Uzumlu and Traditional Turkish Life. A Photo Post

Here is the problem with the village of Uzumlu which is in  the South west of Turkey near Fethiye. It lacks energy. The people are old, the houses are crumbling and even the animals did not look that healthy.

Where were the young people?

Where were the vibes that scream optimism for the future?


The Main Street Of Uzumlu

My Thoughts about Uzumlu

I went there in search of traditional Turkish life and unspoilt Turkey. I wanted to find a place that had not been affected by western influences and been overtaken by a materialistic greed for brand names or celebrity worshipping.

Turkish life in Uzumlu

Turkish life in Uzumlu

I certainly found traditional Turkish life in Uzumlu but it looks like it has come at a cost. There is no life in the place. No vibe or excitement at what is around the corner.  Apparently youngsters have left to seek their fortune in coastal resort or the big cities of Turkey.

Turkish women

Local women who were over the age of 90

The nearest I came to meeting anyone who seemed to be operating with a fully charged battery was the local estate agent. He was in fact, an expat selling luxury villas on the outskirts of Uzumlu. Obviously he was not going to tell the group as to how the locals felt about foreigners settling in their village so we asked the tour guide.

He told us that locals of Uzumlu have no problems with the expats themselves as they are people who are searching for traditional Turkish life.

The problem however is the big luxury villas with swimming pools, that the expats buy,  look out of place when comparing them with houses on the small cobbled streets of the village.

Concerns are rife that property prices will rise out of the budget of the average Turk.  Worries are that the only Turk who will be able to afford a house will be the rich business men from the big cities like Istanbul.

Old man of Uzumlu

Old man of Uzumlu

I have already expressed concern about whether the small villages of Turkey are doomed as youngsters leave in droves to find lucrative jobs in the coastal resorts and cities.

Fruit seller of Uzumlu

Fruit seller of Uzumlu

Perhaps Uzumlu will become a ghost village or maybe it will enter an elite era full of posh houses and shining new Mercedes. Not the traditional Turkish life that I seek but if that era breathes vibes and excitement into the village, then I am all for it.

Animal of Uzumlu

Goat kept in the garden of a Uzumlu house

One lesson learned from my trip to Uzumlu – Life passes by so quickly. Don’t put something off. If you want to do it, do it now because the future will come quicker than you think.

Animal of Uzumlu

Animal of Uzumlu

I also realized that while I hamper after tradition, I have to realise that every generation has different goals in life. If this means a change to traditions or priorities then so be it. After all, not everything that is new is bad.

Turkish life

Men in the tea house

My one hope is that in twenty years time, I can return to Uzumlu and find a village that is embracing life and not trying it’s best just to exist.

House in Uzumlu

House in Uzumlu

Uzumlu house

Shutters are closed in the winter

Uzumlu fruit tree

Fresh pomegranates were in abundance

Uzumlu - Turkey

Drying fruit under the sun

 Have you experienced traditional Turkish life in a village?

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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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      • Christine says

        Hi, I have just came across your blog.

        Feel you did not look that close at some of the animals here in Uzumlu.

        We have 5 very well kept horses.

        Please look at my facebook. All are Turkish bred and are all horses that we have rescued.

        Feel you should have put some pics of the horses in the blog.

        Most of the animals here are well cared for and loved by their owners.

        Yes some of the village people are older, but are what makes Uzumlu and it charm. They will open their homes to visitors, make them cey and cake or offer wine and fruit.

        You just have to look.


  1. says

    Very glad to have found your blog through GBN, Natalie. You have made me want to visit Turkey but at least for now I am able to be there vicariously.

    Why DO the young people leave their villages (or towns, or burgs) for the big city? It is all about opportunity, the search for a fuller life with more experiences. If that is the latest iphone or fashion, who are we to tell them otherwise? We would like to pound some sense into them, but everyone has to find their own way in this world.

    I think the reason many people do travel is to experience these traditional ways of life before they disappear, but for better or worse, life changes.

    It happens everywhere and has probably done so throughout human history – it becomes increasingly difficult for young people to make a living so they leave in search of their fortune, which can’t be found in their back yard.. In our 21st century, property is then bought by outsiders, city dwellers, ‘second home-ers” who do not live there full time in their modern houses. The structure of the local society changes. But then again, if these city dwellers moved from the country when they were young, perhaps they are coming back to their own roots of the villages.

