Don’t be fooled by the flowery trousers and cute smiles. Don’t assume that these five women are just plain, simple Turkish housewives. They rule the streets with iron fists and even the menfolk of the village run and shrink into the shadows of doorways when they pass.
I met the hard-core, street crew yesterday when we were driving around the old village of Herakleia in Milas in the Aegean region of Turkey. Narrow, steep-winding roads lead us to accidentally drive into one of their backyards. As chickens scattered for safety, the posse appeared and proceed to bang heavily on the van.
Locals of Herakleia, Turkey
High-pitched shouting started as soon as the driver wound down his window and I watched as this confident man began to sink lower and lower into his seat. At this point, I was not a worthy side-kick and jumped out of the van to walk off and find a shop selling refreshments.
It soon became apparent to me that I was being followed and all of a sudden was surrounded on all sides by the street crew of Turkish women. I did not need an escort to the market but it looked like I was going to get one anyway.
Everything happened in a blur and without realizing it, we found ourselves herded down some green grass country paths. Quiet whispers between us revealed that no one actually knew where we were going and why we had personal escorts. We were following like sheep to the slaughter and I did not have the guts to protest otherwise.
As the houses started disappearing into the distance behind me, I spotted their blanket back packs and it dawned on me that they were dealers. We were to complete an exchange which would be their time in return for buying their products.
Fleeting thoughts passed through my mind of what they were dealing in. I hoped they had some homemade honey, from the dozens of bee-hives that I had spotted while walking around. I cringed at the thought that I would be forced to buy a pair of flowery pants that seemed to be the common gang uniform.
The Tour of Herakleia Finishes
After a long tour of village houses, ancient ruins, tombs and recommended photo shots, the exchange of goods took place in a green open field and almost as quick as it had started, it finished. The four women, from which I had bought nothing, suddenly disappeared and one of them called Durdu stayed. I asked her why they had gone as I did quite enjoy the experience of having five personal guides. She said they were going back to watch for any more tourists pulling up.
You had to admire this street crew as they have the working day organized down to a tee and their home ground is sewn up lock, stock and barrel. The Herakleia women know the streets like the back of their hands and it is obvious that Herakleia is and always will be their turf.
What to do if you spot the Herakleia Street Crew
- If you are a tourist who wants an official guide and you want your day planned out from A to Z, then avoid the street crew at all costs. Your tour will be an average one but at least you can say that you have been there and done it.
- If you are quite happy to go with the flow and are prepared to exchange some money in return for local time and knowledge, then follow the street crew. They do provide a presence that makes a big difference to the day and by the end of it, you will end up loving their quirky characters and determination.