The Turkish people also have many distinctions from the people that have lived on
these lands in the past. The Turks are Muslims with foods, clothing, and traditions
rooted in Central Asia as well as the Middle East. Even today these influences can
be found. However, much of modern Turkish culture is rooted in the Ottoman Empire,
which developed these earlier influences, while making the people more urbanized
as focus turned from survival to economic and political growth and expansion. The
Ottomans spread their influence to Europe, while also taking European cultural aspects
back to Turkey with them.
Although the Ottomans forever linked Turkey with Europe, it wasn't until their
fall from power in the early 1900s that the connection was forever forged. A liberal
wave spread across the country, resulting in political changes and new laws. Islam
remained important to the people, but dress and dietary restrictions were essentially
abandoned. Islam was separated from politics and people had greater freedom to follow
religion to the desired degree of the individual. Today Istanbul is home to alcohol,
pork, and women wearing shorts and tank tops. However, many of the ethnic Kurds
in the eastern part of the country dress very conservatively and refrain from alcohol
and pork, of course similar Turks are in Istanbul as well.
Political changes led to vast cultural changes in much of Turkey; today the country
is likely the most liberal Muslim country. In some places Turkish culture reflects
Europe in style, entertainment, communication, transportation, and technology, while
in other places it remains very conservative. However, the language, foods, and
friendly outgoing attitude is what defines Turkish culture, no matter how liberal
or conservative an individual might be.