    Perhaps this is sad, but change is the only constant. We wish that people could make a living in such a beautiful setting but it doesn’t always happen that way.

    How COULD this village thrive into the future? Vineyards? Olive groves? B&Bs? Cafes? Guided tours? The future of Izumlu is out there. What do the locals want to see as happening?

    It seems that the estate agent has seen an opportunity to breathe new life into Uzumlu. Perhaps it is not the opportunity that you or I would have chosen, but there it is.
    Nina F wrote about..Rocking Along The Rim

    • says

      Hi Nina,

      I think the young ones leave for exactly the reasons you mention. They can just exist or they can go to another part of Turkey and try to do better than they would do in the village.

      For now, Uzumlu does play host to guided tours and that brings in a little income for the locals selling their goods but there was still no vibes or energy in the village. It was really like the village was just existing.

      Yes, there may be a rise in property prices but in my opinion, if an influx of outsiders brings energy with them then it would not be such a bad thing.
      Natalie wrote about..The Sufi Mystic Experience and Rumi

  2. says

    Uzumlu seems o be a nice place for what I see from your photos and article. Ok there is only elder people over there, but it may be more traditionnal and more relaxing than a big city such as Istanbul. I just hope that the rich foreigners buying houses over there will not definitly change the real estate market and then change all the city by attractiing more and more outsider rich people. I saw that in Mexico and now some cities are just like America….
    tunimaal wrote about..For Adults and Childs

    • says

      It will be interesting to see what happens in the future for the village Tunimaal however perhaps a change to the real estate market has to be the downside of bringing energy back into the village
      Natalie wrote about..The Flawless Ruins of Ancient Myra

  3. bella says

    thanks for the post, enjoy the photos, makes me think of my hometown, I like photos more than written words, so I didn’t read your post much, seems you are refering to it lack of energy. I work away from my hometown year around, just make me miss my family.
    well, chinese spring festival is coming soon, I will see my family in 8 days, now waiting.
    happy everyday to you Natalie :)

  4. says


    In your entry titled “Is Village Life Doomed?” one of your commentators wrote, “In my village, Kirazli, near Kusadasi we have two small boutique hotels and I do B&B for visitors and we’re attracting real travellers who are often amazed to have found the village.”

    You wrote in this entry that “Concerns are rife that property prices will rise out of the budget of the average Turk. Worries are that the only Turk who will be able to afford a house will be the rich business men from the big cities like Istanbul.” Yet, the villagers are the ones selling their land, some villagers see this as a get-rich-quick idea and their legacy goes out the window into a swimming pool.

    What I have seen happen is that a village gets “discovered,” these small boutique sites are seen as get rich quick, then the villagers start selling their houses and land, expats come, build their (gag) “villas” with swimming pools and shun the villagers either because they do not speak the language (most of the time) or they cannot lower themselves to mix with peasants.

    The Turkish government made an effort to wire all villages with Internet access by the end of 2008 and by 2009 they had succeeded. Virtually all the villages near our area of Ka? have Internet access and nearly all village houses have satellite TV antennas on them. Once the outside world comes into the “traditional” house, the lure of the “gold paved streets” of somewhere else pulls the young people out of the subsistence life style of their parents and grandparents. The out migration to larger cities is inevitable.

    The same thing happened in my small village in Kansas and in other midwestern farming states in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Farmers (subsistence villagers) left the farms for aerospace jobs in California or rubber factories in Topeka, or Boeing airplane manufacture in Wichita. The older generation tried to keep to the traditional way of life but eventually corporate farming took over. Now one person “farms” thousands of acres that in an earlier time it took hundreds of farm families to tend.

    I understand that now, because of pervasive Internet access, people are moving back to small towns and villages in the USA to “tele-commute” via Skype and web sites.

    I am starting to see a similar trickle starting with middle-aged Turkish people from Istanbul. In Ka? there are two IT entrepreneurs who retired after less than 20 years and opt for a simpler and less hectic life style.

