üsküdar, religion, and kanaat lokantası

Üsküdar lies directly opposite from Beşiktaş and can be reached very quickly with one of the Avrasya Dentur commuter boats which shuttle back and forth between the two sides of the sea.

Once you arrive on the other side, you will be on a big sea-side square, which is currently in a bit of a messy state because of the metro works in progress. Across the square will be a very beautiful Sinan mosque, the Valide Camii.

If you bear to the right of this mosque you will encounter a covered food market on your right and the famed Kanaat restaurant on your left, just a little ways up the street.

Üsküdar is a religious neighborhood and thus there are likely to be far more people who are conservatively dressed over there than, say in Beşiktaş, which is after all just a short boat ride across.

Even though this is just a food blog, a post on Üsküdar may still be a good opportunity to talk a bit about Turkish religious practices: Unlike indigenous middle eastern cultures for whom Islam is a natural religion which has sprung forth from their own heritage and connate societal structures, Turks are latter day incomers to the region who came under diverse influences during their migration, only one of which is Islam. Especially important is the fact that Turks did not settle in the middle east itself, but in Asia Minor, which saw to it that an equally strong cultural influence was provided through a close association with Byzantium. And, it is this blending of influences and cultures which sees to it that Islam in Turkey, for the largest part, is practiced in a manner which incorporates a noteworthy dose of tolerance and flexibility.

Added should also be that, contrary to popular belief, democratization in Turkey (and as an extension, also secularization) did not materialize overnight in 1923, with the founding of the republic, but have their origins in the first half of the 19th century, starting with Sultan Mecid and his extensive legal and social reforms (see wikipedia entry here >>>).

The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) is an internationally acclaimed and trusted independent non-governmental think-tank, analyzing social, political and economic policy issues facing Turkey. And TESEV's in-depth studies on religiosity in Turkey also verify the mellow nature of Turkish Islam: http://www.tesev.org.tr/default.asp?PG=DMK01EN01

A tesettür fashion store in Üsküdar. Even the body language of the manikins shows the desirability of close interaction between the sexes, although this does go against the grain of what covering the hair is all about. Nonetheless, this is how Islam is perceived by many of even its strictest Turkish practitioners: Women are powerful and independent agents, in what is ultimately a strongly matriarchal society, which has its roots in Central Asian shamanism. As an example, even the most devoutly Muslim Turkish woman would be appalled at the very notion of polygamy. And, my 107 year old grandmother who is old enough to have lived under (sort of) Sheria laws during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, says that having more than one wife would have been something unthinkable amongst Turks in those days as well.

Note: The religiosity of Turkey's 20 million Kurdish citizens would probably need to be considered separately, since Kurdish culture does have an indigenous middle eastern basis, and possibly due to that the perception of Islam and Islamic social rules are stricter compared to what is prevalent amongst western Anatolian Turks. 

OK folks, enough of the sociology lecture - and back to food! ;-): There is only one "food" reason to go to Üsküdar, but even by itself it is good enough to make a trip out there worthwhile!

Kanaat lokantası (Opinion restaurant in English) serves authentic and delicious Istanbul food in a light airy restaurant which is wholesome looking enough for a strong appetite to come on even as you walk in through its doors.

Olive oil vegetable starters

Main courses


Kanaat lokantası does not serve any alcohol, and a 3 course meal there will cost between 12 and 18 Euros. I am also tagging this post with vegetarian since Kanaat, with all its olive oil dishes and desserts, offers enough in this department to keep most vegetarians nicely sated! Read more about the restaurant also here >>>.

Address: Selmanipak Caddesi No.25 Üsküdar, +90 0 216 553 37

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