Rumi and Coke

Listen to the reed how it tells a tale, complaining of separation
Saying: Ever since I was parted from the reed-bed, my lament
has caused man and woman to moan.

— Jelaluddin Rumi, Mevlana
Translated by Annemarie Schimmel


Photo by Angie Brenner

(Editor’s Note: The following chapter is excerpted from the memoir, Anatolian Days & Nights, A Love Affair with Turkey – Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints, published March, 2012 by Wild River Books – co-written with Angie Brenner.)

On a frigid December night in the central Anatolian city of Konya, our friend Bekir paces in the doorway of our hotel, his breath creating arabesques of steam that drift into darkness. In front of the hotel, neon signs on lampposts illuminate white-robed dervishes, hands in mid-twirl.

“Oh, my friends,” he says, when Angie and I alight from our taxi. “I was worried something terrible had happened and you wouldn’t make it time for the festival.”

Angie reaches up to embrace Bekir. He grabs her in a bear hug as I explain that a snow squall in Istanbul had threatened to ground all domestic flights, and that we would have hired a driver before missing opening night of the eight-day festival celebrating mystic and poet, Mevlana Jellaludin Rumi — a festival that draws more than a million visitors.

“You are here now, thanks be to Allah,” says Bekir, touching his fingertips to his forehead, lips, and heart. He instructs the taxi driver to bring our luggage into the hotel and links his arms through ours, pausing to let a group of women, covered head to toe in black chadors, pass by.

In the somber maroon and gray lobby, he pulls two sheer, white muslin headscarves edged in tiny lavender shells from his jacket pocket. “They are gifts for you from my mother,” he explains. “Konya is a conservative city and you will be more comfortable wearing these, I think.”

Although Angie and I have headscarves in our suitcases, we didn’t think we’d need to wear them for what has been billed as a theatrical event, and officially we’re only required to wear headscarves in mosques. But Bekir says that although the secular government sanctions the dervish performance as a purely cultural event, it is, in fact, a holy ceremony in celebration of Rumi’s ascension to heaven. “The headscarves show respect,” he says.

In our room with its institution-green walls and a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, we change from jeans into long skirts and sweaters, and put on the headscarves.

The headscarf gives more than protection from a cold Anatolian wind. It has become a strong, visible symbol in the debate between Turkey’s devout and secular citizens. We have friends who wear headscarves and those who don’t. Our friends who remain uncovered consider the idea of covering their heads absurd, backward thinking, and downright subversive. After all, it was Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, who forbade the wearing of headscarves and chadors, making it illegal for women who work or study in government institutions such as hospitals, universities, and courts to cover their heads.

On the other side, our devout Muslim friends claim that if Turkey is a true democracy, the government should allow women the right to wear their headscarves wherever they please. Many of our covered friends have told us that wearing headscarves frees them to move in public without attracting unwanted male attention, a concept we have difficulty grasping since we’re used to fussing with our hair and putting on lipstick so the opposite sex will notice us.

We return to the lobby in our headscarves looking as drab as the surroundings. Near the front desk, Bekir talks in an animated voice to a short man in a tan trench coat with light gray eyes set close together below a high forehead. Bekir switches from Turkish to English and introduces us to Mahomut, his old army buddy, our host for the evening.

“I cannot tell you how honored I am that you have made the long journey to the Festival of Mevlana,” he says, giving Rumi his Turkish name, Mevlana, the Master. “Mevlana is the greatest of lovers,” he adds, explaining that dervishes who devote their lives to God are called lovers, and that God represents the beloved, a force so strong that the pain of separation can only end through meditation and prayer, hence the reason for the ecstatic, meditative turning.

Mahomut opens the door to the back seat of his car and we slide in, gripping the headrests when he swerves into an alley and joins a throng of cars filing into the parking lot of Sehir Stadium, the only venue big enough to hold the crowds of people who come from all over Turkey to attend the festival.

Bundled in dark, heavy coats against the bitter night air, people press through the entrance and swarm the concession stalls where hawkers sell souvenirs: fake gold pendants, rings, and bracelets representing ecstatic dervishes in tall conical hats; drawings of Mevlana sitting in a meditative repose on a cushion; CDs and books of Rumi’s poems. At one table, would-be dervishes try on felt dervish hats and soft black leather boots.

Immediately, we notice that the only women who don’t wear headscarves are the well-dressed wives of visiting dignitaries. These women, with lustrous, well-groomed manes and colorful suits look like rare enchanted birds lost in a sea of drab brown and black. With our scarves tied in knots beneath our chins, we’re relegated to the masses. And I can’t help thinking that with or without headscarves, the day will come soon enough when I’ll no longer attract the male attention I love. And frankly, I don’t want to rush it.

