The Horse and East-West History: generating cultural and economic benefits in Turkey through a UNESCO cultural route, the Evliya Çelebi Way

Submitting Institution

University of Kent

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Tourism
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Through the establishing of a UNESCO Cultural Route, the Evliya Çelebi Way, Donna Landry's research has influenced cultural policymakers in Turkey, created new opportunities for tourism, promoted awareness of Ottoman and equestrian history internationally, and benefitted cultural providers through collaborations. In 2009 Landry and her research team re-enacted for 40 days the 1671 horseback journey undertaken by the celebrated Ottoman travel-writer Evliya Çelebi en route to Mecca. The team attracted media coverage and built links with local communities. Landry has since collaborated in developing the Way and otherwise promoting Ottoman history and horseback travel as resources capable of delivering economic and heritage benefits to Turkey.

Underpinning research

The Evliya Çelebi Way, Turkey's first equestrian UNESCO Cultural Route, is an outcome of three aspects of Landry's research pursued since her appointment at Kent (Professor, 2005-). The first of these concerns the invention of the countryside in 18th-century England as a sporting paradise satirised by its critics [3.1] and a site for pedestrian tourism. Landry argues that foot- and bridlepaths, and thus public access to otherwise private land, are remnants of this contest over common rights. Their preservation has been crucial for the survival of rural England as an amenity landscape, benefitting farmers via income diversification through tourism.

In a second strand, Landry has actively explored the theorisation of historical re-enactment as a mode of research. As a key player in the re-enactment history project run by Jonathan Lamb at Vanderbilt University, 2004-2009, she proposed that by undertaking `The Great Anatolian Ride' following an Ottoman rather than the many Western Europeans who journeyed East, Westerners might begin to unlearn certain `Orientalist' habits of mind and enter a new mind-set and imaginative horizon shaped by Ottoman itineraries. Her research reveals the ways in which the trope of re-enactment has bedevilled East-West relations. She has identified re-enactment as both central to the 18th-century appetite for the Arabian Nights' Entertainments [3.1] and as a recurrent preoccupation in Eurasian and Ottoman steppe history.[3.2]

The third relevant strand is Landry's research in East-West equestrian and cultural history. Her 2009 book Noble Brutes: How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture has been described as a `landmark' in animal and cultural studies (Agricultural History 84:4 [Fall 2010], 538-62) that will benefit `all historians of the early modern period' (Journal of Social History 44:2 [Winter 2010]: 592-94), going `well beyond previous books' and written with `telling precision' (Pat Rogers, Times Literary Supplement, 02/04/2010: 30).[3.3] The book documents the Ottoman Turkic as well as Arabian and Barbary genetic contributions to the English Thoroughbred horse, the new breed that inspired radical changes in racing, riding, the sporting art of George Stubbs, and the Houyhnhnms of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. The book also demonstrates how Ottoman riding styles and methods of `kind leniency' in horsemanship, in vivid contrast to the brutal discipline common in Europe, should be recognised as Ottoman imports along with the 200+ horses imported between 1650 and 1750. Subsequent essays link these unacknowledged Ottoman contributions to the Enlightenment with others such as the coffeehouse [3.4, 3.5], and the millet system of multi-ethnic, multi-religious toleration.[3.6]

When Landry, with Ercihan Dilari (Akhal-Teke Horse Center, Avanos), Dr Caroline Finkel (independent scholar, Istanbul), and Professor Gerald MacLean (University of Exeter), founded the Evliya Çelebi Way project in 2009, the team's intentions were to undertake historical re-enactment on horseback as a mode of research into the Ottoman past while exploring the feasibility and desirability of a tourist route. Landry served as project theorist, equestrian consultant, cartoonist, principal blogger, and scribe. The project's approach to historical re-enactment makes the delivery of impact intrinsic to the process of research. This kind of re-enactment co-produces research with people who will also benefit from its outcomes. Following the first stage of the 1671 journey to Mecca made by Evliya Çelebi (1611-c.1685), author of the monumental Seyahatname or `Book of Travels', one of the greatest works of Ottoman and world literature, the team gave interviews to local and national media, liaised with local authorities to discuss the prospects for tourism and facilities for future travellers, and worked with villagers and schoolchildren, learning of their present concerns as well as their sense of history. By following in Ottoman hoofprints the team discovered many traces of Evliya's world and the Ottoman past: local (yerli) Anatolian horse breeds; equestrian sports such as cirit (mounted javelin game), rahvan (ridden pacing races), and okçuluk (archery) being practised as Ottoman re-enactments; evidence of Ottoman resettlement policies for multi-ethnic refugees as the empire's borders contracted; evidence of mosques maintaining dervish lodges well into the 16th century; evidence of farmers preserving biodiversity and environmentally sensitive husbandry despite pressure from government and agribusiness lobbies. Evliya himself emerges from this study as in many ways an Enlightenment figure, and certainly an Ottoman cosmopolitan one. Landry's research role was supported by a Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowship.