    Perhaps if more Turkish “expats” could be convinced to move to villages who do speak the language and have a similar culture, the villages may revitalise. At least they would not be clamoring for more English breakfasts and pubs…
    Hobbit wrote about..Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea

    • says

      Hi John,

      You wish for the same thing as me. A trend of people moving from city to village instead of doing it vice versa. Sure they may bring their modern gadgets with them however if it means the area can survive then so be it.

      Also good point about the locals selling their land. When I saw the prices of the property, either they got a very good price for it or the builder is gaining a good commission.

      I suppose after all, this is just life. People and places change. Sometimes we fear change but in the long run it can also be for the best.
      Natalie wrote about..The Flawless Ruins of Ancient Myra

      • keith says

        as i have been to uzumlu village i was delighted to see such a lovley place the young peaple may leave but that does not mean the village will lose it roots live will go on yes it will change with tourest but this will bring in more money buying there goods i will return in 2012 and if i see the right property to buy i will be retireing there so i can grow old with the villages

  5. says

    Great post and pics, Natalie – I agree with Jack that your hard work is evident, and we’re lucky for it!

    Uzumlu reminds me of Sirince in ’98 when I moved to nearby Selcuk. A lovely former Greek village tucked up in the hills, with ramshackle houses to be bought for a song. Only the old folk there too, ladies still knitting and crocheting, men making decent fruit wines, and arguably the world’s best peaches.

    Today, it’s still a beautiful village – but it’s restored boutique hotels, wineries and imported handcrafts passed off as genuine. “Disney-Turk” I call it – tour groups flood in during the day to see how people used to live, or enjoy a posh version of village life in great comfort overnight. Lots of money there now, but somehow it makes me sad. Guess I would be sadder though if the village had completely disappeared.
    Catherine Bayar wrote about..The language of women

    • says

      Catherine – For ages, I have tried to think of a good term to describe Sirince and you have hit the nail on the head. It is all Disney Turk but without the rides, just wine houses instead!
      Natalie wrote about..Delicious Vegetarian Food in Turkey

  6. says

    I feel hope for Üzümlü with the mushroom festival putting it on the local map. Only one event a year but it’s a start. Also in its favour is the younger kids can work in Fethiye without having to leave home.

    I know what you mean about the villas with pools though. That is a bit of a worry because they’re popping up everywhere and not just for the foreigners.

    Time will tell…

    Turkey’s For Life wrote about..Fethiye Famous Heads: Fatih Sultan Mehmet

    • says

      Hi Julia, The locals said that the youngsters who work in Fethiye don’t come home in the summer time because it is too far to travel each day. Then in winter, most families move down to the coast from Uzumlu to Fethiye as it is warmer.

      I don’t have any objections about the villas with pools but I can understand the locals getting concerned about a rise in the cost of property.

      Mushroom festival sounds good. They should also have a pomegranate festival with the amount in that area!
      Natalie wrote about..The Sufi Mystic Experience and Rumi

  7. says

    Great post! It would be sad to lose places like these, and I’ve seen it elsewhere around the Mediterranean. In southern Italy there are still a few tiny villages, mostly of octogenarians, who speak Greek as their native language. It’s very hard to keep the youngsters interested in sheep and a few lemon trees, so that rare culture could be lost. Blogging about it though keeps people interested at least and may lead to better preservation we hope.
    Kevin – The Mad Traveler wrote about..Photo Gallery: Cappadocia, Turkey

  8. says

    . . nice post Natalie, great photos 9I/m a window freak!). The dying/changing village argument will rage on and finding a compromise that works is a toughie. The present economic system mitigates against self-contained communities but that is, in my opinion and for what it is worth, the only sustainable way forward.
    have a good time in Istanbul.
    Alan wrote about..Puffing Zephyrs With Joseph Pujol

  9. phil + Di marina gateway says

    great post again Natalie i hope the small villages of Turkey are still around in 10 years time its our dream to spend lazt afternoons in the sun doing nothing

  10. Evelien says

    To be honest, I can see Üzümlü as a traditional village anymore, there are villa’s everywhere and it’s full of foreigners, esp. English. If you are looking for traditional Turkish village life there are better places to go to I think.