Bekir and Mahomut take no notice of this and lead us through the crowd of men, women, and children to our seats on the first level above the polished floor of the basketball arena. Instead of basketball enthusiasts in team jerseys waving pennants, families, old and young, fidget in their seats.

Behind us, a grandmother swaddled in a maroon coat tucks strands of white hair in place beneath her headscarf. She adjusts the fabric tight across her brow before unwrapping sesame pastries from a square of cheesecloth, doling out the sweets to three boisterous grandchildren.

Eager to educate us about all things dervish, Mahomut shares the story of Mevlana. “One day while Mevlana was walking through the gold market in Konya,” says Mahomut. “He stopped to watch a goldsmith create a bracelet. As the goldsmith’s hammer rang against metal, Mevlana heard a voice calling to him from the blue sky. He looked toward the heavens and felt divine light pour through him, seizing him with the urge to dance.”


The Masnavi by Mevlana – Photo by Angie Brenner

“There are women dervishes too,” he adds, when we ask. ”But according to Islamic law, they whirl separately from the men and you would never see women whirling in public.”

The lights in the stadium flicker. Snacks are packed away, crumbs brushed from laps, and the audience grows silent. Camera lights pan to the stage where dignitaries, politicians, and generals from Istanbul and Ankara rise to give speeches and read passages from the Koran to open the ceremony.

When the speeches end, lights dim, and orchestra members file out from the sideline carrying drums, lutes, and violins and take seats at the far end of the basketball court, followed by a choir. A tall, thin man dressed in a black suit steps into the spotlight and begins to chant the opening verse of the Koran in a deep baritone, singing, “La’ilallah il’lallahu.”

“He’s a very famous singer of dervish music,” whispers Bekir, but before Bekir can tell us his name, the grandmother behind us silences him with a stern click of her tongue.

From the darkness, the high-pitched, ethereal sound of the ney rises and moves in waves through the auditorium. The reed flute’s plaintive call conjures up the image of a bird calling its mate — “the reed longing for the riverbed,” says Rumi, the voice of the lover seeking God the Beloved.

A drum’s steady rhythm answers the ney, striking deep and low like a primal heartbeat. Lush chords of a lute meld with the higher notes of a three-string kemence in counterpoint to the drumbeat. The song of the ney, meant to silence the material world, seeps into our consciousness undulating through our bodies. Even the fidgety children seated behind us become still.

Through a purplish light, the dervishes glide onto the court like apparitions behind their teacher, thesheykh, who wears a green robe and turban. Dressed in black robes symbolizing their spiritual tombs and tall, camel hair felt hats representing the ego’s tombstone, the dervishes prepare to dance.

Music swirls through the arena; the drumbeat increases as the choir chants softly. With arms folded across chests, each dervish, in turn, bows to the sheykh, kisses his hand, and asks for permission to dance, then closes his eyes, tilts his head toward his left shoulder, and unfolds his arms like elegant flower petals.

Right palms reach toward heaven, left palms toward the ground. In soft leather slippers, the dervishes begin a counterclockwise turn, their hearts becoming the center point of contemplation and their bodies the connection between God and the earth.

Silently they chant, “We take from God and give to man, spreading grace to earth.”

The drum and ney sing to one another as twenty dervishes turn in opulent circles, their skirts billowing like clouds. Not a single unfurled skirt touches another.

When the sheykh taps the dervishes gently on their shoulders, they slow their pace and move to the edge of the court joining the rest of us still tethered to the earth. They chant a final prayer ending in a collective exhalation of the syllable Hu, the breath of God .

When the lights go up, no one in the audience moves. The dignitaries rise, breaking the spell. Cell phones ring, families chatter as they collect their belongings. The grandmother seated behind us has already gathered her grandchildren and herds them toward the lobby.

We wait with Bekir and Mahomut until the stadium is nearly empty and then silently we retrieve our car beneath a sky crystalline with stars, feeling as if we, too, have entered the center of a sacred universe.


Under the harsh fluorescent lights of a corba locanta, a soup restaurant, we dip spoons into bowls of chicken corba made with tomato and okra and seasoned with lemon and red pepper. Outside the steamy windows, the thermometer has dipped into the teens, but the soup carries the perfume and warmth of the Mediterranean region, which supplies fruit and vegetables to stalls in Konya’s central market during the winter months.

“Mevlana says whatever you believe, whatever your religion, whether you are a man or a woman, you are welcome at his table,” says Mahomut between sips of tripe corba, or soup.

