Istanbul has officially marked the start of its year as one of the European Capitals of Culture with a host of celebrations. Various activities took place at seven different centres across the city. Pecs in Hungary and Essen in Germany also hold the title this year. Although Istanbul is not part of the EU, celebrating culture could bring the continent of Europe closer.
Özgul Özkan Yavuz, Director, Tourism and Promotion said: “There’s a kind of paradox that we are still not a full member, but we are the capital in terms of culture. We believe that this project will make a contribution to the mutual understanding of societies.”
Ministers, diplomats and business leaders rubbed shoulders with the people from the arts world. The ceremony was a chance to show foreign guests, and the rest of the world, what Istanbul is all about.
Marc Pierini, Head of the EU delegation to Turkey said: “We have a considerable gap between the perceptions and reality. There is nothing better than cultural exchange to help rectifying these perceptions.”
Concerts and dance shows highlighted the multiculturalism of Istanbul. Whirling dervishes, folk dances, gypsies and singers from different religions were among those who performed.
Euronews reporter, Valerie Gauriat, was at the celebrations in Istanbul. She says the title is important for political reasons too: “The year 2010 will be the occasion to discover Istanbul’s culture -from tradition to modern times, east to west. And, it seems, Ankara is certainly betting on it to serve its political ambitions in moving towards Europe.”