The Evliya Çelebi Way Project: history, travel, culture
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Unit of AssessmentEnglish Language and Literature
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Religion and Religious Studies
Summary of the impact
Research at the University of Exeter has raised public awareness of early
modern Ottoman history and promoted sustainable equestrian tourism by
establishing a UNESCO Cultural Route, the Evliya Çelebi Way. In 2009
Professor Gerald MacLean re-enacted the 1671 horseback journey undertaken
by the celebrated Ottoman travel-writer Evliya Çelebi, attracting media
coverage and building links with local communities. Maclean has since
collaborated in developing the Way to promote cultural heritage and
stimulate tourism in Turkey. The main impacts of this research have been
- preserve, conserve, and present cultural heritage
- contribute to processes of commemoration and memorialisation
- develop stimuli to tourism and contribute to the quality of the
The research of Gerald MacLean, appointed Professor of English at the
University of Exeter in 2007, has established how commercial, scientific
and diplomatic travel writers in early modern Britain replaced medieval
hostility to the Ottoman Empire with fascination (3.1). His
research has broken new ground to reveal how British and European culture
before 1800 was shaped by encounters with Islamic cultures in ways that
complicate contemporary debates over the `clash of civilizations' between
east and west. A 2004 monograph traced the encounters of English
travellers with the Islamic Ottoman world and was followed by Looking
East (2007), in which he developed original models for understanding
English fascination with Ottoman culture and statecraft and, as William
Dalrymple observed on the dustjacket, `change[d] the way we think about
early British interaction with the Muslim world' (3.2). The
influence of Looking East is indicated by its translation into
Turkish in 2009. MacLean's work in the field has continued with a general
account of Britain and the Islamic World, co-written with Nabil
Matar (3.3). This work, which will also appear in Turkish, has been
praised as an `uplifting, intriguing and inquiring survey' of English
relations with the Islamic world which `undermines ... shibboleths' of the
period before European imperialism (The Independent, 17 June 2011).
In the same year MacLean edited an interdisciplinary selection of papers
from a major conference that he organized in 2009, supported by the
British Academy, at the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies at the
University of Exeter, and which attracted over sixty speakers from nine
countries and numerous disciplines (3.7; 3.4).
Through his research on early modern internationalisation, MacLean
informs present-day reconsiderations of relations between Britain and
Islam. As a key player in the re-enactment history project run by Jonathan
Lamb at Vanderbilt University, MacLean theorized the usefulness of
re-enactment as a research practice (3.5). Subsequently his
research has turned to the practice of re-enactment in the case of the
travels of Evliya Çelebi (1611-c.1685), whose ten-volume `Book of Travels'
celebrates the Ottoman ideals of multi-cultural civility (3.6).
With Ercihan Dilari (Akhal-Teke Ranch, Avanos), Dr Caroline Finkel
(independent scholar, Istanbul), and Professor Donna Landry (University of
Kent), MacLean founded the Evliya Çelebi Way Project. In 2009, the team
undertook an equestrian re-enactment of the first stage of Evliya's 1671
journey from Istanbul to Mecca. By revisiting, on horseback, sections of
Evliya's route, the team set out to discover what remains of the
landscape, hospitality, equestrian culture and Ottoman civility celebrated
by Evliya. MacLean served as research director, helping collate Evliya's
reports with modern maps and organising visas and letters of permission
from the Turkish government. For forty days and nights they rode along
Evliya's route. MacLean worked with Dilari on logistics, horse care, and
negotiations with local authorities. The team liaised with local
communities to ensure the continuation of the Way, talked to village
school children about Evliya, gave interviews to local and national media,
and recorded interviews with local equestrian communities who still
practise rahvan and cirit, traditional Ottoman forms of
equestrian sport. The research objective of the project was to test what
re-enactment of the Evliya Çelebi Way could reveal about both the Ottoman
past and the influence of that past in present-day Turkey.
References to the research
Evidence of the quality of the research: monographs with major
publishers, peer-reviewed grant awards from external funding bodies, and
peer-reviewed publications in major journals.
1. MacLean, `Performing at the Ottoman Porte in 1599: The Case of
Henry Lello,' in Early Modern Encounters with the Islamic East:
Performing Cultures, ed. Sabine Schülting, Sabine Lucia Müller, and
Ralf Hertel (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012): 26-41.
2. MacLean, Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman
Empire before 1800 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Turkish
translation, Doğu'ya Bakış (Ankara: METU Press, 2009).
3. MacLean and Nabil Matar,Britain and the Islamic World,
1558-1713 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). Turkish
translation under contract with Işbank, Istanbul.
4. MacLean (ed.), Britain and the Muslim World: Historical
Perspectives (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2011).
5. Maclean, `Strolling in Syria with William Biddulph,' in Criticism
46: 3 (Summer 2004), pp. 415-40, special issue on `Extreme and Sentimental
History', ed. Jonathan Lamb.
6. MacLean, `Hospitality in William Shakespeare and Evliya
Çelebi,' Shakespeare Jahrbuch, 149 (2013), 117-35.
7 . Maclean, `Britain and Muslim World', British Academy
Conference Grant, 2008 (£3.5k).
