A Modern Evliya Çelebi

Saim Orhon Is The Producer Of A Documentary Travel Program That Takes Viewers On Captivating Journeys To The World’s Diverse Cultures. We Talked Recently With Orhon, Who Has Visited More Than 140 Countries Since 2002.

What was the first trip you went on?
My first trip was to Egypt. To the desert and the pyramids. After that I went to Afghanistan in 1996, Azerbaijan in 1997, Russia and Siberia in 1998, and China and Mongolia in 1998, and just kept going. Since 2002 I’ve traveled exclusively abroad. I’ve seen how much need there really is. I’m making the longest-running travel documentary in Turkey. When I look back, I see that I’ve covered more than 1,200,000 kilometers and done shoots in 140 countries.

How is the level of popular interest?
When I check our daily ratings and see the rising curve, I realize that the people of Anatolia in Turkey have a serious interest. They are very responsive, believe me. After watching the program, they go to those places. Sometimes they travel in groups, sometimes on their own. That’s actually one of our objectives. We see our program as having a message for everybody. And that makes us happy, because the more the program is aired, the more the Turkish people will get interested and our presence in the world will grow. We know of people who, after they learned about those places, went there and set up really succesfull businesses.

You’ve been traveling for ten years. What kind of changes have you seen in those 140 countries over the last decade? When you look at the world map, which places have begun to emerge?
Unfortunately, Turkey was unknown 15 to 20 years ago. When we went to Ghana, for example, there was a region called Tamale. The people there were not familiar with us, didn’t know about us. Now Turkey is a country that is becoming more recognized and better known by the day. I experience that personally. Senators and representatives not just in Africa but in Canada are talking to us about Turkey today. This indicates Turkey’s high level of development. The more Turkey develops, the more the Turkish people are curious to travel and see other places.

Are you observing a change in the travel trends of our people?
It’s quite obvious of course that trends are changing. We still go to Europe. Everybody still goes to Paris and Rome especially. At the same time, these are starting to become run-of-the-mill destinations. Our people have started looking for things more off the beaten track. They’re saying, let’s go some place different, some place where nobody else has gone. On the trips we go on we’ve started seeing that there are different demands now.

Have Turkey and Istanbul started to look more attractive now from outside? Are they more in demand?
Turkey’s stock is rising in the world in any case. As Turkey becomes better known, people are starting to do business with us and our economy is beginning to develop. They more they know, the more than want to engage in cultural exchange. The Europeans had heard of Turkey, but the Far East, South America, Central America and places like that didn’t know us at all. Now they say, “There’s a really developed country right in the heart of Europe”, and we are that country! That’s a very important point.

Which places have struck you the most during your ten years of travel?
On the one hand some really good things are happening in the world; on the other there are some very desperate situations too. The post-war areas have really had an impact on me. Afghanistan, the Hurani tribe in Nigeria, the pygmies of Cameroon who are less than 5 feet tall. I can’t get them out of my mind. Also Victoria Falls, whose name in the local language means roaring water. It’s a colossal wonder. Brazil and the Amazon are magnificent places too. Argentina, southern Chile and Greenland are other places that have impressed me.

The mandatory vaccinations are definitely in order prior to travel to Africa. You can take simple medications and anti-inflammatories with you. Eating fruit is one of the healthiest and safest methods of nutrition. Appropriate clothes for the climate, a compass or GPS device, and tinned food are useful when traveling in nature.