Sheepherders in Southern Turkey

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Working hard and covering up from the sun on the Syrian border.

Not only is the sun blistering hot, but with the war in Syria sometimes encroaching on the Turkish border, the grazing grounds for farm animals is lessened, and the sheepherders have to wander further and further from their establish homes.  About once a year, Jim and I would travel to the far south of Turkey.

Sheepherders Southern Turkey

The Southern part of Turkey is poor, really poor…at least outside of the cities and away from the tourists on the golden beaches.  But these people are friendly; they abide by the Muslim law that requires them to offer hospitality to whoever comes across their threshold. Indeed, so many times we would be offered tea in multiple households over the course of only one day. We couldn’t drink all that tea.

But we did take as many up on it as possible. We would enter their houses, meet their families (some with multiple wives although this is not so much the custom anymore), and play with their children. We would go back year after year and be treated as long lost friends. It was great to catch up with them.

Why is it that the harsher life is, the more welcoming, more willing to give are these people compared to folks who seemingly have everything?

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


  1. Thanks for sharing this lovely piece. I’ve also found that the harsher the life, the more willing to share people are. Perhaps because as there is less “stuff” to distract us, we value each other more?

  2. Great post! Other than Israel, Turkey is probably the only Middle Eastern country that I have any desire to visit. Of course I want to see the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but I would love to spend a lot of time outside the cities in more rural areas such as what you’re describing here. In developing countries, there does seem to be more hospitality and generosity than what you encounter in first-world countries. And then within first world countries, I seem to find rural residents to be more friendly than their urban counterparts. It’s not a general rule, of course, just an observation.

  3. I think you are very brave to head to that part of the world these days.

    Aside from that, I love traveling in some of smaller towns anywhere, and agree in Muslim countries we find people are generally so friendly and welcoming. We really are able to get a better sense of life than some of the bigger cities where we find ourselves as “tourists.”

  4. I agree with Roberta. The less materialistic world makes us care more about each other. Not only that, in the Western world everything is wrapped up in red tape and too many rules. No wonder people get stressed!

  5. I have given this some thought before and the only thing I can come up with is that the more we have, the less we want to share, which is a ridiculous state of affairs.

    We often felt bad when we ordered a glass of cay and then the vendor refused payment. What to do? We have much more than them and they are refusing payment. We understand they are welcoming us as travelers and shake their hand and thank them profusely. 🙂

  6. Those are beautiful pictures, I was in Turkey a few years ago but didn’t make it out of Istanbul. It is interesting that cultures who have less seem to value hospitality more- I don’t have any real theories except I think sometimes they understand the importance of community more- when you have more money you feel less dependent on others.

  7. This, to me, is the essence of what real travel is…not just to see iconic landmarks (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but to meet different types people who inhabit this earth. I have never done anything quite like this. You are so fortunate to have had these experiences. I think when you are less distracted by things, you have more room to care about people. Things = self absorption. Awesome!

  8. It seems like you have to go to more remote places to find what is genuine and true to the culture and traditions and when you get to experience it – such an amazing part of the entire journey – lovely and btw the black and white is lovely!

Share your thoughts!