Details of the impact
Preserving, conserving, and presenting cultural heritage; contributing
to processes of commemoration and memorialisation
Extensive attention to the 2009 Ride in the Turkish national press and
TV, including interviews with MacLean, `was crucial' to the case made by
Turkey's UNESCO committee for declaring Evliya `Man of the Year' for 2011
(5.1). The ride was `a major influence in making him and his work
better known here in Turkey and overseas', `prompting UNESCO to support
two major international conferences, in Ankara and Paris', and leading to
numerous conferences and festivals throughout Turkey (5.1; 5.2;
5.3). International coverage includes Time magazine's
report of how `the spirit of Turkey's greatest adventurer rides once again
... travelling on horseback ... truly conjures up Evliya's ghost' (23
January 2012), and The Guardian's recommendation of travelling the
Evliya Çelebi Way to explore `some of the country's most spectacular
landscapes' and `villages off the beaten track' (23 March 2012) (5.4).
Since 2007, MacLean has presented his research on early Anglo-Ottoman
relations to public audiences, including 4 annual lectures at the V&A
(2008-10), radio interviews in the UK (2007),Turkey (2007, 2008), India
(2012), and an invitational lecture at the Turkish embassy in London
(2009). MacLean has delivered public lectures on the Evliya Çelebi Way
project including `How the Ottomans helped shape Europe' (City Circle,
London, 10 May 2010) and `From Yalova to Mecca with Evliya Çelebi,'
sponsored by the Istanbul Municipality (Istanbul, 26 March 2011) (5.5).
He has written about the re-enactment for public interest magazines (BBC
History Magazine, 2008; Cornucopia, 2010), the Evliya Çelebi
Way project blog, and the Turkish national press (5.3).
MacLean, Landry and Finkel were appointed consultants to the London-based
NGO, Maslaha, on the British Council and Young Foundation sponsored
exhibition, `Evliya Çelebi: The Book of Travels.' The exhibition opened in
Bethnal Green in May 2010 for three days, attracting over 500 visitors a
day, including classes from local schools. It has since opened in Turkey
(Kütahya, March 2011), in Athens at the world-famous Benaki Museum
(April-July, 2011), and Thessaloniki (January 2012). The online exhibition
has been visited by 17,867 people in 105 countries including the UK, the
US, Canada, Greece, Bulgaria, Australia, Malaysia, Sweden, Germany,
France, Turkey, and Oman (5.6).
Developing stimuli to tourism and contributing to the quality of the
Public interest generated by the 2009 Ride played a leading role in the
creation and recognition of the Evliya Çelebi Way by the Turkish Ministry
of Culture as Turkey's first equestrian Cultural Route, following approval
by the TURSAB Eco-tourism group for promoting sustainable tourism in rural
areas to benefit local economies (15 January 2011) (5.7). The 2009
Evliya Çelebi Ride was sponsored by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and
Tourism, The Turkish Jockey Club, the Joukowsky Foundation, and local
Turkish businesses Avis-Koç, Kütahya Porcelain, and Zetinoğlu Yem. The
number of tourists visiting Evliya's ancestral province of Kütahya doubled
from 81,855 in 2008 to 170,597 in 2010 (5.8).
The owner of a horse-riding centre in Turkey began commercial equestrian
tours along the Evliya Çelebi Way in 2010, and reports that, through
international equestrian agencies—e.g. Equitour (US) and In The Saddle
(UK)— the income from his business has grown from 17,000 euros in 2009 to
55,000 in 2012 and 91,000 in 2013 by 31 July alone (5.9). The
Evliya Çelebi Way has already attracted over 60 riders from the US,
England, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, and South Africa. Commercial
benefits to local communities cannot yet be measured, but the
municipalities of Bursa and Kütahya are supporting development of the
Evliya Çelebi Way and further cultural routes based on Evliya's journeys (5.7).
A guidebook to the Evliya Çelebi Way, authored by Finkel, Landry and the
publisher, Kate Clow, provides detailed itineraries for walkers, cyclists,
and equestrians, alongside historical descriptions of sites noticed by
Evliya. The Evliya Çelebi Way: Turkey's First Long-Distance Walking
and Riding Route (Istanbul: Upcountry [Turkey], 2011) was favourably
reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement (1 March 2013). The
Turkish translation (2011) was sponsored by the Mayor of Bursa and has
sold 1900 copies. The Evliya Çelebi Way team inspired travel publishers
Eland to commission An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of
Travels of Evliya Çelebi (2010), the first substantial collection of
English translations of Evliya. The initial hardback and paperback
editions of 2,000 each sold out, and a second paperback issue of 2,000 has
been reprinted (5.10).
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Document: statement from Executive Board Member, Turkish National
Commission of UNESCO; see `anniversaries' on the UNESCO website
- Evliya Çelebi Way blog: http://hoofprinting.blogspot.com/
- 40+ online media reports of the 2009 Ride, including interviews with
MacLean, are logged at MacLean's webpage: http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/english/staff/maclean
- `From Yalova to Mecca with Evliya Çelebi' (Istanbul, 26 March 2011)
- Document: statement from co-ordinator for the London based NGO Maslaha
- Turkish government formally adopts EÇW as sustainable cultural route;
see page 6: http://issuu.com/smpublication/docs/meeturkey-february11
- Regional Statistics for Kütahya 2008 and 2010 can be found at the
Turkish Statistical Institute website: http://tuikapp.tuik.gov.tr/Bolgesel/tabloOlustur.do
- Document: financial statement from owner, horse riding centre in
- Document: statements from publisher, Eland Publications.