12 April 2011

2nd Annual Orlando Turkish Festival

American and Turkish flags waving together.

This past Sunday John and I went downtown to check out the Orlando Turkish Festival. I had heard great things about the one last year and as soon as I saw a billboard for this year's I made note! So glad I did. What fun! As you can imagine, this is right up our alley. There is absolutely nothing better than walking around a market, surrounded by doner kebab and baklava. It's my heaven. 

The event was put on by the Nile Foundation and they did quite a good job. Things ran rather smoothly, although a bit behind schedule. This no longer bothers us, as when we are at an event put on by Turks we expect to set our watches to Arab time. It's nice once you get used to it.

Women selling hijabs and other head scarf accessories.

I had heard of the Nile Foundation before, and was always curious about what they do. Turns out they do some pretty awesome stuff here in Orlando to promote friendship and understanding between Americans and Turks. They have three major departments: education, culture, and humanitarian works. They put on many activities throughout the year, from dialogue dinners to Turkish language classes and field trips to women's Turkish cooking classes. That's right- COOKING CLASSES! I can't wait to get my paws into that!

Blue Star Troupe performing a dance from the Romani people.

The festival was gathered around a large ampitheater where music and dance was performed. We got to hear some really wonderful traditional Turkish music with instruments like the oud and kanun. It was a really simple set up with two men, two instruments and a huge stage. They sounded great and I couldn't believe the way the musicians hands flew over that kanun. Wow! 

The folk dance troupe is called Bluestar Dance and they shared a variety of traditional dances from different groups of people living in Turkey. It was quite different than dances from the region I had seen before. I assume because they were traditional dances, and not just my friends messing around dancing in their apartment to similar tunes. They danced beautifully and always with a smile. That's an A+ in my book as when I dance I usually, without thinking, bite my lower lip and look ridiculous.

After the dancing they did a door-prize drawing for a Turkish rug and a porcelain Turkish dish. We had our names in the bucket, but didn't win. I blame the kids they got to volunteer who just picked names off the top...dig in there kids!!! We didn't win but one old American guy that won the porcelain dish comes to mind. When asked by the emcee "how are you enjoying the festival?" he responded, "well, we had our reservations about coming, of course, but it has been an ok time." He had "reservations, of course?" They should have taken that beautiful dish away from mister racist and given it to Mrs. Hannah!

Oh well, maybe next year.

Carving the doner kebab.

After the shows we moved on to the many food tents. There was food from Turkish restaurants all around town serving up their best fare for the festival-goers. Us being some of them, we took it upon ourselves to peruse the options a number of times, running into our friend Seljuk at one of them, and asking about how business is going for the day. It was a great time to have a little conversation with complete strangers, something that's 10 times easier to do with Turks than it is to do with Americans. As we stopped by one of the tents the men saw that we had a camera and asked if we could snap a picture. Of course...

The guys from Anatolia Restaurant.

We finally settled on a doner kebab wrap and some baklava after being told repeatedly by a Turkish man we met in line that the price they were asking was way over-priced. He was right, it was over-priced. But sometimes you just need to splurge to complete your experience. And $4 for 3 little squares of baklava totally completed my experience! (And totally drained us of any remaining cash.)

My wonderful John, doner in hand, trying to avoid heat exhaustion.

The festival was a success and hopefully a really great chance for the community to learn more about Turkish tradition, food, and culture. I know we learned a lot! We wish we could have stayed longer, but after just 2 short hours our clothes were soaked with sweat and we were ready to head home and jump in a pool. I can't believe that Florida picked this weekend of all weekends to finally jump up into the 90s. If it had been a bit cooler we probably could have enjoyed the festival for another hour or so longer.

On the walk back to our car we found a great sign in the grass. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day, and had us laughing for about a block...

The grass is "resting?"

Do you have cultural festivals in your area? Have you ever been?


  1. This looks so much fun! We have an italian festive in my part of the city that I went to last year and will visit again this year!

  2. What a wonderful day! We've got the Dublin Irish Festival every summer, and that's a blast. I went for the first time last summer, and I will definitely be back: the food, the music...(of course) the beer... It was a very cool experience!

  3. I love foreign festivals. They are always so entertaining, and we LOVE baklava. There was an awesome festival a few years ago in Columbus Indiana that had groups from all over the world. It was amazing-the smells, sights, and sounds. Too bad it was so sweltering hot when you went! Your comment cracked me up about the running on time-I have learned that most parts of the world run on a more relaxed timeframe. P.S. Loved the grass shot. :)

  4. What a fun weekend/ community activity! In my little town we have an annual "Geranium Festival" which is more crafts than culture. (Unless you count funnel cakes as part of a Southern expereince. And we probably should!)

    I looooove baklava and have always wanted to try making some. I could have my own little festival. :)

  5. Wow! I'm surprised at all the variety! Looks like I need to take a little festival road trip!

    Also, I've got a DIY baklava post coming up next month, so stay tuned for that folks! It's much easier than it looks!

  6. love this! and yes... you totally should have won instead of mister racist! "reservations, of coarse". bogus!!!! Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog! Nice to "meet" you!!!!

  7. Loving your blog!!!!!! So happy you found me, thanks for the comment :) I am your new follower, XO.

  8. Wow what a fun festival! I'm drooling for kebabs right now!

  9. Oh I would have loved going. :) I'm half Turkish, so I'm kinda obligated to say that but I also mean that. :) Awwww...just looking at the pictures, I got hungry.

    And, haha...the grass is resting? Really? Too funny.

  10. Love this post Hannah! I'm jealous, it look so warm there. We're supposed to get more snow here today :(

  11. Looks like fun! Too funny about the resting grass!

    Thank you so much for that award - you are so sweet!!

  12. Hi Hannah! I came through your blog from Tee, Passports and Postcards. So I had to jump to yours:) Haven't been to a culture festival in a long time as I love them. It looks like you had a fun time. I"m sure I'll be back for more:)

  13. That festival looks like so much fun and the food looks delicious! Thanks for stopping by my blog today!

  14. That dancer photo is so pretty! Glad you had fun (and got some good food!) :)

  15. WOW... Sounds like a fun time! Great images of the festival, thanks for sharing...
    Cheers! =(^.^)=

  16. That looks awesome. The food is the best part. A cooking class would be great. And I LOVE baklava. I wish I had some right now.

  17. Looks and sounds like a great day! I love cultural festivities :)

  18. how exciting looks like you had lots of fun!

  19. that festival sounds awesome! You seriously can't beat a kebab, I eat way more than my share as they have stands everywhere here, haha :)

  20. PS, it's so excited to hear that you've been to Luzern, I adore it!

  21. What a great festival! And I'm super jealous seeing your husband eat that doner kebab! When I lived in Italy, everyone would grab doner kebabs after a night of dancing. I haven't had a good one since I moved back. Now, that taste will be on my mind all day! Haha.

  22. haha - be quiet! the grass is sleeping!

    so, you're definitely taking those cooking classes, right?

    I live in Brooklyn so you can imagine that there are lots of festivals in the area. We're very lucky!

  23. This looks like so much fun! I wonder what Mr. Man meant by "reservations" Yikes! Clearly a case of "if you don't have something good to say...." I think I am going to see if there are any Turkish festivals here in NYC. Thanks for this!

  24. i almost studied abroad in turkey... too cool!