Sprinkling pepper flakes into his soup, Mahomut tells us how after Kemal Ataturk established the secular republic, he attempted to take away the power of religious mystics by ordering Sufi and dervish sects to disband or face jail sentences. The dervishes went underground, but in recent years, with the approval of the Ministry of Culture, the Dervish Festival has been sanctioned as a cultural rather than religious event.


He closes his eyes in reverence as he describes Rumi’s tomb, draped in a green carpet with a stone turban at the end, how the tomb sits on a dais beneath the sea-green tiled dome of Konya’s Mevlana Museum housed in a former dervish lodge. Under jewel-colored glass lanterns and crystal chandeliers, pilgrims press close to the carved silver gate surrounding the tomb and offering their prayers.

“Are you a dervish?” I ask.

Mahomut smiles slyly. “No, I make baklava.”

“You must see his pastry shop,” says Bekir. “We will go there for dessert.”

Although it’s past ten, the streets are congested with festival traffic. Mahomut parks the car and we enter his shop, drawn toward a glass case filled with golden baklava, custard pastries, and cookies. In the back, a group of men and women sip tea and watch a game show on a television perched on a shelf high on the wall.

Mahomut unlocks a side door to show us his bakery, where a scarred marble table with a dough extruder bolted to one end fills half the space. The night baker glances up and then back to a thin, translucent sheet of dough that he rolls out with a wooden dowel across the marble. Flour drifts into the air, settling over large sacks of nuts and sugar.

“It takes twenty-five sheets of dough to make my baklava,” says Mahomut, explaining that his grandfather, a coffee trader who started the bakery business, chose his family’s surname, Senkhaveci, which means “he who happily sells coffee.”

“I learned to make baklava from my father twenty years ago, and he learned from his father. It was also my job in the army where I met Bekir. But I still am learning, ” says Mahomut humbly.

“I had the most stressful job in all the army,” adds Bekir, looking at his friend who nods in agreement.

“What did you do?” asks Angie. Bekir has never mentioned his two-year military service in the Turkish army. With his soft brown eyes and romantic nature, we can’t imagine that he could have held a dangerous military assignment.

“I cared for the pigeons,” he says, a look of frustration crossing his eyes.

Unsure as to whether or not he is making a joke, we prod him for details.

“The army used the pigeons to carry messages,” says Bekir. “But they were always getting sick; some died. And whenever I opened their cages, they tried to escape. Believe me, it was the most stressful job.”

“Bekir was very good with the birds,” Mahomut adds. “It was his nature. Always, they came back to him.”

Our image of a fierce Turkish army vanishes as we imagine men caring for birds and dusted up to their toques in flour.

After a dessert of warm, crisp, syrup-drenched squares of pistachio baklava served with thimbles of bitter coffee and glasses of water, Mahomut and Bekir drop us off at our hotel. Before Mahomut pulls away, he leans his head out the window and shouts, “Tomorrow you will come to my home for dinner.”


Wide-awake and buzzing from caffeine and sugar, we stop for a drink in the hotel lobby. Two men sitting at the opposite end of the room, flick ashes from their cigarettes into the air with each point in their conversation.

“We’ll have two rakis with water and ice,” I say, when a waiter with a black tray comes to take our order.

He looks stunned and nervously grips the edge of his tray. Unease shades his eyes. “One moment, please,” he says. “I will get Rahim.”

A minute later, a young man in an ill-fitting black suit and slicked-back hair walks over to us. The tag pinned to the lapel of his suit says MANAGER.

“I am Rahim,” he says “What would you like?” It dawns on us that this hotel, booked by Mahomet, is frequented by Muslim businessmen and families, and might not serve alcohol.

“Do you have raki?” I ask, already anticipating the answer.

He jerks his head upward and clicks his tongue no. Then his face softens, “We have Coke and, of course, tea,” Rahim offers.

Since the options are either caffeine hot or caffeine cold, we order it in the form of two Cokes.

Tamam, okay,” he smiles, and hurries away.

Rahim returns with a silver dish filled with wedges of lemon and an ice bucket, while a waiter sets the drinks on the low table in front of us with a flourish.

“My shift has ended, May I sit down?” he says and sinks into one of the club chairs. “You are Americans, yes? I would like to practice my English.”

Without waiting for our response, he begins to speak in slow, classroom English. “I am recently out of the army,” he says. “Next year, I will enroll to study chemistry at the university in Ankara.” He asks about our families and seems surprised that we’ve come to Konya specifically for the Dervish Festival. “There are the only a few foreigners in the city,” he says.

