8 Facts About Turkey to Expand Your Cultural Awareness

Image of the Library of Celsus in Ephesus

There are more than 30 languages spoken in Turkey.
Although Turkish is the country’s official language, there are more than 30 minority languages spoken, including Kurmanji, Zazaki and Mesopotamian Arabic. Kurmanji, also known as Northern Kurdish, is spoken by 12% of the population. Zazaki is a Kurdish dialect spoken by the Zazas people in the eastern part of the country.

You can walk between two continents in Istanbul.
The Bosphorus River divides Istanbul between Europe and Asia. You can walk between the two across the Galata bridge. Most of the country is in Asia, while only 3% of Turkey is in Europe.

Santa Claus was born in Turkey.
The story behind the man we know as Santa Claus dates to St. Nicholas--a monk born in the third century in Patara on Turkey’s southern coast. He was known for his generosity and kindness, and legend has it that he traveled the countryside using his inheritance to help the needy and sick. Tales of his generosity became the basis for Santa Claus, which comes from “Sinter Klaas,” a shortened version of Sint Nikolaas.

The Celsus Library was the third largest in the ancient world.
The Celsus Library in Ephesus is believed to have held around 12,000 scrolls--the third largest in the Roman world after the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and the Library of Pergamum also in Turkey. The facade was rebuilt by archeologists in the 1970s and is one of the only remaining examples of a library from the Roman Empire.

Agriculture began in Turkey.
A 2019 study published in Nature Communications proves that 10,000 years ago hunter gatherers in Anatolia, Turkey began farming. They spread their knowledge of agriculture through migration into mainland Europe, where they replaced hunter-gathers almost entirely.

One of the oldest Christian churches is in Turkey.
A cave in Antioch, now known as Antakya, is believed to have been dug by the Apostle Peter as the first Christian church. The church is one of many important sites in Christianity located in Turkey, such as the 1,500-year-old Haga Sofia cathedral in Istanbul.

Turkey is one of the top biodiversity hotspots.
The country houses more than 10,000 plant and 80,000 animal species. Bird lovers can watch for 475 types of birds in one of the country’s six bird sanctuaries.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest markets.
Spanning more than 60 streets and 333,000 square feet, the Grand Bazaar dates to 1455.  Some 91 million people visit the market’s 4,000 shops, making it one of the most popular attractions.