    • says

      Hi Evelien, I did not see that many foreigners when I was there however i did see the big villas. In the heart of the village, I still got the traditional vibe but the village seemed to be sadly lacking in energy and excitement, that is what was so disappointing for me,
      Natalie wrote about..Patara-Four Reasons Why I Will Not Go Back

  11. says

    I loved this post. I agree it is sad to see villages losing their verve as the young people leave and go in search of work, but it looks like a good life for those who remain.They grow old in a community they know and that isn’t changing fast and from your pictures they live to a ripe old age. I’d like to think that in my old age I could look forward to a peaceful existence like this!

  12. Chris says

    I enjoyed reading this, Natalie. I take your point about house buying becoming out of reach for the average Turk. Where Murat lives, in Kovancilar, I wonder how anyone can afford a house. They seem to have so little.
    As for your comment about if you want to do something, do it now, I agree so much with that sentiment.
    Sadly, sometimes, it just isn’t possible.

  13. says

    I’ve heard similar concerns from other countries such as Slovakia! It’s quite sad really but you’re right change isn’t always so bad and we must accept new ways. Great post!
    cheryl wrote about..Postcards From Positano.

  14. says

    This is a beautiful post. Small town life is dying all over the world. Even the town I grew up on is facing the same fate. Actually, it was already classified as a ghost town when I was growing up there. Everything changes, its part of life. Maybe one day everyone will move back to the towns from the cities.
    Jade – wrote about..Best of/Worst of Travel in 2011

  15. says

    Hope. Isn’t that what is missing? Hope for a future for their village. And yet it seems in so many villages across the globe there is a lack of vision, creative vision, for something more. I was in a village in Trakya last spring and asked the men at a local tea shop what there was to see in their town of Babaeski (25,000). Nothing, was their reply.

    I hope a few of those who have left will catch the vision and return with hope and begin something new, something sustainable and something that honors the past while moving forward into the future.
    Aaron wrote about..Expat Rhythms

  16. Mehmet says

    I liked reading your post. Nice photos thanks Natalie. My parents were born and raised in villages in central Turkey. They had elementary schools and younger population until many started moving to cities and towns for work and better life. Those villages are similar to Uzumlu. I was born in Ankara.
    Have you visited Black Sea region of Turkey? Environment is different in that region.

    • says

      Black sea is on my list of places to go in 2012 Mehmet. Really looking forward to it as I have heard that it is completely different to the rest of Turkey
      Natalie wrote about..Photo – Bird in Flight

  17. Mehmet says

    We are planning a 5-day Eastern Black Ecotour at the end of May with a group of travel writers, academicians and tour company executives from US. We will also have “Eastern Black Sea Ecotourism Workshop” on day 6. It is part of a destination promotion and marketing initiative. We are thinking about inviting more people to attend the tour and workshop. I can let you know the details later. You should not miss it.

  18. says

    This was a great post…..I love visiting those type of places, that haven’t been touched by tourists. Loved your photo’s especially of the goat. :-)
    Thanks for sharing this I really enjoyed reading it….and interesting to learn about Uzumlu.
    erica wrote about..TORTILLA PINWHEELS

  19. says

    I enjoyed reading this post and learning about Uzumlu. I always find it fascinating reading about small villages like this – a true insight . The pictures really complimented your words also :-)

    • says

      Maybe it is just a sign of the times Theodora – Hopefully though the trend will do an about turn and people will start to get fed up of city life and flock to the surrounding villages

  20. Cliff Barber says

    (Comment edited by author – If you can not join the discussion, without being abusive, please find another blog to comment on because your comments will not be published if it happens again. If in doubt about this, please see the comment policy on the page called Travel blog small print)

    Fethiye is only a bus ride away and most of the missing young people are at school or college in Fethiye, as for the big villas with pools who do you think looks after them, locals, and who do you think sold the land to build those villas on, locals, you need to stay for a longer period and visit in the summer when the village is in full swing and has come out of its winter hibernation.

    • says

      Hi Cliff, what about the youngsters that have gone elsewhere than Fethiye? One woman, I spoke to said her son had moved to Istanbul, hardly a bus drive away. They also said the ones in Fethiye that are working do not return every week as summer time is hectic for them.

