Turkey’s National Symbols

Turkey is one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations but there’s a lot about the country that isn’t covered in holiday guides, for instance do you know the meaning behind the symbols on the Turkish flag?  Or do you know what the nation’s flower is?  Find out more below and stun locals with your knowledge on your next holiday to Turkey. 


Turkey’s national flag comprises of a red background with a motif of a star and crescent moon.  There are legends galore regarding the meaning and significance of the symbols and how they can be interpreted.  One such tale attributes the flags design to a legend that Kemal Ataturk witnessed the image of a moon and star in a pool of blood after a victorious battle in the Turkish war of Independence.  Another says that one of the first Ottoman Emperor’s had a dream where a crescent and star burst from his chest and exploded, portraying the seizure of Istanbul, then Constantinople.


Turkey’s national animal is a wolf.  Turkish folklore tells of how the grey wolf led the Turk’s ancestors out of their homeland and into Anatolia, conquering countries along their way.  Turkey used to have a large population of grey wolves, but over the years they have become more and more scarce, so much so that in some areas of the country they are practically extinct.  A conservation project has been established for these majestic animals and they have been re-introduced to certain areas.


Turkey’s national flower is a tulip.  Most people assume that the tulip originated in Holland due to the wonderful displays the country is famous for but actually tulips are native to Turkey and Central Asia.  It wasn’t until the 16th Century that tulips were brought to Holland from Turkey.  It is thought that tulips came by their name from the word turban, which the flower resembles.  There is a period in Turkish history known as the “Tulip Era” between 1718-1730.  During this time of peace and enjoyment, tulips became an important style of life, woven into tapestries and embroidered into clothing.


Raki is considered Turkey’s national drink.  Made from twice distilled grapes and flavouring it with aniseed.  It can be consumed straight, with a glass of water next to it or mixed with water.  The colour it turns when mixed with water has resulted in raki being referred to as Lion’s Milk.  The Turkish word for lion is commonly used to refer to a strong man, giving the term a meaning similar to “milk of the strong”.  Raki is often consumed with mezes, or at the very least cheese and melon.  Although there is a debate whether the country’s national drink should be raki or the yoghurt based drink, ayran.

Turkish Traditional Drink: Ayran


Oil wrestling is Turkey’s national sport and has been since the Ottoman times; so called because competitors douse themselves in olive oil before they begin wrestling.  The annual oil wrestling tournament is held in Edirne, Turkey and has been declared by the Guinness World Records as the oldest continuously run sporting competition in the world, beginning in 1362.  The aim of the game is to get hold of your opponent’s kisbet, or specially made pants.  A tough and slippery sport, it is nonetheless extremely popular as some matches such as the one held in Edirne attract hundreds of spectators who come to watch who will prove their skill and strength.

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