She slinks and pounds her way down the table top with the determination and fight of a lioness yet the skill and prowess of a pedigree house cat.
The half filled glasses of ‘rakı’ (Turkish liquor) cower by her ankles.
She contorts both her chest and hips to the sounds of Turkey beating out of a single drum.
This is the traditional Turkish art of belly dancing at its best.
Need we ask ‘What’s the fuss about fasıl?!’
With out a doubt it’s an evening of total commitment.
Pre-fasıl checklist - Energy levels must be stocked, stomaches empty, conversation ready to spill, the body limber for dancing and at least 120 lira to pop.
7.30pm – Like a roller coaster at a theme park the evening begins hesitantly with friends arriving and slowly taking their seats at the table as if strapping themselves in for the ride.
Turkish instruments the kanun (like a Turkish harp), darbuka (Turkish drum), violin and vocals drool through the air as rakı is poured and the tables, laden with ‘meze’ (Turkish style tapas), are expertly devoured.
For hours the evening is a loop of rakı, meze, gossip. Rakı, meze, gossip.
The energy increases as hands clap, shoulders jostle and between mouthfuls of meze the crowd confidently match the singer in both volume and sentiment.
10pm - The evening is at full speed when the guests put down their forks and abandon their chairs. The room is a canvas of writhing bodies as they dance with arms outstretched at shoulder height.
Like a hyperactive child the classical Turkish music burns around the room.
Waiters in white shirts and black bow-ties scamper across the room carrying the main dish, a choice of either meat or fish. They look like a pack of dancing penguins as they skilfully make their way through the convulsing crowd.
The punters then are forced to prioritise their time and movements according to personal desire.
It ends with a well choreographed scene of rakı sip, fish bite, shoulder shake. Rakı sip, fish bite, shoulder shake.
Rakı, fish, shoulder.
Sip, bite, shake.
11pm – The aforementioned sequinned wild cat clambers her first table top and negotiates her way around the rakı glasses. The fasıl energy is now at fever pitch.
11.30pm - Before the evening simmers, the chairs that were recently abandoned become the platforms for further dancing.
They take the weight of men and women, young, old, slim and not so. The room has now found its nirvana.
12am - The white table clothes are stained from the evenings food escapade and Turkish coffees and teas are accompanied by plates of freshly cut fruit.
The imagined roller coaster carriages then sidle back to where they left off, except the adrenalin seekers now have wind swept hair, red cheeks and a childish chatter saying, ‘lets go again! When are we doing it again?!!’
For expats who now call Istanbul home, when our friends and family from far off lands holiday on Turkish soil, perhaps the fasıl is the next best cultural thing for them to do inline after Saint Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
But after a few rakıs, when the tops of seats and tables become dance floors and a belly dancer sequin swishes passed your nose… perhaps you would disagree.
Place this at the top of their to do list. The fasıl is not to be underestimated!
Written by Sheldon Heyes
“I loved the fasıl! I have Turkish friends and was being shown the inner world of Turks on a Saturday night. I don’t imagine a tourist with no local connections would have the same experience. The historical part of Istanbul is a definite hands down. But, the fasıl was fun and also a must.”Gillian, 33, Australian
“In the USA etc, they either go out to dinner or go clubbing to dance. You don’t have anything in between where dinner meets clubbing. That’s what makes our culture unique. If people want to experience a local way of doing things, a fasıl is a great example of where people bond, have fun, share their stories. It’s a comfortable area to open up. And rakı is a very important factor of a fasıl.”Özgür, 37, Turkish
It is normally a tourist trap when there is a belly dancer involved. But at Mor Meyhane, belly dancer and all, you have the confidence that the venue is the real experience with local patronage. Other fasil venues generally don’t offer a belly dancer and are still genuine fasıl experiences.
Pictures kindly supplied and the property of Mor Meyhane.
Tepebasi Mahallesi Mesrutiyet Caddesi No:83/1
+90 212 293 9821
Mor Bahçe – Ataşehir
Ahmet Yesevi Cad. No:6/A
+90 (216) 469 92 73
Mor Meyhane – Kadıköy
Kuşdili Cad. No:99
Kadıköy / ISTANBUL
+90 (216) 345 84 84
Did you read this, then experience a fasıl? Tell me all about it below!
You may also enjoy reading ‘The boys and girls of Baghdad‘. It delves into Istanbul’s Asian side elite and introduces the concept and sub-culture – ‘Cadde Girl’ and ‘Cadde Boy’.