      I visited the village in October and according to you, the village is in hibernation in winter so at the very most that is five months of being in full swing. Hardly an active and thriving village.

      Yes, the locals are the ones that sold the land. That still does not stop concerns from other locals that property prices will rise up out of the average price for a Turk.

      I look forward to your reply. Please do not be abusive and hopefully we can have a constructive and interesting discussion as it seems we both have different points of view about the future of this village.
      Natalie wrote about..Flower Passage and Istanbul Nostalgia – Portraits From The Past

  21. Mike says

    Hi Natalie I have read your blog with interest as we had a Villa built on the outskirts of Uzumlu six years ago (up the mountain overlooking the Village but not visible to the eye from the Village), the reason we had a Villa built there was the same reason we return year after year. The place is a beautiful old village which captures many of the traditions of old Turkey. The village has developed over the years with a number of Villas springing up within the village itself however the vast majority of them are unobtrusive and tucked out the way, as a result the Village rather than moving towards a ghost village has been revitalised, every year there are new restaurants springing up managed by local families, whilst this may be a move away from traditions of the village re farming it may also be argued that it is progress, something that Turkey has been trying to embrace for the last few years and rather than lack optimism for the future they are embracing it and using their entrepreneurial spirit which they are renowned for. The absence of young ones in the Village is also evidence of the progressive nature of the place, as with many villages in Turkey young ones leave to seek their ‘fortune’ elsewhere but also to make use of their education and expand their knowledge of their own country and the wider world at large. Something which should be applauded. I would advise any travellers to visit Uzumlu as it shows everything that Turkey was and is trying to be, the statue in the village of Ataturk pointing to the West implying where the Turkish future lies and not towards the East has been embraced by Uzumlu, come and see it you won’t be disapointed.

    • says

      Hi Mike,

      I can understand that but my concern with this is, exactly the same thing happened in a small fishing village on the west coast called Altinkum.

      It was nice and comfy, a few ex-pats settled there. Everything was great. Then more expats started coming , more restaurants sprung up. Fast forward eight years and the resorts is ugly. The authorities were not ready for the pace it moved at. Electricity and road supplies are awful. Many expats lost their houses as people were allowed to set up as an estate agent, and they had no concern other the golden pound

      Muggings, burglaries etc are on the rise. The police either will not or do not have the man power to cope with it. Expats are leaving in droves which has a knock on effect on business which were set up purely because of the influx of ex pats.

      If this is how Uzumlu is growing then great but please speak to the locals and make sure the powers that be are ready for the growth. Make sure they have a mayor who is proactive rather than reactive.

      Re tradition. I will be always be a fan of tradition but have to realise that times do change and along with it, places change as well.

      Perhaps I just visited at the wrong time of year and should return in July, to see the bustling village that you talk of.

      I also realise that youngsters want to get out and explore the world, which I have to agree with as I am doing it myself. I just hope that do not turn their back on Uzumlu completely.
      Natalie wrote about..23 Landscape Photos of Turkey

  22. Mike says

    Hi Natalie thank you for your response, I understand your concerns re the growth of Villas, the attraction of Uzumlu is the traditional village that people love to escape to, it is one of the most relaxing places I have been to, if it gets overdeveloped then this will eventually have an impact on the Village and it will lose it’s charm I have no doubt about that. In the time I have been there I have seen a growth in Villas although it does seem to have slowed down due to the market crash and the desire for large Villas has subsided to more sensible sized Villas, and don’t get me started on tapus, which has also aided as a deterrent. The new clientelle in Turkey now seems to be coming from Eastern Europe and they too are also moving into Uzumlu. But it still has retained it’s charm and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come. I suppose when it comes to the you ones the biggest boom in Turkey is the tourist industry, now more people going to Turkey than Spain. Uzumlu is on the edge of major resorts such as Fethiye, Olu Deniz, Calis, Oviciek and Hisaranou so it’s no surprise that the Village depletes somewhat from April to the end of October as young ones go for more lucrative employment. Hopefully as you say there is an administration body in Uzumlu that will fight for it traditional heritage whilst also being able to enjoy the wealth that British and other Europeans have brought to the Village. I still love the place as much as when I first went there and still feel that the improvements have improved the place, time will tell I’m sure.

