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TAHTAKUŞLAR

The wood-cutters' village

Tahta1As you drive around the Bay of Edremit (Edremit Körfezi) keep an eyes out near Güre for a small sign pointing two km inland to Tahtakuşlar, one of a cluster of villages in the foothills of the Kazdağı that can trace their origin back to the arrival here of Tahtacı Turkmen tribes with shamanistic religious beliefs.

According to Selim Kudar, the curator of the small ethnography museum set amid the olive orchards, of 24 local villages, 10 are inhabited by Alevi descendants of the Turkmen while the other 14 are lived in by Sunnis who were once Yörüks (nomads) and made their living as wood-cutters. In a footnote to İstanbul history, the wood for the ships used by Sultan Mehmet II in the conquest of the city in 1453 came from around here.Tahta2

The Hürriyet newspaper once rated the museum as one of the 10 best private collections in the country, although these days it’s in sore need of renovation.

That said, if you have the slightest interest in the old nomadic lifestyle, you’ll enjoy the chance to inspect one of the fine old tents that used to provide their homes and the photograph of a past Turkmen wedding, the bride mounted on a horse and completely concealed beneath layers of colourful veils.

Selim Kudar is always ready to talk to visitors about the complexities of the Alevi faith and the local ethnic melting pot -- just as he’s always ready to sell you one of the locally made kilims woven entirely from undyed wool.

Returning to the main coast road and heading towards Edremit, you can hardly fail to notice the huge new Körfez Bayram Kaya Cemevi, completed in 2011 on the sea side of the road near Akçay and surely one of the most prominent Alevi cemevis in Turkey.

Built to accommodate a congregation of 400 people, the cemevi has a large, light-filled room for worship perched above an equally large communal dining area. Set in the glass lantern that rises above it are stained-glass images of the 12 imams revered by the Alevis, including Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed; Hüseyin, his martyred son; and Imam Mehdi, the 12th imam, whose face is always concealed.

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Visitors who would like to find out more about Alevi beliefs are welcome to attend the weekly cem gatherings on Thursday evenings from 8 p.m. onwards. Expect to be able to listen to the music of the bağlama, a long-necked string instrument closely related to the saz.

 

Sleeping

İdaköy Çiftlik Evi, near Tahtakuşlar. Tel: 0266-387 3402, www.idakoy.com.tr

Zeytinbağı, Çamlıbel Köyü. Tel: 0266-387 3761 Great reputation for food. 

Transport info

Minibuses plying the coast road from Küçükkuyu to Edremit pass the junction for Tahtakuşlar although there is no public transport to the museum itself.

You can also hop off a coastal minibus to visit the cemevi although be warned that it may not be easy to get a seat on an onward one afterwards.

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