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A Fez of the Heart: Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat    by Jeremy Seal order for
Fez of the Heart
by Jeremy Seal
Order:  USA  Can
Harvest, 1996 (1995)

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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

A Fez of the Heart by British journalist Seal is intriguingly subtitled 'Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat.' Seal worked in Turkey for several years and is fluent in the language, so he was able to penetrate beyond the usual tourist haunts to see the real country. The fez - the traditional male headware - was introduced in the early 1800s by a forward-thinking Ottoman ruler who felt it was more westernized than the traditional turbans. However, a century later it was banned by Ataturk and his new secular government as a despised symbol of Islam. It is now only found in tourist shops.

Intrigued by the disappearance of the fez, Seal traveled all over Turkey seeking its origins and significance. Using his search as an elegant device to understand the intersection of modern and traditional culture, he provides a fascinating look at Turkish life, both past and present. The author is clearly an adventurous soul. He ventured from Istanbul to the eastern Kurdish territories (still fraught with fighting) and from the Black Sea through Anatolia to beautiful Cappadocia. Then he travelled on to the Mediterranean, and to the site in Eastern Turkey of the slaughter of millions of Armenians during World War I.

The reader will learn a great deal about Turkey as Seal describes his journey. It is a very pleasant trip since the author uses his search effectively as a unifying theme for the book. He has a gift for apt and memorable descriptions such as 'linguistic Mongols' for tourists who mangle the Turkish pronounciations. A memorable hotel receptionist has thick eyebrows which wriggled 'like impassioned bodies beneath bedsheets' whenever he spoke.

I highly recommend this book to anyone planning a trip to Turkey, or who just wants to learn more about Turkish life and history. Modern Turkey is a vibrant multicultural country to which many different civilizations contributed. And A Fez of the Heart is a travelogue in the best sense of the word - not just a catalogue of exotic places, but rather a synthesis of the themes and traditions in Turkey's past which make it what it is today.

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