Turkish diplomat who loves githeri shares similarities between Turks and Kenyans

Kenyans and Turks, despite coming from different ethnic backgrounds it turns out actually have a lot in common than previously known.

Former Turkish Ambassador to Kenya, Her Excellency Ambassador, Deniz Eke, standing next to the portrait of Turkish flag and below Turkish founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (George Tubei)

“We all have much more in common than we have differences. I would say that about people all over the world. They don’t know how much in common that they have” celebrated Africa-American author, Ernest J. Gaines beautifully said.

In this age of racism, Islamophobia, Xenophobia and all manner of fears the world needs to be reminded enough times that at the end of the day we are all humans, that we all go through the same struggles and we all have dreams and when we take a pause, reflect and really think about it we can get more things accomplished if we worked in unison rather than in singularity.

One such beautiful example of how two different cultures from two different ethnic backgrounds can cross over the bridge of brotherhood and prosper together due to their many similarities is Kenya and Turkey.

Turkish Ambassador to Kenya, Her Excellency Ambassador, Deniz Eke who has been stationed in the country for the last three years, spoke to Business Insider SSA and shared her moments in Kenya and what she will miss the most about the country.

Kenyans and Turks, despite coming from different ethnic backgrounds actually have a lot in common than previously known.

Surprisingly I find Kenyan and Turks very similar to each other (breaks into a laugh) so I haven’t found that huge cultural difficulty fitting in but one thing which you may not say is a culture shock but cultural difference is when I first arrived in Kenya, I was always talking about the seasons you know spring, winter Summer and Autumn and people were constantly asking me which exact month are you referring to because in my country there are four distinct seasons but here it is either dry or wet season”

Apart from different seasons, the Turkish cuisine is largely similar and the Turkish Ambassador didn’t have a hard time devouring Ugali, Kenya’s staple meal.

Yes I have eaten Ugali and my chef who is a Turkish lady can also cook very good Chapati, the Kenyan Nyama Choma (roasted meat) concept is very similar to our Kebabs, just like Kenyans we like and consume a lot of meat, my second favorites is the Chapati and I actually know how to cook chapati as well, another similarity between our two cultures is the Githeri, we have a similar dish in Turkey but it is served cold and it is cooked with olive oil”

Kenyans ability to come forward and join hands for a bigger cause to help each their brothers and sisters whenever the need arises, Kenyans for Kenya being such a beautiful example where Kenyans come together in 2011 and raised over Sh683 million in aid of their hunger-stricken brothers and sisters is very similar to Turkish imece culture.

While the name may have been borrowed from the Indian Coolies it certainly does have Turkish spirit as well.

I was very surprised when I discovered Harambee culture here as well, you have these Harambee culture or traditions, the same thing we have in Turkey, in villages areas we still conduct harambee's, when there is a project to benefit the community then people come together and help each other if they have the financial means they contribute money but if they lacked the financial means they contribute their labour or anything in indirect forms under what is called Imece”

Kenyan women will be at home in Turkey where they will find flourishing table banking culture complete with food, shopping and endless stories every end of the month just like they do here at home.

You have these chamas (table banking) among the women, we also have the same thing, we have housewives in the city and villages where every month they meet on a rotating basis at one of their homes, they have a small party, have some tea some cooking’s and then they give a small predetermine amount of money to the host and that is how savings are made”

Kenya’s hospitality and warmth which is famous all over the world is not any different from Turkish hospitality.

“The hospitality bond of the Kenyan people is very much similar with the Turkish people, in our culture it is very important that we serve you with some tea, coffee something when you visit but you don’t leave before you are served which is very typical of Kenyans as well.”

Ambassador Eke came face to face with the Kenyan hospitality in the most unlikeliest places, somewhere which would appear foreign in the world’s 17 largest economy and reminded her how to be Human again.

“Even if you go to a supermarket at the Cashier, the people start by greeting you first asking you how are you, how is your morning, before serving you and I realise that in my country sometimes because we are in a rush at all times living the big city life we forget these simple invaluable things, I was shocked at first when the people were asking me how my day was and it reminded me that we should actually be starting the conversation with such a positive thing by greetings, by caring for each other before we gone to business, I think this is also very different culture element for us”

“My experience in Kenya really helped me to realize that in Turkey since we have completed some of the stages in our industrial and economic development process we tend to forget the real value of the very ordinary things we have in life, Kenya made me remember those which I am going to explain more to my people when I am back to Turkey”

The unbroken and enduring spirit of Kenyans whom despite suffering some the worst atrocities ranging from terrorism attacks, natural disasters, drought and famine and daily struggles still go about their lives unbowed also made an impact to the outgoing Turkish Ambassador.

“Another thing which impressed me most about Kenya is I have seen many people who have had tough childhood but somehow managed to be educated, you know they managed to stand with their own feet but they adopt other Kenyans, orphans and assist them to complete their education, we have cabinet secretaries, we have many MPs and ordinary Kenyans whom I know this is a very noble thing, something which I am going to be talking a lot about Kenya when I am back in Turkey”

And so as she prepares to depart Kenya, Ambassador Eke has one last message for Kenyans.

“Needless to say, you have a beautiful country, very nice wildlife and I hope that you are not going to repeat the mistakes of many developing nations who have in the sake of building infrastructure managed not to maintain their nature, I hope Kenya would be a different example and even after 50yrs you will be enjoying the same green Nairobi, the same Maasai Mara and all the other Kenyan beautiful nature and wildlife”

“I have seen and spoken with many Kenyans, the young people, Kenyans you shouldn't’ look at the empty side of the glass”


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