering Syria. English is an increasingly popular second or third language. 

Top of Page



Although nearly all of Turkey’s population is Muslim—the majority are Sunni Muslims, although there is a large Shiite minority—the country is a secular state. The government has been guided by secular principles since the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923. Islam maintains an important influence on society, however. In the late 1980s, conservative Muslims in Turkey gained a stronger presence in politics, reflecting a rise in Islamic conservatism throughout the world. Islamic parties made important strides in the 1995 elections, and in 1996 an Islamist prime minister rose to power. He was replaced, however, by a secularist prime minister in 1997. Turkey’s population is currently divided between those who wish to maintain a secular state and those who advocate greater government attention to religious values. 

Top of Page


Marriage and Family 

In rural areas, families are greatly involved in deciding whom a person will marry, but in urban areas the choice is generally the couple’s. It is against the law for men and women to marry before age 18, however, under extraordinary circumstances, men and women can be allowed at the age 16, by court decision. In cities, many wait until their education and sometimes military service have been completed before getting married. The average age for marriage is 22 for women and 25 for men. Traditional wedding celebrations are increasingly rare. They last three days, beginning with the “henna evening,” called kina gecesi, which is an event only for women. The women decorate the hands and fingers of the bride with henna-leaf dye, and dance and sing. On the second day, both sets of parents serve lunch and dinner to their guests. On the third day, the bride is taken to the groom’s home after folk dances are performed. In rural areas, traditional values prevail, and the father is the undisputed head of the family. Members of the family, often living as an extended family, are loyal to and dependent upon the family unit. In urban areas, nuclear families are the norm and traditional authority structures are less pronounced. It is rare for a person to live alone, mostly for economic reasons. Women gained the right to vote in 1927 and equal rights to divorce in 1934, when civil marriage contracts were introduced. Many women in urban areas work outside the home. An estimated 37 percent (1998) of the labor force is female. 

Top of Page



Breakfast is usually light, consisting of tea, white cheese, bread, butter, marmalade or honey, and olives. The main meal of the day is eaten in the evening and may consist of several courses. Traditional Turkish cuisine includes meze, a tray or table of hors d’oeuvres, including stuffed grape leaves, salads, shrimp, and a variety of other items; and shish kebablar (chunks of lamb on a skewer). Meat is often grilled. Fish is fairly plentiful along the Bosporus and the coast, but tends to be expensive. Vegetables are usually prepared in olive oil, and rice pilav is common. Soups are an important part of the diet. Turkish desserts include baklava (syrup-dipped pastry) and muhallebi (milk pudding). Turkish coffee (kahve), a thick brew served in small cups, is served with nearly every meal. Despite being overwhelmingly Muslim, Turkish people enjoy locally made beer, wine, and spirits. The national drink is raki, an aniseed-flavored clear grape brandy, similar to Greek ouzo or French pastis, that clouds when water is added. Breakfast is usually eaten around 7 AM, or earlier in rural areas. Lunch is at midday, and dinner, the main meal, is around 7 PM, when the family generally expects to sit down together. Eating habits vary according to the region and the food being eaten. Traditionally, many foods are eaten with the fingers, but utensils are now widely used. To begin or end a meal, one might say Afiyet olsun (“May what you eat bring you well-being”). One may compliment the cook on the meal by saying Elinize saglik (roughly, “Bless your hand”). 