References to the research

1. Donna Landry, `William Beckford's Vathek and the Uses of Oriental Re-enactment', in The Arabian Nights in Historical Context: Between East and West, ed. Felicity Nussbaum and Saree Makdisi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 167-94. ISBN 0-19-955415-7. REF2 output 1.


2. Donna Landry, `Settlers on the Edge, or Sedentary Nomads: Andrei Platonov and Steppe History', in Reenactment History, Volume 2: Settler and Creole Reenactment, ed. Vanessa Agnew and Jonathan Lamb with Daniel Spoth (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 41-54. ISBN 10 0230576060; ISBN 13 978-0230576063.

3. Donna Landry, Noble Brutes: How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Pp. 240. ISBN 10 0-8018-902-8-4; ISBN 13 978-0-8018-9028-4. Turkish translation forthcoming. REF2 output 2.


4. Donna Landry, `English Brutes, Eastern Enlightenment', in Animal, All Too Animal, ed. Lucinda Cole, Special issue of The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 52:1 (Spring 2011): 11-30. DOI: 10.1353/ecy.2011.0000. REF2 output 3.


5. Donna Landry, `Anglo-Ottoman Enlightenment? Thoroughbreds and the Public Sphere', Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives, ed. Gerald MacLean (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2011), 69-84. ISBN 10 1-4438-2590-5.

6. Donna Landry, `Said Before Said', in Debating Orientalism, ed. Ziad Elmarsafy, Anna Bernard, and David Attwell (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 55-72. ISBN 10 0230303528; ISBN 13 978-0230303522.

Key research grant: Donna Landry, Study Abroad Fellowship: `Hoofprinting: Evliya Çelebi and Lady Anne Blunt'. Award number RF/1/RFG/2009/0412. Leverhulme Trust. 01/09/2009 to 30/06/2010. Value: £20,845.

Details of the impact

Landry's research has had impact by influencing Turkish cultural policymakers, creating new opportunities for tourism, promoting awareness of Ottoman history internationally, and benefitting cultural providers through collaborations.

Influencing cultural policymakers in Turkey

The Ottoman equestrian angle initially engaged Turkish policymakers and the business community. The 2009 Evliya Çelebi Ride was sponsored by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism as beneficial for international tourism, by the Turkish Jockey Club and Zetino!lu Yem (a feed company) for promoting Turkish equestrianism, and by Avis-Koç, Kütahya Porcelain, Güral Porcelain, and the Joukowsky Foundation for raising awareness of Ottoman heritage, including the traditional arts of Bursa silk and Kütahya ceramics reported by Evliya.

The 2009 Ride's international significance can be most clearly seen in its having proved `crucial' to the `successful case' put by the Turkish National Commission of UNESCO for making Evliya a `Man of the Year' for 2011.[5.1] As a Commission member states, `When an international team of scholars recognises the importance of an Ottoman in this way, it becomes clear to all' how Evliya `is truly a figure deserving international status and recognition'.[5.1] The Ride prompted UNESCO to support two major international conferences in 2011, in Ankara and Paris [5.1], and led to numerous conferences and festivals throughout Turkey and elsewhere.[5.1, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7]

Public interest generated by the 2009 Ride also played a leading role in the recognition of the Evliya Çelebi Way (hereafter EÇW) by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and UNESCO as Turkey's first equestrian Cultural Route, following approval by the TURSAB Eco-tourism group for promoting sustainable tourism in rural areas where local economies will benefit (15/01/2011).[5.2]

