Now it’s 10pm and I’m sitting in an outdoor restaurant waiting for a chicken shish kebab. One other table is occupied by a large group of about 20 people. At the cafes opposite men play some kind of dominoes, others just sit staring at the group of young people. I think the same people were sitting at the same tables when I went out for a walk about 8 hours ago. Then they weren’t drinking, smoking or eating, but I assumed that was because it was Ramadan, but now that the sun has gone down they could drink chai, smoke or eat if they wanted to. Allah wouldn’t mind. Though most people here appear to be observing Ramadan many aren’t. Passing one of the cafes today the owner started chatting to me and invited me to a cup of chai, on the house, and he had one as well.
Most of the people in the cafes just seem to be sitting and looking. Mostly they’re not talking. A younger guy takes a call on his mobile. The older men sit and watch, like the cats and dogs which don’t appear to be owned as pets here so they’re out on the streets. In Ukraine as well. There were dogs sleeping all over the place in Odessa.
I was feeding a cat some of my chicken until the restaurant owner came and shooed it away. But then it came back and I gave it some more. I think it’s the same cat, a kitten, that I was feeding last night at a different restaurant. Then I’d ordered too much food, or got more than I ordered due to a breakdown in communications. The first thing I asked for, grilled chicken, I was told wasn’t available so I said in that case I’ll have spaghetti bolognaise and a salad but I ended up getting all three. After its food the cat fell asleep on one of my feet, the left one I think.
Women don’t seem to go to bars or cafes here, except for tourist women. I’m the only customer left in the bar I’m in now, which is closing for the night, the owner taking in the tables and chairs. The bar next door is still going, playing Turkish music, and a cafe and a restaurant opposite are still open.
It’s about midnight.
My hotel room is opposite the mosque. I was woken this morning by the call to prayer, though rather than going off and praying I went back to sleep. I can understand why some fundamentalist islamists despise Turkey. Islam seems to be becoming like the Church of England, something that’s there for those that want it but which doesn’t dominate society in the way it used to. But Turkey has been an officially secular country for a long time, though it has just elected a moderate islamist president whose wife wears a headscarfe, and though current laws prohibit her from wearing the headscarfe in public buildings, the president wants to change that.