Top of Page



When greeting friends or strangers, one shakes hands and says Nasilsiniz (“How are you?”) or Merhaba (“Hello”). A typical response to Nasilsiniz is Iyiyim, tesekkur ederim (“Fine, thank you”). Among friends, greetings are followed by polite inquiries about one’s health, family, and work. Among close friends of the same (and sometimes opposite) gender, Turks clasp hands and kiss on both cheeks when greeting. To show respect, an older person’s hands may be kissed and brought to touch the greeter’s forehead. The youth often greet each other with Selam (a salutation). Someone entering a room, office, or teahouse might say Gunaydin (“Good morning”) or, when leaving, Iyi gunler (“Have a nice day”). When parting, it is customary to wish for blessings from God (Allaha ismarladik), to which the response is Gule gule (“Be on your way with a smile”). Upon joining a small group, one greets each person individually. When addressing others formally, professional titles are used. Among peers or with younger persons, the title Hanim is used for women and Bey for men. These titles follow the given name—for example, Leyla Hanim or Ismail Bey. With older people, one uses Abla for women (Fatma Abla) or Agabey (Ahmet Agabey) for men. These terms mean “older sister” and “older brother.” If there is a great difference of age, the terms “aunt” and “uncle” are used, again after the first name: Teyze for women and Amca for men. Hospitality is an integral part of Turkish culture. Friends, relatives, and neighbors visit often. In large cities, people usually try to telephone in advance, but in places where this is not practical they may visit without notice. The tradition of hospitality dictates that visitors are always invited in and offered something to drink, such as tea, coffee, or soda, and sometimes something to eat, such as crackers or cookies. It is impolite to decline the offer. In homes where the inhabitants remove their shoes and replace them with slippers, guests should do the same. Guests should avoid asking their hosts personal questions and, because a visit to someone’s home is an occasion for harmony and enjoyment, bad news or accounts of problems should be saved for another time and place. First-time visitors to a home may bring a small gift.

Top of Page



Soccer is the most popular sport for both spectators and participants, but Turks also enjoy a variety of other sports, including volleyball, basketball, wrestling, and swimming. Other principal recreational activities include watching television, going to the cinema, and socializing in the home or in cafés and restaurants, although women are less likely to socialize among themselves in cafés and restaurants, especially in rural areas. 

Top of Page


Fine Arts 

A transition from Islamic artistic traditions under the Ottoman Empire to a more secular, Western orientation has taken place in Turkey. Turkish painters today are striving to find their own art forms free from Western influence. Sculpture is less developed, and public monuments are usually heroic representations of Ataturk and events from the war of independence. Literature is considered the most advanced of contemporary Turkish arts. Many critics regard Kemal Tahir as the greatest modern Turkish novelist. Among authors translated into English is Yasar Kemal. 

Top of Page


Musical Traditions 

A long history of influences from both Europe and Asia is reflected in the complexity and diversity of Turkish music. Turks are proud of their centuries-old art music tradition, which is similar to the music of nearby Islamic areas such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and northern India. There is also a lively tradition of folk music with many regional styles and contributions from ethnic minorities, including the Roma (Gypsies). A cosmopolitan nation, Turkey has also adopted classical and popular music from the West, and developed genres that combine Western, Asian, and Arabic elements. One kind of unaccompanied folk singing is the “long melody,” heavily ornamented songs influenced by Islamic chant in free rhythm. The “shattered melody” style is in strict rhythm and is more suited to accompany dancing. There is also a tradition of balladry and epics accompanied by the baglama (a lute; also called a saz) by itinerant musicians. Folk rhythms are often irregular, in a kind of “limping” pattern important to the coordination of group dance. Folk instruments include the zurna, a double-reed oboe; the kemence, a bowed violin; and the kaval, an end-blown flute similar to a Bulgarian instrument of the same name. Many of these instruments are capable of producing drones, a musical aesthetic found both in western Asia and in much of the folk music of Europe. Melody instruments include the ney, an end-blown flute; the kanun, a trapezoidal plucked zither; the ’ud, a short-necked lute; the tanbur, a long-necked lute, similar to the folk baglama; and the rebab, a spike-fiddle. When played in ensemble these are often accompanied by a small drum called the def and kettle drums, as well as vocal choruses. Music like this is often used by the Sufi Mawlawiyah (Mevlevi) religious order for sacred ceremonies, accompanying the famous “whirling dervishes” in their prayers of movement. Centuries ago the music of the Ottoman Janissary bands, which is no longer played, greatly impressed Europeans, who incorporated several Turkish instruments, such as the cymbal and kettle drum, into Western music. Composers such as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven also imitated the music in a style called alla Turca. 

Top of Page


Libraries and Museums 

The Topkapi Sarayi (Sultan’s Palace) is now a museum housing the Ottoman imperial treasures and relics of the prophet Muhammad. Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilizations has outstanding Hittite, Phrygian, and other exhibits. Among the largest of Turkey’s many libraries are the National Library in Ankara and the Beyazit State Library in Istanbul. The National Archives in Istanbul, which house the government documents of the Ottoman Empire, attract historians from around the world. 

