By Kimberly Strathearn, KF 16/17, Turkey

April 7 -29, 2012 is this year’s date for the 7th International Istanbul Tulip Festival which is organized by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.  Being a national symbol of Turkey, tulips have had a major role in Turkish arts and culture for centuries. Not to mention it is the current official tourism symbol.

The Tulip Festival is held each April and the city parks, squares, and gardens are blooming with millions of tulips of every color. This year over 11.5 million tulips of 104 different varieties have been planted throughout Istanbul.  Various parks and squares will host live concerts, painting and Ebru (marble-painting) demonstrations, Tulip Photography Exhibitions and Tulip Sculpture Exhibitions.

Tulips in my neighborhood park (Yildiz Park), my little piece of heaven in Istanbul.  Istanbul is a city that spans two continents and is a city of 8-12 million depending on which suburbs you count!

Tulips are often associated with the Netherlands, but commercial cultivation of the flower began during the Ottoman Empire. The tulip, or lale as it is called in Turkey and Iran (a Persian word), is a flower indigenous to a vast area encompassing arid parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Although it is unknown who first brought the tulip to Northwestern Europe, the most widely accepted story is that it was Oghier Ghislain de Busberg, an ambassador for Ferdiand I of Germany to Suleyman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire.

Tulip mania or tulipomania  was a period in the Dutch Golden Ages (roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military and art were among the most acclaimed in the world) when contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed.  Tulips would become so expensive that they were treated as a form of currency.  This speculative frenzy starting in 1634 was triggered by enthusiasm for this new type of flower and was considered a status symbol.  At the peak of tulip mania, in February 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble (or economic bubble). The term “tulip mania” is now often used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble (when asset prices deviate from intrinsic values).

The tulip, Semper Augustus, is famous for being the most expensive tulip sold during the tulipomania in the Netherlands in the 17th century.

 The Ottomans had their own tulip craze, named the Tulip Era from 1718-1730, among the Ottoman court elite and high society when they developed an intense fondness for tulips.

The Tulip period saw a flowering of arts, culture and architecture. Generally the style of architecture and decoration became more elaborate, being influenced by the Baroque period in movement. The tulip was also praised in poetry and motifs used in paintings.

To this day in modern Turkey, the tulip is still considered the embodiment of perfection and beauty.  Lale (Tulip) is also a favorite female name in Turkey. It still inspires Turkish musicians and artists and is appreciated by Turks for its beauty.

Traditional Ebru Marbling (painting)

The tulip motif can be seen on various items concerning Turkey from textiles, and jewelry to Iznik tiles. Perhaps the best modern examples are the tulip motifs on the fuselage of the Turkish Airlines’ fleet and as the official logo of the Turkey Tourism Ministry.

Turks enjoy flowers and besides sending them for special occasions such as birthdays and Mother’s Day, they are brought as hostess gifts when invited to someone’s home for dinner, elaborate arrangements are made for business openings with banners expressing the sender’s wishes for the recipient”s success in their new business,  gypsies stroll around outdoor restaurants and try to encourage men to buy their female dinner companions a red rose (or two or three…), sent to weddings and funerals if unable to attend, housewives in the spring will buy whatever is blooming during their weekly local market shopping trips to make their homes smell nice, and people send their friends a bouquet when they start a new job.

Bilge and her flower shopWith all this flower appreciation, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we have a Maya Entrepreneur, Bilgi, who is a florist and working hard to expand her business.

Fast Flower Facts:

-80% of Turkey’s cut flower exports are carnations

This coin, dating from 133 BC, was found in the ancient Greek town of Synnada, now the modern Turkish town of Şuhut in the province of Afyon-Turkish farmers grow poppies under license to produce opium for the medicinal market (essential analgesics such as codeine and morphine) and have cultivated poppies since ancient times.  The Turkish model of opium licensing was proposed as a model to solve Afghanistan’s illegal opium economy.  Poppy seeds are used in a variety of breads, pastries and rolls as well as salads, soups and desserts and its long culinary history includes its use in dishes that are prepared for special ceremonies such as engagements and weddings.

-The city of Isparta is famous for its rose oil, a main ingredient in women’s perfume, and the region produces 60% of the world’s roses—a whopping 7,000 tons a year. Rose water or syrup is a by-product of rose oil production and is used in food, other cosmetics and for religious purposes.

-Orchid roots (ground into a flour) is the main ingredient of a hot winter beverage called salep, best with cinnamon on top!

-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers are a favorite and specialty of the Aegean region

-The cut flower industry in Turkey is mainly based on small family farms, 25,000 people are directly employed and more than 300,000 are indirectly employed in the industry (includes domestic market)

-For Valentine’s Day 2011, the Antalya region exported 40 million cut flowers to about 25 countries for approximately $7 million in revenues

Hey It’s spring, so don’t forget to take a stroll and stop to smell the flowers!

Visit these blogs for more on Maya and Turkey:

Home to a New Adventure: Hoş Geldiniz Maya!

If It Is Thursday, It Must Be Sakarya + What is Bohça?

If it is Tuesday it must be Izmit +more of my favorite borrowers + buyurun agabey

Perks + Ataturk + My Hero

Junk Food +1,300 chefs + Edirne-Style Liver + Maya Food Entrepreneurs

If It is Wednesday, It Must Be Eskişehir + Eskişehir Entrepreneurs

Barrier + Solution = Groups Loans for Maya + Challenges Remain  

Kimberly Strathearn is a KF 16/17 serving in Istanbul with Maya. Kiva’s newest Field Partner in Istanbul, Turkey. To learn more about Maya and their clients, please visit their Partner Page, join our newly created Friends of Maya Lending Team, or make a loan to one of their enterprising clients. Kimberly is a fan of giving Kiva Cards for just about every gift giving occasion. What could be better that giving the gift of helping someone?


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