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The Gilded Serpent presents...
Orient House Istanbul
by Justine Merrill
Oct 11, 2003

Our trip to Turkey and Greece is over.  We are home with an armload of gifts for friends, silk dance veils, hip scarves and a handcrafted rug. Thirty days was a long trip; we toured famous sites in Istanbul and bathed an historic hamam (Turkish bath). We baked in a thermal mud bath and swam between Roman columns at Pamukkale, a health retreat for wealthy Romans during days of the Caesars.  We cooled our weary feet in the chilly crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean near Fethiye.   

From Kusadasi we took a ferry into the Greek Islands and enjoyed the icon laden churches, and one of the world’s most stunning sunset views on the Island of Santorini. Then we took a traditional overnight ferry to Athens to enjoy the Acropolis and negotiate with Greek Taxi drivers. (one nice man gave us his homemade CD of wonderful Greek popular music.)

Despite fears about our security from friends, everywhere we went in Turkey, we met with nothing but perfect friendliness and assistance.

Stuffed with antiquities and a richly diverse cultural heritage, a visit to Turkey is a truly remarkable experience. We felt as if the keys of every city were handed to us when we arrived. Everyone went out of their way to help us. I will never forget the kind man who got us on the last correct ferry across the Bosporus. He literally drug us and our luggage on the boat by force, before he could explain why we had to go now!

After touring the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, and joking with the silver vendors along tourist row in the Sultamet of Istanbul, Christina declared that it was time for a dance fix upon seeing an advertising poster in the window of a travel agency on our way to the spice market.

“That’s where we are going next!” she announced, and stopped dead in her tracks on our trek to the spice market. I returned to find her pointing at a picture of a beautiful woman in heavily beaded bedleh. 

“Ok, but first I have to buy spices.” I coaxed. I love to cook and the spice market is world famous for the variety and quality of its spices. The kind couple taking care of my beloved Shelty dogs had given me their very specific list for their own cupboard.

Orient House is reputed to have a wonderful folk and Oriental dance show. We were not disappointed. Our table, to the right of the stage, gave us a clear view of the many nationalities currently on the tourist trail in Turkey. It was Short on Americans tourists, but long on Koreans, Greeks, Lebanese, Spanish and Germans.  We enjoyed an excellent dinner with a wonderful variety of dishes as the live band played a variety of their favorite tunes. We noticed the wine was appropriately diluted with water so that we could drink all night without becoming intoxicated. The Koreans were ordering the hard liquor from the bar so they did not suffer from this merrymaking handicap.

Christina had read and heard all about Turkish Oriental dancers.  The general consensus in the west is that Turkish costumes are so skimpy, they are practically naked and their dancing sleazy and sexy. So, of course, Christina was looking forward to witnessing Turkish dance first hand so that she could report back to all her dance buddies about it. She was also excited about seeing the Turkish folk dancing, which had a substantially better international reputation.

Our expectations were exceeded by the professional folk dancers at Orient House. Their polished style smoothly coordinated with the live Turkish band to communicate their passion for Turkish folk dance. The first set rocked the house. The evening was off to a stellar start!

As the band took a break, the first Oriental dancer stepped onto the stage to dance to her selection of Egyptian recorded music. Her costume was very becoming and tasteful. With a playful and professional stage presence, she delivered a fine performance, which we all enjoyed. She did not solicit tips from the audience. Obviously, Orient House had selected their dancers to meet the international standard for “family entertainment”. 

Christina whispered across the table “We will have to see some other shows. They are not all this sanitized!” Dance shows are a budget breaking expense in Turkey because they cater primarily to tourists. We were not to enjoy another show until we reached Goreme, in Cappadocia.

The Master of Ceremonies called several of the audience members up on stage, “to teach us how to dance in five minutes.” This portion of the show was a complete riot since Christina, Delores and I can dance. Honestly, my skills are the weakest, but I managed to make the Greeks in the front row stamp their hands and clap.  So I can say that I did my first three minute dance on the stage at the Orient house with a live band! Delores and Christina had just as much fun as I did; when we go back to Istanbul the Orient house dance show will be on our list of must do evening activities.

Orient House website -
To see more pictures of our trip to Turkey, visit Christina’s website

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