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New Europe

Day Forty: Istanbul

On the Bosphorus 
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Only a boat trip on the Bosphorus gives you a real sense of Istanbul's stunning location.
Michael Palin - New EuropeThe thorny question of whether women in Turkey should wear the veil is addressed in an highly original way by Rabia Yalçin, who designs haute couture for Muslim women from an apartment five floors above the busy streets of Nisantasi. Since the Republic was set up in 1923, Turkey has prided itself on separating state and religion and, like the French, does not permit women to wear the veil on state premises.

Rabia Yalçin, a small, doughty lady with a great sense of humour, wears a headscarf as she shows me her sensational, defiantly sexy outfits for Muslim women who want to maintain respectability without losing their femininity. Two tall, impassive models from Belarus demonstrate the dresses, one of which plunges down to the hip at the back, but can be easily covered with a whisper-thin veil.

This compromise between religious belief and feminine beauty is a very modern view, and one which I dare say traditionalists, especially men, would have problems with. Does it shock people, I ask her.

'Oh yes,' she says with a flashing smile. 'I like shocks.'
With Raffi and Turkish benefactors 
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With Raffi Portakal and the Sabanci family, some of Turkey's richest benefactors.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Forty: Istanbul
  • Country/sea: Turkey
  • Place: Istanbul
  • Book page no: 101

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