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BOOKS: Ömer Koç

I have a friend who is an avid collector of artworks ranging from Iznik pottery to cutting edge Contemporary sculpture, his taste includes objects of all periods and furniture of the 1950's. The extraordinary Ömer Koç moreover is a great reader and bibliophile. 
At Christie's in London earlier this year, there was a celebration of the first part of his library catalogue of books on Turkey and the Orient. A beautifully produced, beautifully printed book on beautiful paper. Amongst some of the mouth watering books on display was an original copy of Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East, by Alexander William Kinglake, first published in 1844. Sharing my enthusiasm was my friend Gael Camu - who had read the book and I had not. Next day arrived a paper back (see cosimobooks.com) and the fun began. It was a template for many a travel book Ömer Koç tells me and I wish more of them had been as amusing. ('pace', Leigh Fermor, Dalrymple et al)

On entering the Ottoman Empire from Hungary: 
The Pasha received us with the smooth kind, gentle manner that belongs to well bred Osmalis. Then he lightly clapped his hands and instantly the sound filled all the lower end of the room with slaves; a syllable dropped from his lips, it bowed all heads and conjured away the attendants like ghosts 

Greek Marines: 
Our mate was a Hydriote, a native of that island rock which grows nothing but mariners and marine's wives.

Cyprus: 
There was at Crete a Limassol who hoisted his flag as an English vice-consul... I induced him to allow my dining with his family... The lady of the house, it seemed, had never sat at a table with a European... inexorably condemned to bear with the dreaded gaze of European eyes, she tried to save her innocent children from the hard fate awaiting herself.   

A visit to Lady Hester Stanhope:
Speaking of Ibrahim Pasha, Lady hester said that he was a bold, bad man, and was possessed of some of those common and wicked magical arts upon which she looked down... Ibrahim's life was charmed against balls and steel, and that after a battle he loosened the folds of his shawl and shook out the bullets like dust. 

Meeting an Englishman in the Desert on a Camel:
The masters had no sooner passed each other than their respective servants quietly stopped and entered into conversation. As soon as my camel found her companions were not following her, she caught the social feeling and refused to go on... 
He (the Englishman) at once attributed my advances to a laudable wish of acquiring statistical information, and, accordingly, when we got within speaking distance, he said "I dare say you wish to know how the Plague is going on in Cairo?"

Read this fascinating book - you can tell from my extracts how funny it can be. 












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