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Women-only tour of Turkey helps change local women’s fortunes - MW

My clumsy fingers lost the thread and it cleared up, out of control. Try again. I lift the wire frame and wrap the bright cotton around it once more. Aasma, was in charge of showing me how to make complicated earrings, patiently with my mistakes. But then she knew everything about the pieces and had to start over. Arriving in Istanbul as a refugee from Syria, she did not easily grasp the subjects of a new life. Work permits for displaced people are difficult to obtain, so she has no hope of finding secretarial work which she already has at home.

At Olive Tree, a community center on a narrow road in the Cap Capa district of Istanbul, she found a way to start again. Gathered around a long wooden table, while their children were playing downstairs in the children's center, more than 40 refugees embroidered bags, printed t-shirts and earrings by hand - with loops Drop ear tag, no bombardment - their own fashion brand, Muhra. The proceeds help keep their families financially exceptional.

When Aasma and his friends showed us the basics of jewelry making, they shared stories about abandoned houses. I never thought I could go back to Syria. However, I am still lucky. I lost someone. Many women here, their families, she left, but silence spoke.

I visited this social enterprise program as part of the new trip Intrepid, Turkey: Women Exped Expedition, a tour led by and for women. We traveled from Istanbul to the wind-capped rocks of Cappadocia and to Kekova, a sleepy island off the Aegean coast. Our trip is interspersed with famous attractions with the possibility of meeting local women who use tourism to change their fortune.

Intrepid launched its first all-female tours in 2018, in Iran, Morocco and Jordan. Either way, the company's customer base is 65% female and these tours were sold out in one month, making it the most successful style on the company's 30-year journey. Trips to Nepal, India and Turkey have been added, and this month the operator introduced trips to Pakistan, Israel and Palestine.

In Turkey, traveling in an exclusively female group will open closed doors for a group of the opposite sex and we will be able to connect sincerely with Turkish women - and support their businesses. . Only 30% of Turkish women work in paid employment, and this is what Intrepid hopes to change by defending and mentoring women entrepreneurs.

One of them is Keşke, a single mother living in Istanbul, teaching and performing traditional dances, from Turkish folk dance to Egyptian style belly dance, which has become popular in Turkey. We were here to take a lesson later, and when we tied bell scarves around her waist, she told us about what had been considered porn. Low rank dancing is now strict at weddings. His snakes seemed to move in the direction we could, but at the end of the hour full of laughter, we could all stumble into the semantics of a habit.

No one is more welcoming than Sabahat, who has welcomed us into the house in Istanbul which she has shared with her daughter and grandson since the death of her husband and son-in-law. The second time I entered, I wrapped myself in a hug, then I entered his kitchen to be served. There is a börek pastry the size of a manhole cover, a sweet pumpkin with whipped cream, a homemade baklava and Turkish delight.

We are nominally here to learn the art of traditional coffee reading, but this is just the beginning. Sabahat is a one-woman party. She sings, plays the tambourine, teaches us to dance. After our fortunes of coffee, she melted the pieces of lead to reveal more about what the future holds for us - one of us should expect a proposal, another pregnancy - and let the evil spirits dissipate can float. I don't see where they can hide: the life force of the Sabahat fills the apartment. Before we left, she added more gifts for us - the prayer beads she brought back from her Umrah pilgrimage (now prohibited as part of coronavirus precautions).

This tour does not miss the old-fashioned sights - in Istanbul, it was time to visit the usual mosques, markets and palaces before moving to central Turkey, where we aired at 3 a.m. for a hot air balloon flight at sunrise over Cappadocia.

Back in the field, in a traditional troglodyte house, the local chef, self-taught Nuray, cooks us dolphins, salad salad, pancake pancakes and his award-winning baklava. Seven years ago, his daughters entered a local cooking competition because they wanted the price to buy a computer. Now his business - providing traditional meals and cooking classes for tourists - is helping to get the girls to college.

Although working for wages is still relatively new for many Turkish women, one of the country's most famous export countries is the result of their talent. Historically, weaving is a quest for women and the life of women is inscribed in the warp and weft of Turkish carpets, if you can read them. Our lesson in this art comes from Ruth, a New Zealander involved in the carpet trade here for 30 years. Instead of giving us hard-to-sell sales as usual, Ruth spoke passionately about the women who made these carpets by hand - an art that almost died out when nomadic communities and modern villages chemistry. I went into his shop, the Goreme collection in Goreme, without enthusiasm but I left a conversion, wondering how many cecim rugs were tied by nomadic women from Konya in which I could fit. in the suitcase.

Our next stop is the coast of Antalyan and the island of Kekova, an idyllic place where bougainvilleas roll around the roof of the harbor restaurant and the Lycian ruins pepper on the wooded hill. During a cruise around the island, our traditional wooden roulette was driven by Sabahat, who owned the craft with her husband Mehmet and proudly wore his captain's license. We swim, we eat, we swim again, we eat again and when the sun goes down, our guide, Aynur opens another bottle of wine.

In 2017, Intrepid committed to doubling the number of female tour operators they recruited, and Aynur, 34, who grew up in Amasya in the Turkish Black Sea region, was one of the local recruits . From our side since our arrival in Istanbul, she was the woman of the trip: translator, navigator, cultural commentator, sommelier, late-night dancer and expert in Turkish States coffee. While we were sitting on the deck, looking at the stars, I remembered the proverb she had told us when she had prepared the first cup of our trip: share coffee with the Turks, and you share Share a lifelong friendship. Whether caffeine is the catalyst, I can say it or not, but I will definitely leave Turkey to forge relationships with women I will never forget.


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