Modernisation: what is the transition from a traditional to a modern society in the countries you visited?
In Malaysia we spoke with “the father of modernisation” Tun Dr Mahathir, the longest serving Prime Minister of Malaysia. Dr Mahathir is known to have led the country towards modernisation, becoming one of the fastest developing nations with a vision for 2020. Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, has a strong westernized culture with high rise buildings, large billboards and forward thinking. In KL Sentral, just outside of the city, you can find more historical buildings, the National Mosque of Malaysia and further diversity. Variations in living arrangements, clothing style and more ethnicites were evident. Corner shops or street food (Mamaks) were thoroughly enjoyable with people maintaining their identity and culture amongst the westernised culture.
I had never felt like I was in another world, except for when I first stepped off the mini bus in Turkey. In the early cold morning, I walked on cobbled roads, saw quaint houses and restaurants and our second home Seraglio. Our hotel, once home to a busy family, now was transformed into a wonderful welcoming hotel with incredible staff. And that is common for Turkey, old buildings with new interiors. I sensed that everywhere I placed my feet, including the road I was on, that someone had stood there before and something monumental had happend. Modern cars reflecting the latest technology travelled on old cobbled roads that man had made with his hands when donkeys were the means of travel! The oldest Grand Bazaar in the world still selling goods and the identity of the Ottoman Empire was still going strong. It’s a modern city that embraces its history.
To be able to stand and look in between the Aya Sofia and the Sultan Ahment Mosque (Blue Mosque) and recognise the history between the two, was astounding. And during that moment, I was surrounded by a sea of new faces and people, tourists, citizens and refugees – each making their new mark in history. I was in awe of the things that represented both past and present tense during that moment I stood still. Sadly, the suicide bomber attempted to leave a mark in this world, but the people of Turkey are resilient and amongst both Europe and Asia, ethnicities and faiths chose what was going to affect them. Whilst there is strong secularism and other faiths, the blaring call to prayer five times a day and intervals between the surrounding mosques gave a strong sense of Islamic culture and a way of life. But it was still one with a diverse people, opinion, modernisation, history and openness.
In Cordoba and Granada there are historic monuments including the Roman Bridge, Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Madinat Al-Zahra and the Al Hambra. All showing rich history of Islamic civilisation. Whilst the country is predominately catholic and became modern with the rest of Europe, it’s struggles could bring it back to it’s traditions. The jobs are scarce and many find it difficult to land one. There are homeless on the streets. Some of their traditions, including horse and carriage were there – but that is probably for tourism.
Morocco had the ‘coolest’ (no words do it justice) feel to it. Even the airport in Casablanca had an Arab culture that I loved. When I was looking outside our mini bus to ride to Riad in Marrakesh (also another first experience I shall not forget!), I remember asking myself, “Where are we?!” I saw rubble on the roads, late night food trolleys and then we were told we needed to walk the rest of the way to our Riad. We walked and clunked our heavy (should have packed lighter) luggage on more cobbled alleyways, with bright orange lights welcoming us home. We then travelled to the Sahara (impulsive decision that was a monumental experience) and saw clay houses made from the land it was built on. From a distance, there was no variation of colour, the houses appeared to blend into the landscape due to similar origins of their substance. Except these houses and restaurants had Coca Cola signs and wifi! Ironically, while they had wifi, many places didn’t have running water.
We also needed to ask, would they genuinely have snake charmers today or do they use it for tourism and western thoughts of the country? In Rabat there are universities, schools, there is minimum age of marriage, extensive construction, increasing literacy rates and sectors of the economy changing over generations. In other parts of Morocco there was old style transportation, mules and donkeys and many places we had to walk on foot. But the culture immuring from the younger generation is evident that modernisation happening. I hope that while the new generation embraces modernization, their native and authentic culture doesn’t fade.
Feature photo found here.