Quickly finishing his Coke, he orders another from the waiter who hovers nearby, and then he turns to me. “Why does your husband let you travel alone?”

I want to laugh at the irony of Rahim’s question. Just the week before at a dinner party in New York City, I was standing with a group of my husband’s male colleagues, when one of them, a lawyer from South Carolina, asked me the same question. Then, as now, I felt my stomach tense in defensiveness and gave him the same answer I now give Rahim.

“Oh, but I let my husband travel alone, too,” I say, and add. “Only this time, I am not alone. I’m with Angie.”

“It is not good for women to be alone. And you have no husband,” he says to Angie with a look of sadness in his eyes.

“Mr. Right hasn’t come along yet,” Angie says, keeping a lighthearted note in her voice.

But Rahim’s gaze remains serious. Few Western tourists stay in the hotel so we must seem as exotic as Martians. He says he will soon be married and that his future wife wishes to be a lawyer, but he would prefer she stay at home.

“A woman should not be a lawyer,” he says, squeezing lemon juice into his third Coke. “When she has her monthly time, she cannot control her emotions, and she can ruin the case for her clients.”

Angie leans over and accepts the cigarette Rahim offers. When I remind her that she doesn’t smoke, she says, “I do tonight,” and waits for my response to Rahim.

“In the United States,” I say, “women hold seats on the Supreme Court.”

He considers my response, and then says, “They are very old, past their childbearing time, and now they have clear judgment.”

“But they’ve practiced law since they were young women,” I say, knowing that I’m making no headway in bringing Rahim into the twenty-first century.

We finish our Cokes, but Rahim, eager to continue our conversation, orders another round.

“Allah must have called you to the dervish festival,” he says and pauses. “Oh, but I have great respect for your Christian prophet Jesus. It is written in the Koran that our Prophet Mohammed, may peace be upon him, recognized your Jesus too.”

We ask Rahim why men get to pray in the sanctuary of the mosque while women are secluded in an area behind them.

“The reason for this is simple,” he says. “We bow to God by touching our heads to the ground. Can you imagine what a man might see if a women was in front of him?”

He has a point, but the women we’ve seen are so well covered they would hardly incite lust at prayer time.

“It is also the reason why women should not go to funerals,” he says. “The women get so crazy with sadness, they fall over, and their skirts might come up and show their underpants. Mothers and sisters with their skirts over their heads…” His voice trails off and he shakes his head, the thought too awful to contemplate.

Just when we fear he’ll order more Cokes, he checks his watch, thanks us for the conversation, and bids us goodnight.

Back in our room with its twin beds and stiff, line-dried sheets, we stare at the pale, green wall where a lone velvet painting of a whirling dervish hangs. Fueled by caffeine, we give up trying to sleep and read Rumi’s poetry until a faint band of light appears on the horizon.


It’s near noon when the cleaning staff wakes us with a loud knock. Groggy, we get up, dress, and go to the dining room for coffee. While a young waiter pours weak Nescafe into white china cups, we think of the dervishes, intent on a life of meditation, manipulating their sleep patterns with a steady dose of caffeine.

Long before a clerk at Starbucks brewed the chain’s first espresso, a shepherd in Ethiopia watched his sheep grazing in a pasture and noticed his herd growing animated after they ate a certain kind of red berry. Intrigued, he tasted the fruit and discovered the energizing properties of coffee.

Considered rare and secret, coffee’s restorative properties were valued by the dervish community, especially the followers of Rumi who drank it in order to stay awake during long meditation and turning sessions.

When the Ottoman Turks took control of Constantinople, they opened the first kahva hane, or coffee house, establishing elaborate rituals for brewing and serving coffee. The methods are still practiced in coffee houses throughout Turkey where the raw beans are roasted to order, pulverized into a fine powder and boiled with water and sugar to taste in a cezve, a small hour-glass shaped copper pot with a long handle. A coffee maker’s skill lies in the ability to bring the mixture to a boil three times, producing a light froth to balance the thick coffee.

On the street, we brave a harsh wind blowing in from the Russian steppes to meet Bekir and Mahomut at the Iplikci Mosque and medrese.

“This is a famous mosque, the oldest in Konya,” says Mahomut. “The imam is my friend.”

I remove my shoes, rummage through my backpack and pull out the headscarf Bekir has given me.

“Guess what I forgot?” says Angie, unzipping her backpack compartments.


Inside the vestibule, Bekir and Mahomut wait for us, deep in conversation with the imam while Angie and I stand on the steps, not sure what to do.

