Mother and daughter share travels to Turkey

Terry Smothers and her daughter Michelle Omar recently spent time touring the country of Turkey. The two shared their travel story with a room full at the Monticello library on Oct. 22. This was the first in the “Arm Chair Traveler Series” hosted by the library. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The Monticello Public Library kicked off its annual fall and winter series “Arm Chair Traveler” on Oct. 22. 

This series allows the public to come and hear from locals who have recently traveled the world as they share photos, souvenirs and stories from their trip. All without leaving the comfort of a cozy chair inside the warm library… 

Last October, Terry Smothers and her daughter Michelle Omar traveled to the country of Turkey. After hearing about the country from a fellow Rick Steves traveler, the duo felt they needed to experience it for themselves. 

They visited several cities on their trip: Istanbul, Ankara (the capital), Cappadocia, Konya, Kaymakli, and Antalya. 

While in Istanbul, a city with a population of 83 million, they toured the Blue Mosque, which was built in 1616. 

Smothers said it’s restricted to visitors during certain times of the day for prayer. 

“We wore headscarves out of respect for their religion,” said Omar. 

The gals also took their shoes off when they entered the mosque. 

They also toured the Hagia Sophia Museum, which used to be a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral. 

One of the highlights was a spice bazaar in Istanbul. 

“There were 85 shops,” said Smothers in amazement. 

The bazaar not only sold spices, but sweets, jewelry, and souvenirs. 

“It was all sitting out in the open,” added Smothers. 

While there, they also heard the call to prayer five times a day. 

“It comes through on loud speakers,” said Omar. 

She said hearing that chant several times a day was a culture shock for her. 

“We weren’t in Kansas anymore,” she joked. 

When asked if people stop what they’re doing and immediately pray, Omar said that is definitely not the case. 

“They continue their business; only a select few migrate to the church.” 

However in Konya, during the call to prayer, the shops all close up. 

They described Ankara as “pretty dry.” 

“It’s not crop land by any means,” said Omar. 

Ankara has a population of 4.5 million. 

While there, they toured a mausoleum called “Anıtkabir.” This is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of the Republic of Turkey. Turkey became a republic in 1923. 

“He led the rebellion to take back Turkey,” said Smothers. “He modernized the country, and is revered in Turkey.” 

In Cappadocia, the gals rode in hot air balloons and saw the sun come up. 

“It was more amazing by balloon versus being on land,” Omar said of taking in the scenery. “It was just gorgeous. It was the highlight of our trip.” 

The balloon flights lasted between an hour and an hour and a half. 

Once they made it back on the ground, the hot air balloon company congratulated them by handing out medals, certificates, and glasses of champagne. 

“It was funny,” recalled Smothers. “We had a good time.” 

The Valley of the Monks in Cappadocia feature rock cone formations. 

“This is where the monks meditate and pray,” said Smothers. 

Omar said while Turkey is primarily Muslim, many people don’t wear the traditional full Muslim garb. 

“There are more conservative parts of the country,” she said. 

One of those conservative parts is Konya. 

“Here, the Muslim women dressed in traditional attire,” said Omar. 

For Smothers, she was blown away by the carpet coop they toured where women were busy making and selling homemade rugs. 

“It amazed me,” she said showcasing her photos. “They had no instructions, just a picture to go off of.” 

Kaymakli, Turkey, is known as the “Underground City.” Omar explained there is a network of caves under the city where Christians hid out during the 8th Century B.C. 

In 1923, the caves were abandoned as underground living quarters, and opened to tourists in the mid-1960s. 

The Underground City spans eight stories, with only half open to the public today. 

“There were ventilation shafts to help with the exchange of air,” explained Smothers. 

“And for ample (amounts of) oxygen,” added Omar. 

Not only did people live in the caves, but they built fully-functioning kitchens, churches, and housed animals. 

In the resort town of Antalya, the gals stayed in the old part of the city along the Mediterranean Sea. 

“It was absolutely beautiful,” marveled Smothers. 

“It was originally a walled city,” said Omar. 

They took in a dervish ceremony where men whirl around in costumes anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes. 

“It was weird,” Omar described. 

They also saw the ancient city of the Ephesus. Smothers said that barely 20 percent of the city has been excavated. 

“They have a ways to go with the restoration,” she said. 

Smothers was adamant she wanted to see this ancient city because it’s where the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, as described in the Bible. 

Overall, Smothers and Omar said the people of Turkey were all welcoming and very accommodating toward Americans. 

“They’re trying to boost tourism,” said Omar. “It’s a beautiful country.” 


Subscriber Login