This Turkish Woman Is More Than 100 Years Old

During my time in Turkey, I have often witnessed social situations when a person earns respect dependent on their status in society or their wealth. It is a part of Turkish life that I loath as more often than not, the same people have no moral ethics or mutual respect for other people.

I instead prefer the term that “respect should be earned and not given”. However, last week, I met an old woman who earned my respect in an instant.

The Woman who is More than 100 Years Old

Perhaps I was more delighted to make her acquaintance, as it was an unplanned meeting. We were wandering remote roads in the village of Maral, not a long distance from the border with Georgia. This area of Turkey has not fallen prey to the trappings of mass tourism that has blighted the west and south coast.

Traditions and cultures are still visible in everyday life and the high mountains, dipping valleys and masses of pine tree forests, ensure that any greedy developers with plans for a concentrate jungle would have to focus their ambitions on other destinations.

My meeting with the old woman happened because we unintentionally came across a local beekeeper tending to his hives in the garden. On the doorstep of his old wooden house sat the woman, introduced to us as his great grand mum. We asked her age and the response was

“I am not sure but I know I am more than 100”

Even without knowing her exact age, she had sparked my interest. I could see in her appearance that her life experiences would be enough to write a history book ten times over.

More than 100 years old

Her Life Over the Last Century

She remembered when the region was under Russian rule and their soldiers were patrolling the mountain roads. As a young girl, she recalled riding a horse as the popularity of the modern car had not spread to the region.

She told us about turbulent times when the Turkish war of independence was declared in 1919. As a child, she first heard the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was leading the war and would later become the founder of Turkey.

In 1923, victory was celebrated and the borders of current day Turkey were under discussion. Locals of the village gathered to attend a meeting and were told to choose whether they wanted to be under the soviet rule of Russia (current day Georgia) or be Turkish citizens.

Her mother was adamant her family would be citizens of the Republic of Turkey.

Woman of Turkey

The old woman showed no hesitation in giving me permission to take her photograph, instead more interested as to how the photo was instantly shown to her on the playback screen of my digital camera.

She has lived a great and colourful life, yet still took time to welcome strangers with overwhelming hospitality. This woman immediately has my respect. She is worth ten of any rich, famous, or powerful person in society who instead desires the false respect of those around them.

Maral woman

Reader’s question: What do you think? Has this woman automatically earned your respect?

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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an Internet addict with a passion for history. Read my story here or leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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  1. Jennifer Roche says

    Wonderful article, I would love to see more of this lady’s story.

  2. says

    . . backways and trackways – this is what it is all about! Great big thank you for this one Natalie – real Turkey in a blog post
    Alan wrote about..‘It’s Behind You!’

  3. says

    It is really amazing how wise those really old people are. They don’t care about their age and why would they? It doesn’t mean anything. At the same time she cares about greeting and talking to a stranger and that might mean a lot to that person.
    Arnis Supe wrote about..48 Amazing Hours in Sydney, Australia

  4. Sheila Bolton says


    Just read about the old lady and your report is really interesting. You make it very enjoyable to read and I would love to find the time to sit down and read more about your interesting travels across Turkey. Keep up the good work. Love Sheila. xo

  5. says

    Natalie, another great find and fun read, thanks.

    I remember the first time when a young man jumped up to let an elderly man take a seat in a very crowded city bus in Istanbul. I was nearly bowled over! I witnessed it again and again, I even was offered a seat myself when a youngster jumped up to me and offered “Amca, otur…” Hmmm, did not know my age showed that much. :-(
    My last years in Stamboul I saw this behaviour less and less, creeping urbanisation I suppose…

    • says

      I have often wondered John, if the younger generation of Turkey are losing their culture, traditions and manners. Perhaps because I saw it happen in the UK and you may have seen it in the USA. People used to offer chairs in the UK to the elderly and then the next generation were not taught manners and this simple gesture disappeared. Shame on them
      Natalie wrote about..Flower Passage and Istanbul Nostalgia – Portraits From The Past

  6. says

    I have been wondering where you are Natalie, lovely to get your post in my inbox! And what a pleasure to meet this wonderful lady, you can tell she has seen it all. She earns my respect big time too; honest, sincere, welcoming and so open-minded. So glad you had a chance to meet her. I lived in southeastern part of Turkey, in Elazig, for 8 years, when I was a child. Locals are so warm and welcoming and they mean it. Many thanks for sharing her with us.

    • says

      Hi Ozlem, I have road tripping around the Black sea and east of Turkey. Apologies for my absence but we were out and about most days.

      I agree that locals in these parts are so welcoming, and it makes traveling even more easier. Never heard of Elazig, so it is another place to stick on my list. This list is growing by the day!
      Natalie wrote about..Galata Tower and a 360-Degree View of Istanbul

  7. says

    What a wonderful afternoon. I can’t imagine not knowing my age. Sounds very freeing actually. What a warm person she looks like! I bet you could have listened to her earlier stories all day.
    Abby wrote about..Mangos and yachts in Panama

  8. says

    Sometimes the best things in life happen when you least expect it! What a great encounter!

    My grandmother will turn 100 this August. She lived through the US depression years, was one of 10 children, lived on a small farm and is still hanging in there. It’s hard to imagine what a person has seen and experienced in that time.
    Joy (My Turkish Joys) wrote about..Istanbul Gay Pride Parade: Photo Post

    • says

      I know some OAPs and their morals and attitude towards other people are disgusting. While I would help them by giving up seats etc, not all elders automatically earn my respect.
      Natalie wrote about..Save Water – Drink Wine

  9. phil + Di marina gateway says

    loved reading that the best stories come from real people she looks like a darling i would love to meet some one like that maybe i will next year

    • says

      I have got a few more posts about the locals Di so keep reading! I think you will like the post about this lady’s great grandson, the local bee keeper.
      Natalie wrote about..French Street in Istanbul

  10. says

    I think all elders deserve our respect. They survived world wars and other severe global crises but kept their faith and lived to tell us about it, so I think they all have a life lesson to teach.
    Adrian wrote about..Free Fun in Istanbul!

  11. says

    That’s so amazing – I would love to live to 100, so I’m always amazed to hear the stories of those who have had such a long life.

    This is random, but I was reading a science article last week which posited that people who are currently under 40 might live to be 200!! That’s only if (and it’s a big IF) the technology gets it together, lol.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic wrote about..Amsterdam’s Canals: The Best Way to See the City

  12. says

    For me, it really is the incredible people that I meet that stand out in my mind, too. What an incredible encounter you had!

    I often find that breaking down some language barriers tends to help people open up more and makes these types of memorable encounters more likely.
    Shanna Schultz wrote about..A Photographic Excursion to Normandy France

  13. says

    She sounds like an amazing person. And I just love her face – there’s so much character in it! It would be fascinating to hear her tell some of the stories about what Turkey was like last century.
    Turtle wrote about..In plane site

    • says

      She has certainly seen some major events in her time Turtle

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