“Know less, buy more, read less, talk more”… Are these the makings of a boy and girl from Baghdad? According to 35 year old Istanbulite Ayşe, they can be summed up by these eight words.
Otherwise known as ‘Cadde (Jaddeh) Girl and Cadde Boy’, the sub culture is fermenting along the coastline suburbs of Istanbul’s Asian side and its counter parts all collide on the one street, Bağdat Caddesi, or Baghdad Boulevard to expats. They meet, they gossip, they sip lattes, they eat, their clothes ooze money and their wheels scream success. But to really understand them and go beyond the purely stereotyped above description we need to talk to the people who scamper up and down the Baghdad pavement.
If you imagine the 14km stretch of Baghdad Boulevard as a vein pumping life through its nervous system with retail, restaurants and bars, then the heart of the ‘Cadde Girl’ culture would have to be Şaşkınbakkal, where department stores Marks and Spencer and Boyner meet at a cross road.
Stroll down Baghdad amid the shade of the aged trees that cover the wide boulevard and stop for a moment outside Midpoint, Cafe Cadde or even further down the road, Cook shop. Like animals in a caged zoo watch them from a distance. They gather in packs with friends from similar pedigree and graze on rather large plates of western style delicacies. They re-hydrate on caffeine and only the finest wine selection.
I will leave my animal and zoo analogy aside now as they are people after all. In fact, 24 year old university student from Caddebostan and self described ‘Cadde Boy’, Mehmet, says he likes Baghdad for the people quality. Perhaps he is diagnosing a class system where his namesakes are at the top. His dislike, however, appears to be the weekends when Baghdad becomes crowded, bustling with people of the so-called lesser quality.
Among the swarm of life on the street are ‘Cadde Girls’ Deniz and Işıl who describe themselves as energetic, hard working, reliable and sociable. What perfect qualities in a human being. Quite a different impression to Mehmet’s character portrayal of the girls of Baghdad being superficial.
But what can be fake about someone who is fitted with Massimo Dutti and Michael Kors? Deniz says the lifestyle and fashion is genuine if you are from this street. If you move to Baghdad from the outer suburbs she believes the art of imitation is a sham. She tells me, “Fashion is having your own style and this style is being followed by the others.”
Ayşe disagrees they are the trend setters saying, “They buy what is expensive and what they see on other Cadde people.”
But if we keep going in circles trying to find who is leading and who is following we are only going to end up chasing our own tails.
So let’s stop running and open our eyes instead. What brand is on Mehmet’s back and in his wardrobe? His choices are Polo Garage, Armani, Trussardi and Calvin Klein. It seems only the finest will do for him and the price tags are just as Ayşe presumed.
There is a constant flow of cash from purses into tills with the range of retail stores available. Some say the famous boulevard is world class and is Turkey’s answer to the Parisian Champs-Élysées.
It has an opulent history operating as a trade route between Asia and Europe. Ottoman palace officials and other high society classes owned vast estates along the merchant path that elegantly sits along the Marmara coastline.
Over time, when the Turkish Republic was established, wealthy Istanbulites morphed the area with their summerhouses. Sadly today it seems the surrounding Baghdad area is mutating further into a cluster of high-rise apartment blocks. The ottoman mansions and elite low-level summerhouses are almost all gone and it seems soon they will also be forgotten.
The buildings may be changing but the quality of residents, it seems, remains the same.
“Decent people live on this street and if people come to Istanbul they must visit because of the shopping places and cafes together on the one street.”-Mehmet
There you go, a genuine open invite to come and see a day in the life of Baghdad.
Mehmet wakes up early. He goes to the gym or a walk along the coastline. At this hour it is quiet, a lone Mercedes drives down the street. A short while later, when the street is a chaotic sea of cars, retail assistants switch on their store lights and open the doors. The waiters place napkin holders and ashtrays on tables. Mehmet meets with his pride of mates at Hardal. Meanwhile Deniz meets with her flock of friends at Happy Moons and Işıl with her gaggle of girls at Nook.
They drink, they eat, they gossip, leave a nice tip for the waiter then they leave for the next Baghdad hotspot.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Visited Baghdad recently? Share your thoughts below.
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