Attending a geography conference in Ankara

Ankara Kale croppedI have spent the break between the Spring and Summer semesters in Turkey. First, I attended a geography conference in Ankara, after which I was invited to Konya to give a presentation.

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.

Left to right: the author, Dr. John Shoup & dr. Abdelkrim Marzouk at the opening session ofthe EuroGeo conference in Ankara, May 2015. (ph. Eric Ross)

Left to right: the author, Prof. John Shoup and Prof. Abdelkrim Marzouk at the opening session of the EuroGeo conference in Ankara, 21 May 2015. (ph. Eric Ross)

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.

The author presenting at Selçuk Üniversitesi, Konya, 26 May.

The author presenting on Touba at Selçuk Üniversitesi, Konya, 26 May.

Being in Konya, I took advantage of my stay to visit Rumi’s tekke (zâwiya and tomb).

View of the Mevlana Tekke in Konya. Jalal al-Din Rumi is buried beneath the blue-tiled dome. (ph. Eric Ross)

View of the Mevlevi Tekke in Konya. Jalal al-Din Rumi is buried beneath the exquisite blue-tiled dome. (ph. Eric Ross)

Mevlana Jalal al-Din's richly adorned tomb chamber. (ph. Eric Ross)

Mevlana Jalal al-Din’s richly adorned tomb chamber. (ph. Eric Ross)

I also visited the mosque and tomb of his most discreet teacher and beloved disciple, Shams-i Tabrizi.

The mosque & tomb of Şemsi Tebrizi in Konya (ph. Eric Ross)

The mosque & tomb of Şemsi Tebrizi in Konya (ph. Eric Ross)

Catafalque of Şemsi Tebrizi (ph. Eric Ross)

Catafalque of Şemsi Tebrizi (ph. Eric Ross)

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…

View of Lower City of Hattuşa (ph. John Shoup)

View of the Lower City of Hattuşa, with reconstructed section of the city’s wall (ph. John Shoup)

Efletunpinar, the sacred spring shrine of the Hittites…

View of the fountain in Efletunpinar, the sacred spring of the Hittites (ph. Eric Ross)

View of the fountain at Efletunpinar, the sacred spring of the Hittites (ph. Eric Ross)

and Çatal Hüyük, the oldest city yet unearthed (thrived ca. 7000 BCE).

The excavations at Çatal Hüyük are protected by large sheds (ph. EricRoss)

The excavations at Çatal Hüyük are protected by large sheds (ph. EricRoss)

Many layers of houses have been excavated at Çatal Hüyük (ph. Eric Ross)

Many layers of houses have been excavated at Çatal Hüyük (ph. Eric Ross)

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.

About ericrossacademic

Professor of Geography at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco
This entry was posted in cities, conferences, field trips, shrines, teaching and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Attending a geography conference in Ankara

  1. Ann Marie Davis says:

    Thank you for the information. How was your presentation received? I am sorry to hear about the destruction of historic places for “modern buildings”. The art will never be replaced.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • The audience at Selçuk U. was very receptive to my explanation of Touba’s Sufi-inspired urban design. I plan to follow this up by contributing a chapter to a book Arzu Taylan is editing.
      The destruction of old neighborhoods, considered “slums,” to be replaced by new, higher density concrete housing resembles 1950’s “urban renewal” policies in inner city North America. This is currently also going on all across China. I think it’s a phase of capitalist development. In urban political economy it’s called the “growth machine.” It combines populist pro-development, pro-growth discourse with the strong financial backing of real-estate developers and construction firms for the political parties and municipal governments that back it. It is fueled by state-funded mega-projects and glitzy infrastructure and it usually gets the enthusiastic backing of corporate media. Once the growth machine takes hold in the body politic of a city it is very difficult to stop; there are so many wealthy and powerful actors who benefit.

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