Little Anatolia in the Orange County, CA

festival-2010-smThe second annual Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival transformed The Orange County Great Park of California into the Anatolian Peninsula. Folk dancers, musicians, chefs and craftsmen brought to life Anatolia’s diverse heritage of food, crafts and music. Turkish, Sufi, Christian, Armenian, Greek and Ottoman cultures of Anatolia are represented at the event that showcases the unique foods, music, costumes and customs from around the globe.

The festival also featured replicas of monuments from five major Turkish cities including I.stanbul, Van, Mardin, Konya and Antalya. Among the historic structures on display during the event were Topkapi Palace, Maiden’s Tower, III. Ahmet Fountain, the ancient Aspendos Theater, Mardin’s stone houses and the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island.

“We hope this festival would inspire people to visit Turkey,” Hakan Tekin, Turkey’s Consul General in Los Angeles, said in his speech during the opening ceremony. Tekin also congratulated the organizers who “offered a great opportunity for people in America to see Turkey without having to experience jetlag”. Tekin said that when he was first informed about the idea, he thought it was “too ambitious and difficult to achieve,” but noted that it turned out to be very successful.

Underlining that these kinds of activities are important to introduce people to aspects of Turkey that are not well known, Tekin said: “There are still stereotypes about Turkey, especially on the West Coast. But we have received very positive responses from Americans who visited the festival last year. There were people who personally told me that they realized how different Turkey was than what they had imagined.” Tekin also noted that many Armenians in Los Angeles were very excited about Turkey’s decision to allow religious ceremonies at the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island on Sept. 12 and that many Armenians were already making reservations to visit Turkey that day.

Anatolian Cities in Orange County

The I.stanbul section welcomed guests through a door that resembled the door of Dolmabahçe Palace and featured a replica of the Maiden Tower. Behind the tower was the Bosporus and the silhouette of the Hagia Sophia and the Sultanahmet Mosque. Near a reproduction of Topkap? Palace, visitors came across people dressed in the costumes of sultans, princes and janissaries. There were also reproductions of parts of the interior of Topkap? Palace which visitors could walk around.

Upon entering the Konya section, visitors encountered a 3-D replica of the museum dedicated to Rumi, where whirling dervishes performed to Turkish Sufi music. Visitors were particularly impressed by the prayer beads, tiles and handmade crafts created by master felters. Walking through the Temple of Apollo gate, visitors entered the Antalya section, which had palm trees and real sand on the ground. The Antalya section also featured a replica of the ancient Aspendos Theater.

Mardin, the city of tolerance, welcomed guests with its famous silhouette. A model of one of the city’s famous stone homes allowed visitors the opportunity to experience a moment in Mardin. As for the Van section, it introduced visitors to the city’s iconic Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Behind the church was the silhouette of Mount Ararat. Visitors were impressed by the green and blue-eyed Van cats, which made the long journey to America for the festival.

Whirling Dervishes, the traditional virtuoso Omer Faruk Tekbilek, the Armenian singer Yervant, Turkish pop musician Ferhat Atli and the Ottoman janissary band (Mehter Takimi) appeared.

Pacifica Institute receives certificate of appreciation

The Pacifica Institute received a certificate of appreciation from Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry, US House of Representative member Loretta Sanchez, State Senator Tom Harmon and State Senator Lou Correa. Van Governor Münir Karalog(lu and Mardin Governor Hasan Duruer, who were both present at the opening ceremony, gave the organizers a plaque recognizing their contributions to the festival.

Mant?: a potential world record

The festival featured an area made to look like the Grand Bazaar that included close to 100 stands and offered all kinds of foods and desserts from Turkey. One ton of mant?, small dumplings filled with meat and served with yogurt and melted butter, was prepared by a group of volunteers over the course of three months. Festival officials claimed that the amount of mant? that was made for the festival attracted the attention of Guinness World Records officials. A Turkish coffeehouse that could accommodate up to 120 people was set up in the center of the fairground and offered tea, coffee, salep and baked goods. There were also women who were brought specially from Turkey to prepare gözleme, a handmade pastry filled with cheese, potatoes or minced meat.

Schwarzenegger extends appreciation

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a statement to the Pacifica Institute extending his appreciation to those involved in organizing the festival. The festival, which cost approximately $1.5 million, was almost twice as big as it was last year. Festival officials plan to purchase a plot of land where they can permanently display the replicas built for the fair.

Guests who attended the festival lauded the event. Stating that these kinds of festivals in which we share our culture, brotherhood and food are very important for world peace, Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, said the organizers recreated a wonderful authentic atmosphere and culture to share with the world.

Rev. Alexei Smith, director of ecumenical and interreligious affairs at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said the festival gave people the opportunity to learn about Turkey and to appreciate the Turkish people and culture, contributing to a better understanding.

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