This year’s EuroGeo Conference was held in Ankara. Yes, European geographers know very well that Ankara isn’t in Europe. The point this year is that EuroGeo teamed up with Coğrafyacılar Derneği, the Turkish association of geographers, to hold a join conference and annual congress. This was hosted at Gazi Üniversitesi.
A few AUI colleagues decided to hold a panel discussion there on teaching Liberal Arts geography in Morocco. My presentation was entitled: “Teaching Geography to Students who Hate Geography.” The other participants on the AUI panel were my friends Dr. Abdelkrim Marzouk and Dr. John Shoup.
Apart from the conference proper, I really enjoyed seeing Ankara again. It is my home town. I was born there over 50 years ago, when it had about 500 000 inhabitants. It is about ten times bigger today, with skyscrapers and shopping malls and a subway system and expressways and lots and lots of traffic. Growth has been particularly spectacular–one might even say devastating–over the past 15 years as Turkey’s economy has boomed. Not just Ankara, large and small cities all over the country are being radically transformed. Old historic neighborhoods near city centers are being systematically destroyed to make way for higher density apartment blocks.
After Ankara, I was invited by Prof. Arzu Taylan of the Department of Urban Planning at Selçuk Üniversitesi in Konya–the city of Jalal al-Din Rumi–to give an informal presentation on Sufi principles in the urban design of Touba, Senegal.
Being in Konya, I took advantage of my stay to visit Rumi’s tekke (zâwiya and tomb).
I also visited the mosque and tomb of his most discreet teacher and beloved disciple, Shams-i Tabrizi.
Otherwise, I put my vacation time to good use (joindre l’agréable à l’utile) by visiting archaeological sites close to Ankara and Konya. These included Hattuşa, capital of the Hittite empire…
Efletunpinar, the sacred spring shrine of the Hittites…
and Çatal Hüyük, the oldest city yet unearthed (thrived ca. 7000 BCE).
Trips to Turkey are always heart-warming for me (see this post about a previous field trip), not just because I was born there, and not just because I love Turkish cuisine, but because of the country’s rich cultural heritage. From Neolithic and Bronze-age sites, to Seljuk Sufi shrines, to imperial Ottoman architecture, every site is maintained in an impeccable state. Visitor center displays and information booklets in multiple languages are provided at all sites. Local museums are well maintained and even tourist gift shops offer a range of quality items for sale. Morocco can learn much from Turkey’s administration and maintenance of heritage sites.