Turkish Customs by Anonymous


Letter C.

Characteristically indolent, the fondness for a sedentary life is stronger, perhaps, with the Turks, than with any other people of whom we read. It is difficult to describe the gravity and apathy which constitute the distinguishing features of their character: everything in their manners tends to foster in them, especially in the higher classes, an almost invincible love of ease and luxurious leisure. The general rule which they seem to lay down for their guidance, is that taking the trouble to do anything themselves which they can possibly get others to do for them; and the precision with which they observe it in some of the minutest trifles of domestic life is almost amusing. A Turkish gentleman, who has once composed his body upon the corner of a sofa, appears to attach a certain notion of grandeur to the keeping of it there, and it is only something of the gravest importance that induces him to disturb his position. If he wishes to procure anything that is within a few steps of him, he summons his slaves by clapping his hands (the Eastern mode of "ringing the bell"), and bids them bring it to him: his feelings of dignity would be hurt by getting up to reach it himself. Of course, this habit of inac tion prevails equally with the female sex: a Turkish lady would not think of picking up a fallen handkerchief, so long as she had an attendant to do it for her. As may be supposed, the number of slaves in a Turkish household of any importance is very great.

Turkish Female Slave.

The position of women in Eastern countries is so totally unlike that which they hold in our own happy land, that we must refer expressly to it, in order that the picture of domestic life presented to us in the writings of all travellers in the East may be understood. Amongst all ranks, the wife is not the friend and companion, but the slave of her husband; and even when treated with kindness and affection, her state is still far below that of her sisters in Christian lands. Even in the humblest rank of life, the meal which the wife prepares with her own hands for her husband, she must not partake of with him. The hard-working Eastern peasant, and the fine lady who spends most of her time in eating sweet-meats, or in embroidery, are both alike dark and ignorant; for it would be accounted a folly, if not a sin, to teach them even to read.

Numerous carriers, or sellers of water, obtain their living in the East by supplying the inhabitants with it. They are permitted to fill their water-bags, made of goat-skins, at the public fountains. This goat-skin of the carrier has a long brass spout, and from this the water is poured into a brass cup, for any one who wishes to drink. Many of these are employed by the charitable, to distribute water in the streets; and they pray the thirsty to partake of the bounty offered to them in the name of God, praying that Paradise and pardon may be the lot of him who affords the refreshing gift.

Turkish Water-Carrier.

The Dancing Dervises are a religious order of Mohamedans, who affect a great deal of patience, humility, and charity. Part of their religious observance consists in dancing or whirling their bodies round with the greatest rapidity imaginable, to the sound of a flute; and long practice has enabled them to do this without suffering the least inconvenience from the strange movement.

In Eastern countries, the bread is generally made in the form of a large thin cake, which is torn and folded up, almost like a sheet of paper; it can then be used (as knives and forks are not employed by the Orientals) for the purpose of rolling together a mouthful of meat, or supping up gravy and vegetables, at the meals.

Dancing Dervise.