  23. Tracey says

    Just returned on monday from my holiday in Uzumlu , 1st time to turkey and we LOVED it in the village of Uzumlu , drank in the Grape Garden ,had breakfast in Lup-Lup , fantastic village and fantastic people ,also had my two boys with us age 11 and 15 who also loved the village of Uzumlu ..

  24. Ray says

    hello, i have lived in uzumlu, in a new villa, which i brought from a local Turk, who made a massive profit. It is the locals who are selling their land to local property developers. They do not want to stay poor, the village now has new roads, new electric supplys, new shops, new playgrounds for children and a new customer base bringing money to the village. If you visit the east of Turkey, you will find many ‘traditional Turkish villages’ which are very poor and the local people live in absolute poverty.
    Who i am sure would welcome foreigners bringing wealth to their villages.
    i think it is rather patronising to believe that people will not to progress.

    • says

      Yes Ray and I have promised another reader that I will return to Uzumlu to reassess my opinion.

      To be honest though, I think it is patronising that you believe all villagers would want foreigners bringing wealth to their villages. I have been to villages in the north east of Turkey and they function just fine without foreigners.

      Define your belief of poverty. The locals that I have met do not think they are poor just because they don’t have a brand new shop. Their roads might be dirt tracks and electricity might be ad hoc but they are still smiling and far from skins and bones because of lack of food.

      They might be using old fashioned methods of transport such as a horse but that does not mean they are poor. In their communities because they own a horse, they are considered to be above the poverty line even if they are living in a one bedroom stone house that was built by their grand dad.

      I really do think their definition of poverty and yours is very different.
      Natalie wrote about..Photo Of The Ataturk Pavilion in Trabzon

  25. Alex Winton says

    We spent two holidays in Uzumlu in 2011 and 2012 and enjoyed every moment in this quaint old village.We found the local people very friendly and all the shops and eateries couldn’t do enough for you,especially Senner in the wine bar.Unfortunately because of our age and health we are not able to go this year.We stayed in the lovely Alexis Villa overlooking the village with some views to die for.Turkey a wonderful place for a holiday.

  26. Lee says

    Hi Natalie,
    We bought an old, ruined village house in Uzumlu in 2002. At that time, the mayor of Uzumlu was keen to encourage foreigners to buy and restore old houses because the village was in decline. There were very few young people ( beyond school age) as most moved away for work.
    Since then a lot of new houses have been built and the number of foreigners has increased significantly. We have watched villagers sell their land (previously used for growing crops) wondering what they will live on after the money has been spent. We have also watched as builders have looked to make as much money as possible without concern for the landscape or the villagers.
    Not all of the changes have been positive (that is no different to anywhere else), but there is no doubt that the village is no longer declining. Some young people have opened new businesses in the village. Others have found work which has enabled them to more easily balance child care with the ability to earn money.
    It is true that many young people from Uzumlu work in the surrounding tourist resorts (or further away) between May and October. If they are working long hours it is difficult for them to commute every day so they live away and return to the village on days off or during the winter. This can result in a perception that only old people live here.
    I share your hope that Uzumlu does not become another “little Britain”. I’m happy that my immediate neighbours are all local villagers who have welcomed us and introduced us to many interesting aspects of Turkish culture. Many villagers are older, but not all. More Turks are buying homes here; some for their retirement and some as summer homes so they can enjoy the climate and natural beauty.
    Come and visit Uzumlu at the end of the school year when the area behind the Belediye is filled with children, their parents and other relatives to see how much joy and energy there is in this village.
    If you tell me when you are coming and I am in Uzumlu, I’d be happy to show you around.

    • says

      Hi Lee, thanks for taking the time out to read and also reply. I imagine buying an old ruined house would be an exciting project to take on and also that you have seen some changes in the country overall since 2002. I know I have.

      My plans were to go back to Uzumlu this year, due to other replies like yourself. (See above) Unfortunately, a family member is very ill in the UK. It does not look like he will make it so, all travel plans are on hold.

      When I do make it back to Uzumlu, I will email you and everyone else from above to let you know when I am coming. That is going to be the best way to see the other side of the village, that I seem to have missed.

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