Festival brings heritage of modern-day Turkey to O.C.

The Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival opens today and runs through Sunday at the Orange County fairgrounds.

Dozens of volunteers have been working to reconstruct modern-day Turkey.

Once complete, the construction will bring the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Van, normally more than 600 miles apart, within a minute’s walking distance at the Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival at the Orange County fairgrounds.

The festival, which begins Thursday, will re-create the country’s most recognizable or historically significant destinations, such as the Hagia Sophia, using high resolution photographs printed on giant three-dimensional structures.

“But the size is smaller of course,” said Ibrahim Barlas. “We are trying to build a small Anatolia (in California).”

The land of Anatolia, now the Republic of Turkey, includes many cultures, including Turks, Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks — whoever lived in Anatolia, said Barlas, president of the Pacifica Institute.

The festival, now in its third year, is put on by the institute to not only share Anatolian culture and food, but to promote intercultural dialogue, Barlas said. Each year, the festival has grown, attracting about 40,000 visitors last year. This year, Barlas expects between 50,000 and 60,000 attendees.

The different cities represented at the festival will help educate visitors about that location and a particular culture.

Take the city of Konya, for example. Known for the Mevlana Museum, the exhibit will allow visitors to step inside a miniature replica of the museum and view the history of Sufism and the mystic Rumi on an LCD panel. Outside the museum, a whirling dervish will perform on a stage.

Just steps away, Greek dancers will perform in the Ancient Greek city of Antalya’s antique theater, and at the Great Bazaar, 105 vendors will sell souvenirs and traditional Turkish food, including stretchy ice cream — the dessert that sticks to the cone, even if turned upside down.

The festival will also host a series of lectures for intellectual depth, said Attilla Kahveci, vice president of the Pacifica Institute.
Turkish intellectuals will speak on variety of topics, including Turkish-Israeli relations and the Arab Spring. Many of the lectures will be of an interfaith or multicultural theme.

On a lighter side, attendees will also have the chance to watch cooking demonstrations of Turkish cuisine and a variety of musical performances.  (ocregister.com – Photo SEAN GREENE)