“Do you have anything?” Angie pleads. “I’ve got to go in. This was where Rumi actually taught, and I can’t go inside without my head covered.”

From the bottom of my pack, I retrieve an extra sweater, a wool orange cable knit. “You could wear this,” I say, half joking.

“Maybe,” says Angie. She takes the sweater and drapes it over her head, knotting the bulky sleeves under her chin. “Do I have another choice?” she says.

“Rumi would have approved,” I say, as she leads the way, looking like a misguided peasant. And I’m struck, yet again, by her determination.

Mahomut and Bekir politely ignore Angie’s makeshift head covering. We follow them into the mosque where men, in a mixture of dull gray, brown, and black suits, have already positioned themselves to face the mithrab, a scalloped, pyramid-shaped niche indicating the direction of Mecca. Bekir shows us to the women’s section at the back of the mosque and rejoins Mahomut for the afternoon prayer.

About thirty men kneel on soft carpets bowing their heads toward Mecca in the mosque’s main chamber, prostrating to the words the imam chants from the Koran. Meanwhile, we sit alone amidst the musty odor of stale socks on an old carpet behind a heavy, dirty brown curtain hanging from a sagging wire.

When the prayers finish, Mahomut introduces us to the imam, a man in his thirties, another army friend. The imam speaks to Mahomut in Turkish and then grins at us, showing even, perfectly white teeth. We ask why there are no other women praying.

“Women are not required to go to the mosque because they are naturally close to God,” the imam explains.

Maybe they’re too busy taking care of children and cooking dinner for husbands, I think, but hold my tongue.

“Your respect for our religion pleases the imam,” says Mahomut, pointing to our covered heads. “He wants to ask if you’ve thought of becoming Muslims?”

Bekir tilts his head, as surprised by the question as we are, and waits for our answer.

Angie shoots me a glance that says, perhaps I went overboard with this sweater.

“It is a big question and one you do not need to answer now,” says Mahomut, coming to our rescue. “But my friend thinks you two would make good Muslim women.”

The imam’s smile hints at infinite patience. “All roads lead to Allah,” he says.


In the middle of a treeless block of four-story apartment buildings, with balconies trailing strings of dried peppers and eggplants, Mahomut leads us up a dimly lit staircase. When we reach the third floor landing, he stops in front of a steel door fortified with three locks. Before he can insert a key into the third lock, the door swings open, and his wife Hulia, a petite woman dressed in a tight red sweater and black pants, waits on the other side.

Hos geldiniz,” she says, ushering us over the threshold with a warm embrace.

In her early thirties, Hulia, who, Mahomut has informed us, never leaves home without a headscarf, apparently doesn’t wear one in her home. She has lovely almost-black hair cut in chin-length shag artfully framing wide cheekbones and marine-blue eyes. Her hands move to create word pictures as she kneels down to fit us with house slippers from a shoe rack near the door.

Too shy to come closer, her ten-year-old daughter Evren, in a pink T-shirt embroidered with a ballerina in a pink tutu, peers from behind a bedroom door. Evren’s eight-year-old brother Fatih waits at the end of the hall in the kitchen, his face contorted into an angry grimace as if to say, I want my dinner now and how dare you take my mother’s attention away from me.

He lets out a low guttural sound when we pass him to enter a living room with furniture pushed against the walls. A sofa covered in pale rose damask faces a television on a stand against the opposite wall.

Hulia motions us to sit down while she prepares the tea Mahomut has requested. Evren curls into a corner of the sofa with a coloring book and crayons, while Fatih stalks the room seeking his father’s attention. From the kitchen we hear cups clink into saucers and spoons clatter on a tray.

“Does Hulia need help?” I ask.

“Oh no,” says Bekir. “You are Hulia’s guests. You will insult her if you get up.”

Hulia brings in a samovar and tulip-shaped tea glasses, sets them on an end table, and pours tea. She gives us a wistful look, which we return before she goes back to the kitchen.

Fatih, unable to get his mother’s attention, stops in front of a birdcage suspended from the ceiling near a window. Inside, a white canary chirps noisily. He reaches up and opens the cage door. Evren shrieks as the bird swoops past her, flits over the television and lands on Bekir’s head. I instinctively swat it away with the back of my hand. The bird retreats to a curtain rod, scolding me in a high-pitched staccato.

“I didn’t realize I would hurt its feelings,” I say.

“Do not worry, this bird is my friend,” says Bekir. “He will come back. He always sits on my head.”

“It is true,” says Mahomut, pouring tea. “Bekir talks to him. He can talk to all birds.”

Bekir lets out a low, sharp whistle, and repeats the birdcall until the canary once again perches on his head. Apparently, his army training has paid off after all.

