One of the things that invariably appears on lists of things you must do in Kuşadası is attend a Turkish night at the Kervansaray. Lots of hotels and restaurants offer Turkish nights, but the Kervansaray’s is held to be the best. Most of the references I’ve seen have described the Turkish nights as taking place Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. This season, though, they were scheduled for Tuesday and Friday nights. This week marks the ends of the season (at least as far as the Kervansaray is concerned), so Tuesday night I went to their Turkish night.
The Kervansaray is an Ottoman castle, originally built in 1618. As the name suggests, it provided shelter for caravans. These days, it has been repurposed as a hotel. It is built around an courtyard, and this courtyard is the setting for the Turkish night.
You have the option of coming for dinner, at 8 PM, or for the show alone, at 9 PM; the show goes until about 11:30. I chose to come for dinner and arrived shortly after 8 PM. When I entered the courtyard, I saw that it was full of (empty) tables. It startled me to see so many tables set up this late in the season. But then the buses started to arrive. Most of the big hotels up and down the coast offer a visit to Turkish night to their guests and it looks as though a lot of them take advantage of the offer. I didn’t realize that there were still that many tourists in and around Kuşadası! By the time the show started, not quite all the tables were full; but about 60% of the seats were taken. I imagine that at the height of the season, it’s packed.
The show started with a violinist playing a selection of such Turkish classics as "If I Were a Rich Man". I’ve never thought of the violin as being a particularly Turkish instrument, but maybe I’m wrong. Next, we had a group of dancers.
Then a man playing wooden spoons. The obligatory belly dancers were the next to appear.
Switching to a more meditative mode, we next had a pair of whirling dervishes.
I was startled to see that one of the dervishes was a woman (the figure on the left, with the scarf covering her hat and hair): I wouldn’t have thought that was allowed. Her posture was also a little off: her right hand was supposed to be raised heavenward, with the left pointing toward the earth, but instead her arms were more or less straight out. I don’t know if she was simply unclear on what she was doing, or if women have a different posture.
After the dervishes, we had another belly dancer: this one introduced an audience participation section. She brought some of the men in the audience onstage (and a couple of guys volunteered) and coaxed them through trying to imitate her moves. Hokey, but entertaining. She was followed by a parade of baked Alaska, which was served for dessert.
More dancers, all men this time. Then another group of dancers, men and women. They were followed by a singer and dancer; next a sole singer.
There was no program, which I would have liked. While costumes, dances and music changed, I had no idea what I was looking at.
As for dinner, there is a truly impressive buffet of meze, most of which I couldn’t identify. I took little dabs of things that looked appealing – salads and other vegetable dishes, börek, soft cheese and dips. I sampled maybe a third of the dishes offered. I had been warned about the main course, so I filled up on the meze, which was not hard to do. The main course was indeed seriously bland (though not actively bad), served after the show began. According to the ticket the main course was supposed to be a chicken kebap, but in fact it was more of a dry stew of chicken and cubed bread. It was somewhat similar to a chicken iskender, except the chicken wasn’t sauced nor was it served with yogurt. Dessert described itself as "baked Alaska". All I can say is that Turks are unclear on the concept of baked Alaska.
Price? The show, including unlimited beer, wine, soft drinks, and water, is 60 Turkish lira (a little over $40 or about 30€). Popcorn also appears on the tables for those who come for the show only. With dinner, it’s 80 Turkish lira (about $55 or 40€).
Overall, as events of this kind go, it was neither terribly overpriced nor inauthentic, and yes, it’s probably worth doing once if you’re in Kuşadası. On the other hand, once is certainly enough.