Top of Page



The president is head of state, and the prime minister is head of government. The president is elected by the National Assembly for a seven-year term. The National Assembly has 550 directly elected deputies, and legislative elections are held at least every four years. The voting age is 18. Turkey is made up of 81 provinces, administered by appointed governors and elected councils. 

Top of Page


Recent Decades 

Turkey experienced unstable government in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. These difficulties were related to the country's transition to multiparty democracy—the first multiparty election was held in 1946. In the late 1970s serious economic problems and political upheaval so paralyzed the government that the military seized control in 1980. The military restored stability, called elections in 1983, and then withdrew from power. The military commander responsible for these actions, Kenan Evren, was elected president. His prime minister, Turgut Özal, who favored free-market policies and the privatization of state-owned businesses, became the dominant Turkish political figure in the 1980s. In 1989 the parliament elected Özal to the office of president for a seven-year term. He named a loyalist, Yildirim Akbulut, his successor as prime minister. Parliamentary elections in 1991 brought Özal’s rival, Suleyman Demirel, to power as prime minister. Demirel had been prime minister before and had twice (1971 and 1980) been ousted by military intervention. He opposed Özal’s domestic policies and his close relationship with certain nations. When Özal died suddenly in 1993, Demirel was elected by parliament to be the new president. Tansu Çiller was chosen to replace Demirel and became the country’s first woman prime minister. There was no clear winner of the December 1995 general election. Çiller’s True Path Party and Özal’s Motherland Party, led by Mesut Yilmaz, buried their political differences and formed a coalition government. The coalition broke apart in 1996, however, and Çiller’s Western-oriented True Path Party formed an unlikely coalition government with the Welfare Party, which supported the idea of government based on Muslim values. Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Welfare Party, became prime minister; this caused some concern among secularists about how the guiding principles of government, based on secularism since the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, might be affected. This coalition collapsed in 1997, and secularist Yilmaz took over as prime minister. His Motherland Party formed a coalition government with the Democratic Left and Democratic Turkey parties. In January 1998 the Turkish constitutional court outlawed the Welfare Party on the grounds that it threatened the secular nature of the Turkish state. Erbakan was barred from politics for five years. Former members of the Welfare Party regrouped to form Virtue, another Islam-oriented party, which assumed Welfare's position as the largest party in parliament. In November 1998 Yilmaz's government collapsed in a no-confidence vote over corruption charges. Bulent Ecevit, former prime minister and leader of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), formed an interim government, which remained in power until national elections were held in April 1999. The DSP won the election, but strong showings by the rightist Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and Virtue made another coalition government inevitable. In June 1999 Turkey’s 550-seat National Assembly overwhelmingly approved a three-party coalition government led by Ecevit, who was chosen to serve as prime minister. Its position on the edge of Europe—bordering Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Armenia—gives Turkey considerable strategic importance, as was made clear during the Persian Gulf crisis that followed Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait (1990–1991). Turkey has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1952. In 1987 the Özal government applied for membership in the European Community (EC), now the European Union (EU). Turkey’s relations with Greece, in particular the dispute over Cyprus, have proven to be one obstacle to membership. Another deterrent has been the treatment of the Kurdish population in southeast Turkey, where Kurdish separatists are seeking the creation of an independent state. In December 1997 the EU denied Turkey's second application for membership. 

Top of Page



Turkey’s economy has enjoyed positive growth in recent years, but it still needs structural adjustment. Problems associated with reforms, including high inflation and unemployment, have caused some hardship. Urban residents enjoy far higher incomes than rural people or migrants. Each year, large numbers of migrants from rural areas add to the unemployment rates and to the swelling urban population, especially in Istanbul. This affects not only urban infrastructure and the economy, but political stability as well. Agriculture is the traditional backbone of the economy and once provided the bulk of all exports. Today it still employs about 43 percent of the labor force (1997). The manufacturing sector employs a much smaller proportion of the labor force but accounts for nearly 76.9 percent (1998) of exports. Its success is therefore vital to the economy. Chief agricultural products include cotton, tobacco, fruit, cereals, nuts, and opium (for medicine). Textiles, food processing, and mining are the largest industries. Services now account for about 57 percent (1998) of the gross domestic product (GDP), with tourism an increasingly important source of foreign exchange. The economy is one of the 30 largest in the world, but in terms of GDP per capita, Turkey ranks much lower. The currency is the Turkish lira.  Turkey’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004 was $302.8 billion and $3,750 per capita. Some 22,4 percent of the GDP was contributed by industry, 12,9 percent by agriculture, and 64,7 percent by government and private services.

