January 13, 2009

Turkish 'Coffee Houses' for Men Only
Istanbul, Turkey

I noticed them immediately upon my entry into the city—hazy rooms filled with chain-smoking men drinking tea and playing table games. Some were reading the paper, some were watching off-track betting, others just chatting. But not a single one was interacting with a woman—that's because no girls are allowed.

Even more prevalent than the mosque or the Turkish delight in Istanbul are the chick-free parlors where Turkish men escape the drudgery of keeping their wives in line. Oh, thank Allah that such a place exists, where such fellows can decompress in a cloud of smoke that looks like something akin to a poorly ventilated Vegas casino from the Rat Pack era.

Okey game tiles for sale

Popular is a game that I've never seen before, called Okey, as well as backgammon and varieties of card games.

As expected, women seem to resent their presence, since the closest they'll ever come to it is looking through the single-paned windows separating the guys from the stresses of the outside world. There's so much sexism, gender separation and chauvinism in this culture that sometimes I feel like I'm watching black and white show off Nick at Nite/TV Land.


The United States


March 6th, 2009

just curious… what gives you the impression women resent the presence of these men-only enclaves?


Craig | travelvice.com

March 6th, 2009

I've been told as much by Turkish girls and women. ;)



March 7th, 2009

Have you spent time in them? Do they welcome a foreign dude? How many of them speak english?


Craig | travelvice.com

March 8th, 2009

No, I avoided the 'emphysema houses' as I nearly always was out and about w/ Tatiana and Aidric when I was outdoors.

I recently listened to another pair of Belgian travelers (BF/GF) ask our mutual CouchSufing host about these places. He said that foreign men would of course be welcomed, but trying to bring your girlfriend in would cause some very strong/strange glances. I think female tourists/travelers could get away with it if they were accompanied and were genuinely curious — though I'm not sure the allure. They're certainly not as romantic a notion as financial powerhouses sipping cognac and smoking Cubans flanked by wall-mounted animal heads… :)


Craig | travelvice.com

August 13th, 2010

A truly excellent photo-essay on the subject: It's A Man's World

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