Gerald Maclean riding in to Babasultan in 2013.

Exeter professor's research inspires UNESCO Cultural Route in Turkey

The research of Professor Gerald Maclean from the University of Exeter’s English Department has inspired a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognised equestrian route in Turkey.

Professor MacLean is a founding member of the Evliya Çelebi Way Project - an international project of historical re-enactment and cultural re-connection established to promote the life and work of celebrated Ottoman traveller and historian Evliya Çelebi (1611-c.1683). The Evliya Çelebi Way Project, which was approved by the Turkish government as Turkey’s first equestrian cultural route, aims to generate awareness in Turkey of Ottoman history and of their vanishing horse culture, while also developing trekking routes for sustainable tourism.

Evliya Çelebi, who was named UNESCO’s Man of the Year in 2011, spent forty years on the road travelling the breadth and width of the Ottoman Empire. In 2009, the Evliya Çelebi Way Project group staged a 400 mile equestrian expedition in western Turkey which followed the route that Evilya described in his Seyahatname, or Book of Travels. MacLean, who is the co-director of the Exeter Turkish Studies research centre at Exeter, served as research director, helping to collate Evliya’s reports and align these with modern maps.

Professor MacLean reflects on his travels, “What is most striking is how much variety there is in western Anatolian rural life, replete with village to village differences, dramatic shifts in architecture, religion, and language or dialect only a few miles apart...We also learned just how widely Evliya is still known wherever he went. In every village that we passed through where there was a school, the children had all heard of him; in some villages, elder statesman reported what they believed Evliya to have said about their locality. We knew that the name of Evliya Çelebi was known beyond his readership, but were struck by how true this was along our route.”

In October 2013, the Way was formally opened at a ceremony held in the town of Babasultan in Bursa Province by the Mayor of Bursa, Recep Altepe and UNESCO representative Dr Mehmet Kalpakli.

Professor MacLean promotes Ottoman history and horseback travel as resources capable of delivering economic and heritage benefits to Turkey. He pursues research on historical re-enactment and reconnection and his interests focus on interrelations between Britain and the Ottoman Empire during the early modern period and beyond. The Exeter Turkish Studies Research Centre aims to carry out world-class research on Turkish history and culture from its origins to the present day.

Date: 11 February 2014

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