Hulia, intent on her duties, ignores Bekir and the bird. She spreads a finely embroidered white cloth on the floor, then rushes back to the kitchen for plates, soup bowls, forks, napkins, and bread, and motions us to sit down.

While we finish our tea, she gives the children their supper in the kitchen. Then she joins us, sitting cross-legged on the floor, serving the men, before serving us. She must have been in the kitchen all day preparing the feast: a traditional soup made with wheat berries and beef broth, topped with yogurt and hot red pepper flakes; sliced green beans sautéed with mint and tomato; and baby eggplants stuffed with minced lamb.

After dinner, we insist on helping Hulia clean up. Mahomut, clearly the head of the household, relents only after Bekir explains that in the West it is considered shameful not to help the hostess. We encourage Hulia to stay with the men and finish her tea while we gather plates and bowls in our arms.

Angie follows me down the hall to the kitchen and we almost collide when I abruptly stop.

Fatih stands in the kitchen doorway holding a ten-inch butcher knife, its sharp point facing us.

“He’s got a knife,” I say, my heartbeat kicking into high gear.

“And he looks serious,” says Angie, backing away.

“Fatih,” I say, trying to make my voice sound firm and calm. “Put down the knife.”

He stares at me and raises the weapon in defiance.

“Now,” I say sharply, backing into Angie.

“Fatih,” sings Hulia, meeting us in the hall.

As soon as Fatih sees his mother, he drops the knife and rushes toward her.

While we regain our breath, she lifts him up cuddling and caressing him. He burrows his head on her shoulder, squeezing out tears while she whispers endearments. When he quiets down, she sets him on the floor in front of us and says a word. He stands frozen. She says the word again, and again.

The word finally issues forth from his lips. “Uzgunum, I’m sorry,” he says, his voice unrepentant. He avoids our eyes and runs to the living room into his father’s open arms.

Hulia picks up the knife, a resigned look filling her eyes. She has done her best to honor us by making Fatih apologize, but for her the world revolves around the firstborn son. As if to make amends, she invites us into her kitchen to help prepare Turkish coffee. When the mahogany-brown mixture finishes brewing, she pours it into tiny gold-rimmed cups.

We wait in the kitchen while she serves Bekir and Mahomut their coffee before returning with a large photo album, which she spreads across her lap to show us pictures of her life. We see a photo of her in a Turkish schoolgirl’s uniform, a blue A-line dress with a Peter Pan collar; and another as a bride in an elaborate multi-layered white gown; and finally as a mother holding her newborn son, her husband Mahomut beaming proudly beside her.

Before we leave, she motions us into her bedroom and opens a wooden chest filled with linens from her dowry. Choosing two pieces of cloth embroidered in white silk thread, she reaches across the chasm of language and culture to offer her gifts.

At the door, as we put on our shoes and coats, Evren gives us a picture she has drawn of a bird flying out of his cage.

Gule, gule,” says Mahomut, wishing us a safe journey home.

Fatih holds his mother’s hand, looking every inch the adored firstborn son. When we wave good-bye, he flashes his first smile of the evening. She’s mine again, his eyes say.


We’re halfway across the hotel lobby when a voice stops us.

“Ladies,” calls Rahim from behind the manager’s desk. “Wait.”

He joins us at the elevator and pushes the button to our floor, holding the elevator door open. “I liked so very much our conversation last night,” he says. “I won’t see you in the morning, but, inshallah, you will return to Konya.” He holds his right hand to his heart implying that all good rests in the hands of God.

Inshallah,” we say, pressing our hands to our hearts as the elevator door closes.

No sooner do we put on our pajamas and climb into bed, than a heavy knock rattles the door. I get up, and crack open the door to find our waiter from the previous night holding a tray covered with a blue linen hotel napkin.

He glances down both sides of the corridor before stepping inside the room to place the tray on the table between our beds. Lifting the napkin, he reveals two glasses, a small bucket of ice, and a water pitcher. In the center, taped to a small bottle of raki, Rahim has attached his business card and written a single word across the front, sherefe, cheers. Without waiting for a tip, the waiter backs out of the room and quietly closes the door.

A passage from one of Rumi’s poems floats through my mind:

Look! This is love — to fly toward the heavens,
To tear a hundred veils in ev’ry wink,
To tear a hundred veils at the beginning…

Sherefe,” says Angie. She places three cubes of ice in each glass, opens the bottle, and pours.

