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13 November 2014

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You are in: London > Faith > Communities > I - Z > Turkish London

Turkish shop in London

A Turkish shop in London

Turkish London

Find out more about London's Turkish, Turkish-Cypriot and Kurdish community. And how Turkish culture and traditions are apparent in the capital but enjoyed by many Londoners.

Turkish Flag

Turkish Flag

Since the first wave of Turkish Cypriots fled their increasingly unstable and divided island to seek refuge in Britain in the 1950s and 60s, the number of Turkish immigrants has continued to increase. It is estimated that there are now more than 200,000 Turkish-speaking people in the UK, most of them in London.

Turkish Cypriot Flag

Turkish Cypriot Flag

Turkish Cypriots are the ethnically Turkish inhabitants of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The term is sometimes used to refer only to the Turkish Cypriots, as opposed to the Turkish migrants who have settled there since the Cyprus conflict of 1974. The vast majority of Turkish Cypriots reside in Northern Cyprus - the northern third of the island.

Turkish Kurd refugees

Turkish Kurd refugees

The most recent influx started soon after the military coup on the Turkish mainland in 1980. The harsh repression that followed forced many people out of the country. Poets, artists, intellectuals, journalists, political opponents of the regime, but also ordinary people and a large proportion of Turkish Kurds. Still today Kurds are leaving  Turkey to seek refuge in other countries, such as Britain.

Most Turkish speaking Cypriots, Kurds and Turks were forced to migrate either as political refugees or economic migrants. In the last four to five decades these communities have established businesses, cohesive support groups and community centres which spread across London.

These centres play a big part in helping the community keep its sense of identity and its cultural uniqueness. They are also a place where people can go to find help and assistance. Additionally, they are often the first haven for refugees who can feel very disoriented in a new environment and might find themselves in a vulnerable position.

Turkish Festival - Graham Wright

Turkish Festival - Graham Wright

Many in the Turkish speaking communities have successfully settled in different parts of London, notably in Hackney and Haringey, but also in Lewisham, Lambeth, Southwark, Croydon, Enfield and Islington.

Nowhere is the presence of the Turkish community more obvious than on Kingsland Road in Hackney. There, from Dalston to Stoke Newington, you will find an array of Turkish shops, cafes, markets, mosques and businesses that give a genuine flavour of Turkey.

This successful integration of Turkish immigrants in London didn't come without effort. The first and biggest barrier they had to face was the language and, in some cases, literacy. The help provided by the community centres to tackle this problem has been invaluable.  However Turkish culture and traditions are apparent in the capital and enjoyed by many Londoners.

Turkish bath

Potions and lotions for a Turkish bath

The Turkish bath or Hamam is the Middle Eastern variation of a steam bath which has played an important role in cultures of the Middle-East, serving as places of social gathering, ritual cleansing, and as architectural structures.  Europeans learned about the Hamam through contacts with the Ottomans, hence the "Turkish" part of the name. Turkish baths were introduced to the United Kingdom by David Urquhart, a diplomat who for political and personal reasons wished to popularise Turkish culture in his book, The Pillars of Hercules.  In July 1860 the first Turkish bath was opened at 5 Bell Street, near Marble Arch by Roger Evans, a member of one of Urquhart's Foreign Affairs Committees.

Kebab vendor carving meat

Kebab vendor carving meat

Turkish food such as the Döner kebab, literally "rotating meat" in Turkish, sliced lamb or chicken loaf which is slowly roasted on a vertical rotating spit is also very popular with many Kebab houses all over the capital.  It is served in pita bread, as it is best known, with salad, but is also served in a dish with a salad and bread or French fries on the side, or used for Turkish pizzas called pide. 

Erkan Mustafa

Erkan Mustafa, played Roland Browning

Aside from the culinary influence, Turks have been making contributions to London life in entertainment, sport and film.  Turkish actor Erkan Mustafa's played Roland Browning in Grange Hill but is now rumoured to run his own restaurant in Soho.  Abs from Five, AKA Richard Abidin Breen, was born in London of Turkish descent.  The Film Premier of the ‘Turks in London’ film, directed by Semra Eren-Nijhar, in 2006 at City Hall was the first ever serious work featuring a rich array of Londoners from the diverse Turkish community.

last updated: 20/08/2008 at 11:35
created: 26/05/2005

You are in: London > Faith > Communities > I - Z > Turkish London

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