Top of Page


Transportation and Communication 

Around major urban areas, the roads are paved and in good condition. In rural areas, the infrastructure is generally adequate but not always well maintained. Taxis, buses, streetcars, dolmus (shared taxis), and ferries (in Istanbul) provide public transportation. Rail and air services connect major cities. The principal airports for international scheduled flights are located in Istanbul and Ankara. The communication system is fairly good, although telecommunication services (both domestic and international) are best in urban areas. There are several national television and radio stations. There is a wide selection of daily newspapers, representing a broad spectrum of political opinions, but government reaction to criticism can be harsh. 

Top of Page



The improvement of education is a government priority. Disparities between rural and urban facilities are being addressed with various projects, including the construction of more schools in rural areas. Primary and secondary education is free and coeducational. Primary schooling lasts five years, secondary education three, and in theory schooling is available until age 17. Nearly all children complete the primary level, and an estimated 62.7 percent (1996) go on to the secondary level. In Turkish secondary schools, it is the teachers (rather than the children) who go from classroom to classroom. At the end of secondary school, students who wish to pursue higher education must pass a rigorous exam. Turkey has more than 29 government-funded universities. The country's oldest university, Istanbul Universitesi, was founded in 1453. There are nearly 600 specialized colleges and institutions offering vocational and other training. 

Top of Page


Health and Welfare 

The government provides limited basic health care to the public and is engaged in a program to increase health-care provision. Urban facilities are generally modern and adequate, but rural facilities are not as well equipped. Various institutions (military, state-owned enterprises, and so forth) also provide health care to their personnel. Turkey has an infant mortality rate of 33 deaths per 1,000 live births (2000 estimate). The government is determined to lower this rate, as well as to improve the country’s record on child immunizations, prenatal care, and general health education. 

Top of Page


Holidays and Celebrations 

Muslim holidays are reckoned by the lunar calendar and vary from year to year. A major Muslim festival is the three-day holiday called Seker Bayrami (“sugar holiday”), which comes at the end of the month-long fast of Ramazan (Ramadan). A favorite treat at this time is rahat lokoum—colorful cubes of gelatin candy covered with powdered sugar—which is known in the West as “Turkish delight.” A four-day Muslim holiday called Kurban Bayrami (“sacrifice holiday”) honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, at Allah’s command. It also marks the season of pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah). An animal is usually sacrificed on this day to symbolize Allah’s allowing Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son as a reward for his show of faith. Secular holidays in Turkey are reckoned according to the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Other official holidays include New Year’s Day (1 January), National Sovereignty Day (23 April, also Children’s Day), Ataturk’s Memorial Day and Youth Day (19 May), Victory Day (30 August), and Republic Day (29 October). The day before Republic Day is also a holiday in some areas. August is when most people take their vacation. National Sovereignty Day commemorates the Grand National Assembly’s inauguration on 23 April 1923. In honor of Children’s Day, 400 students are given the chance to take seats in the national government in the nation’s capital for a day. Ataturk’s Memorial Day and Youth Day commemorates the beginning of the national movement for independence in 1919, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. On Victory Day, military parades are held, the world’s oldest military band—the Mehtar band—plays, and fireworks are set off. Republic Day celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the republic in 1923. 

 Top of Page 


[Home] [Introduction] [Tours] [Itineraries] [Touring Turkey] [Hotels] [Tour Conditions] [Contact Us] [FAQ] [Survey] [Subscribe] [Pictures] [Tour Maps]

Thracian Tour Services
Web Site Last modified: August, 2012
Copyright © Thracian Travel Ltd. 2010-2015