Joy E. Stocke


Joy E. Stocke

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In 2006, Joy E. Stocke founded Wild River Review with Kimberly Nagy, an outgrowth of the literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, of which Stocke was Editor in Chief. In 2009, as their editorial practice grew, Stocke and Nagy founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.

With more than twenty-five years experience as a writer and journalist, Stocke works with many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.

In addition, Stocke has shepherded numerous writers into print. She has interviewed Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Muhammud Yunus, Pulitzer Prizewinner Paul Muldoon, Paul Holdengraber, host of LIVE from the NYPL; Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya Zen Center; anthropologist and expert on end of life care, Mary Catherine Bateson; Ivonne Baki, President of the Andean Parliament; and Templeton Prizewinner Freeman Dyson among others.

In 2006, along with Nagy, Stocke interviewed scientists and artists including former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Dean of Faculty, David P. Dobkin for the documentary Quark Park, chronicling the creation of an award-winning park built on a vacant lot in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey; a park that united art, science and community.

She is president of the Board of Directors at the Cabo Pulmo Learning Center, Cabo Pulmo, Baja Sur, Mexico; and is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.

In addition, Stocke has written extensively about her travels in Greece and Turkey.  Her memoir, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses & Saints, based on more than ten years of travel through Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner was published in March 2012. Her cookbook, Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking will be published in March, 2017 by Quarto Books under the Burgess Lea Press imprint . Stocke and Brenner are currently testing recipes for a companion book, which will feature Anatolian-inspired mezes from around the world.

Stocke’s essay “Turkish American Food” appears in the 2nd edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (OUP, 2013).  The volume won both International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014; and the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014.

She is the author of a bi-lingual book of poems, Cave of the Bear, translated into Greek by Lili Bita based on her travels in Western Crete, and is currently researching a book about the only hard-finger coral reef in Mexico on the Baja Sur Peninsula. She has been writing about environmental issues there since 2011.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the Agriculture Journalism School where she also received a minor of Food Science, she participated in the Lindisfarne Symposium on The Evolution of Consciousness with cultural philosopher, poet and historian, William Irwin Thompson. In 2009, she became a Lindisfarne Fellow.

EMAIL: joy@wildriverbooks.com

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/joy.stocke

Works by Joy E. Stocke in this Edition


The Eagle of Ararat
The Eagle of Ararat-Part II: The Meaning of Freedom


Where Were the Shells Fired From?


Suzanne Opton and Michael Fay – The Human Face of War


Katherine Schimmel: A Meeting in a Garden and a Mystic Pen


Anatolian Kitchen: Cuisine at the Crossroads – For the Love of Beets


ABULHAB – Arabic from Left to Right: An Interview with Type Designer, Saad Abulhab

BELBRUNO- Ed Belbruno – The Colors of the Universe: Microwaves and Art

CLARKE – Rock & Roll, Cybernetics, and Literature: Bruno Clarke’s Intersecting, Interconnecting World

COMBS – Hazard: A Sister’s Flight From Family and a Broken Boy

FREYMAN & PETERSON- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir

EARLE – An Extraordinary Hope Spot: Sylvia Earle on the 20th Anniversary of Cabo Pulmo Marine Park and the Future of the World’s Oceans

FULBRIGHT –  Harriet Mayor Fulbright- World Peace through Education

JOSEPH GLANTZ –  Inner Lights, Electric Kites – The Sparks of Philadelphia’s Creativity

HALIFAX – Joan Halifax, Roshi – Letting Go, Letting in Light: Halifax Talks about Her Life & Groundbreaking Book, Being with Dying

HONEY – The New York Hall of Science Hosts 1001 Inventions – Muslim Heritage in Our World: A Conversation with Dr. Margaret Honey

KUPCU – How to Weave a Culture: The Art of the Double-Knot with Murat Küpçü

Jonathan Maberry’s Ghost Road Blues

MAJOR – A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age: Judith Major and Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer

MAURO – New World Monkeys: Primates, Boars, and a Conversation with Author, Nancy Mauro

MEHTA – Talking about Global Healing with Political Scientist Vipin Mehta

OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur, and Space Traveler

SHOR – Music in Stone: Jonathan Shor Constructs a Lithophone for Quark Park

SMITH – ROLEX ARTS INITIATIVE-Poet Tracy K. Smith: Memory, Creation, Mentoring, and Mastery

SODERMAN – The Solace of Vacant Spaces: An Interview with Visionary Peter Soderman

EVAN THOMPSON – Waking, Dreaming, Being: Philosopher Evan Thompson Explores Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience and Meditation

TIMPANE – This Has Never Felt Like A Job
Poetry, Science and the Big Bang: John Timpane Goes to Cambridge

