In 2012 INNER WHEEL will meet in Turkey. For most of the guests it will be a first time visit. So, let us take an overall glance on the host country.

Turkey has always been on the crossroads for peoples, for armies and civilizations thoughout the ages, between the east and the west., between the north and the south, geographically, historically and culturally.

The Blue Mosque

Anatolia, as the land is called, is a land of myths and legends, of wild invasions and fierce battles, of great civilizations and of great beauty !

Time starts in Anatolia with Noah’s Arc which is believed to rest on the peak of AGRI DAGI ( Mount Ararat) in North-eastern Turkey. Time and again eager groups of explorers come in the search for the wreckage. But the cloudy, snow covered precipices stil keep their secret.

An invaluable treasure of relics tells us that this ancient land has served as the cradle of modern civilization.

The first “Peace Treaty” known to history (The Kadesh Treaty) was written on earthen tablets by the Egyptians and Hitites, the earliest inhabitants of Anatolia 4000 years ago.
Helen loved Paris, thus the WOODEN HORSE” was the doom of Troy; and Homeros chanted these adventures of love and fighting in Iliada and Odyssee.

All the myths of Gods and Goddesses, Kings and Queens, glories and victories and defeats turned into marble masterpieces in the ancient cities of Pergamum, Ephesus, Priene, Miletus, Dydyma, and Aphrodisias and many others, and made up part of our exceptional heritage today.

Aphrodias Tetrapilon

King Croesus of Lydia minted the first coin, and his slave Aesop told stories of wisdom. The Phrigian king Midas (with donkey ears), the first “Gold Finger” built Gordion and tied the “Gordion Knot” and declared that he who could undo the “Knot” would rule the world-“Alexandre the Great” slashed the knot with his sword and lead his armies across the land to Persia and India. In turn Darius of Persia swept west, devastating everything on his path until he reached the Aegean Sea.

Julius Ceasar, after his conquest of the peninsula declared “VINI, VIDI, VINCI”.

Emperor Antonius fell in love with Egyptian Queen Cleopatra on the azure shores of the South coast – Many a beautiful spot along the Mediterranean coast is named “Cleopatra’s Island”, “Cleopatra’screek”, etc. to pay tribute to this immortal love affair.

Great migrations and invasions took their toll on the cities and their people, in turn new settlements were started.The early Christians fleeing from massacres found a home in Central Anatolia (Cappadocia – land of beautiful Horses) in underground cities and caves, conveyed their messages, did their preaching, and added to the Anatolian treasures their beautiful fresques and mozaics in hidden churches.

Cave dwellings in Cappadocia

On a quite and serene mountain near the ruins of Ephesus and the Aegean coast rests the House of Virgin Mary, where she is believed to have spent her last years. It is a shrine sacred for all religions and visited by millions of people every year.

On the outskirts of Toros mountains in the South, Demre is the home of St.Nicholas, whose generosity and love of children launched the world-wide legend of FATHER CHRISTMAS.

In the course of time, through the  ebb and tide of empires, dynasties, invasions and stampedes, the bulk that made the ANATOLIAN PEOPLE – a sturdy, hard working, patient and hospitable people was being formed. .Even during the dark ages Mongol destruction, the heart of the people cried through the voice of their poets :

Love is all that there is,
Love is the essence of existence!
Come, let us get to know each other
So that fellowship can flourish !

These are the words of Yunus Emre, a 13th century wandering Dervish. Also in the  13th century, from another corner of Anatolia, MEVLANA, the philosopher and poet, who professed the “Whirling Dervishes” discipline, called :

Come, whether you are a believer or a sinner;
Come, whether you have repented a thousand times
and sinned again;
Come, for this is not a place for grief,
This is the door of HOPE

Their humanitarian voices echo across  the centuries to us today in all nations.

The Library Ephesus

By the 14th century, the OTTOMAN TURKS, gained power and established a dynasty that would last for 600 years. With them came law and order, once again the land prospered with  bridges, caravan serails, mosques and palaces, libraries, hospitals, waterways, unique works of Islamic architecture. They were tolerant, generous to the many different cultures and religions under their rule. People escaping from cruelty found a home here – for example the Jews escaping from the inquisition in Spain were given refuge in 1492, their descendants live in Turkey today.

Like all Empires, the Ottomans ebbed and crumbled and fell apart after the FIRST WORLD WAR. Out of the wreck emerged the TURKISH REPUBLIC with ATATURK as the leader. Turks accomplished a great metamorphosis : Shedding the oriental outfit, the Arabic script, the theocratic monopoly over all institutions, they were transformed into a modern secular state within an incredibly short span of time.

ATATURK believed that the future of the country, the young generation  would be the work of educated MOTHERS. With the new alphabet and countrywide campaigns of teaching, literacy rose from 20%  to 90%. Turkish women today are in all fields of education; they are professionals, artists, politicians, a dynamic section of society. NGOs mostly organized and run by women , work hard fort the welfare of the community and for the world.