YUNUS – Opening the Gates of Capitalism: In Ecuador with Economist Muhammad Yunus, “Banker to the Poor”

ZALLER – Robert Zaller – Cliffs of Solitude – A World of Activism: Talking of Troubadours and Poetry with the Historian

Every River Tells A Story: Founders Kim Nagy and Joy Stocke

Dorion Sagan and Tyler Volk – Death and Sex: Dorion Sagan and Tyler Volk Get Intimate about Their New Book

Orhan Pamuk – The Melancholy Life

Per Petterson: Language Within Silence


Istanbul, Memories and the City: by Orhan Pamuk, Translated by Maureen Freely
The Road to Home: Rachel Simon’s The Story of Beautiful Girl


Anatolia – Istanbul’s Flaming Horn
End Times Down at the Kingdom Hall
Reclaiming Friday the 13th


Love Affair with Turkey

Anatolian Days and Nights – The Steamy Side of Istanbul


The Bath: Athens, Greece


The Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
Paul Holdengraber – The Afterlife of Conversation


 2013 – Three Questions: Festival Director Jakab Orsos talks about Art, Bravery, and Sonia Sotomayor
Critical Minds, Social Revolution: Egyptian Activist Nawal El Saadawi
INTERVIEW – Laszlo Jakab Orsos: Written on Water
Tonight We Rest Here: An Interview with Poet Saadi Youssef
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
On the High Line: Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes
Car Bombs on the West Side, Journalists Uptown
New York City – Parade of Illuminations: Behind the Scenes with Festival Director Jakab Orsos
The Pen Cabaret 2008: Bowery Ballroom — Featuring..


Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library Composing a Further Life: with Mary Catherine Bateson

Quark Park

Algorithms, Google & Snow Globes: David Dobkin

WRR@LARGE: From the Editors – UP THE CREEK

Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 1
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 2.5
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 3.3
Up the Creek: Number 4.4
Up the Creek: Beautiful Solutions
Up the Creek: Blind Faith, July 2009
Up the Creek: Create Dangerously
Up the Creek: What Price Choice?
Up the Creek: Before and After: September 11, 2001
Up the Creek: Candle in a Long Street
Up the Creek: Crossing Cultures: Transcending History
Up the Creek: Man in the Mirror; A Map of the World
Up the Creek: Stories and the Shape of Time
Up the Creek: The Divine Road To Istanbul
Up the Creek: What It Means to Yearn


UNESCO World Heritage Site Under Threat of Mega-Devlopment Sparks International Protests
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul


Conservation – East of an Aquatic Eden and into the Desert
Controversial Marcellus Shale Gas Pipeline Threatens Delaware River Basin and Rural Communities in the Northeast


Migration, Remittances and Latin America


The Slow Web Movement: Wild River Review’s Philosophy on the Media


Rumi and Coke


Post-Thanksgiving Plane Ride with a Soldier on His Way to Iraq
Turkey – Of Protests and Fruit: A Report & Updates from Istanbul

Angie Brenner

Angie Brenner

Angie Brenner

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Freelance writer and illustrator, Angie Brenner, is a contributor to the online magazine, Wild River Review, covering PEN World Voices Festival and Los Angeles Times Festival of Books events, international topics, current events, political issues, and author interviews such as those with Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak, and Pico Iyer.

Brenner is currently writing a cookbook with co-author and Wild River Review founder, Joy E. Stocke, Anatolian Kitchen: Turkish Cooking for the American Table, to be published by Burgess Lea Press in the fall of 2016. Her first book, a travel memoir, also co-authored with Stocke, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses, and Saints was published in March, 2012, by Wild River Books.

Brenner left the security of a managerial job to follow her passion and opened a travel planning service, Journeys by Angie, where she created personalized travel itineraries for clients that included researching history, art, and cuisine. Later, she bought and operated a travel bookstore, Word Journeys, in Del Mar, CA. For nearly ten years, Brenner nurtured her inner travel bibliophile by buying and selling travel literature. She closed her store in order to travel and write.

With a business background, Brenner worked in the health care industry in Southern California for several years, and later as Business Manager for a public school district. Yet, a love of travel and a curiosity of foreign cultures led her to explore Europe, East Africa, Vietnam, and South America. For over twenty-five years, she traveled the four corners of Turkey, and became immersed in all aspects of Turkish culture from food, to politics and religion. She is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.

It was during a research trip to Turkey that Brenner began to sketch and watercolor, and to create the illustrations that are included in her memoir. A certified yoga instructor, Brenner lives, writes, and facilitates weekly yoga classes in Julian, California.