The project's continuing significance on an international scale is borne out by its role in Evliya's inclusion in the UNESCO Memory of the World register in April 2013.[5.1]

Creating new opportunities for tourism with economic benefits

The Ride boosted the number of tourists visiting Evliya's ancestral province of Kütahya from 81,855 in 2008 to 170,597 in 2010; the number of nights spent there by tourists increased from 316,201 in 2010 to 579,717 in 2011.[5.3]

The EÇW's international reach continues to expand, with Time magazine reporting how `the spirit of Turkey's greatest adventurer rides once again ... traveling on horseback ... truly conjures up Evliya's ghost' (23/01/2012), and the Guardian's recent recommendation of the Way for exploring `some of the country's most spectacular landscapes' and `villages off the beaten track' (23/03/2013).[5.5]

The impact of the 2009 Ride and EÇW commercial tours since 2010 have led `directly' to `significant growth' in Dilari's business of leading equestrian expeditions, increasing from "17,000 in 2009 to "91,000 in 2013.[5.4] International equestrian agencies - eg Equitours (USA), In The Saddle (UK), Pferd und Reiter (Germany) - are sending riders from as far away as Brazil, testifying to international reach. The EÇW has now been ridden by over 70 riders from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa, Belgium, France, and Turkey. Commercial benefits to local communities cannot yet be measured, but Bursa and Kütahya have supported further development of the EÇW.[5.3, 5.4]

With Finkel and Kate Clow, founder of the Lycian Way, Landry co-authored the guidebook to the route, The Evliya Çelebi Way: Turkey's First Long-Distance Walking and Riding Route (Istanbul: Upcountry [Turkey] Ltd, 2011), pp. 160; ISBN 0-9539218-9-1. Offering detailed itineraries for walkers, cyclists, and equestrians, and historical descriptions of sites noticed by Evliya, the book was favourably reviewed in the TLS (01/03/2013).[5.5] Sales figures have not yet been tallied but are growing. The 2011 Turkish translation was sponsored by the Mayor of Bursa; 1900 copies of its first print run of 2200 have been sold or otherwise distributed.[5.4]

Promoting awareness of Ottoman and equestrian history internationally

During the period 2008-2013, the reach of Landry's research impact has expanded from primarily Turkey-based invitations. Radio broadcasts on BBC Radio 4, `A Blunt Instrument' (11/03/2008), and Açık Radyo in Istanbul (07/08/2008) were followed in 2012 by invitations to give an online interview to New Books in South Asian Studies (Mumbai) (09/06/2012), to lecture at the British Museum's exhibition `The Horse: From Arabia to Royal Ascot' (26/05/2012) to an audience of 100+ and discuss the exhibition on BBC Radio 3, Night Waves (24/05/2012). The 2009 Ride attracted widespread media coverage [5.5] and led directly to `How the Ottomans shaped and were influenced by Europe' (City Circle, London, 10/05/2010), attracting 100+; `From Yalova to Mecca with Evliya Çelebi', a public lecture sponsored by the Istanbul Municipality (Istanbul, 26/03/2011) that attracted 250+, and a lecture for the Association of Turkish Women in Britain at the residence of the Turkish ambassador, London (01/05/2012), which attracted 90+.[5.6] Landry's impact is also evidenced by pre-July 2013 invitations to write for popular magazines (Cornucopia, 2010; Turkish Review and Derin Tarih, 2013) and a Turkish TV documentary.

Collaborating with cultural providers

The Ride led to Landry, Finkel, and MacLean being appointed consultants to the London-based NGO Maslaha on the British Council and Young Foundation sponsored exhibition, `Evliya Çelebi: The Book of Travels' which has had extensive international reach. The exhibition opened in Bethnal Green in May 2010, attracting over 500 visitors a day, including classes from local schools. It has since opened in Turkey (Kütahya, March 2011) to an audience of 900, in Athens at the world-famous Benaki Museum (April-July, 2011), and Thessaloniki (January 2012). The online exhibition has been visited by 20,144 people in 122 countries including the UK, the US, Canada, Greece, Bulgaria, Australia, Malaysia, Sweden, Germany, France, Turkey, and Oman.[5.7]

The Ride's significance can also be measured in its inspiring of the 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: `Hearing that a group of enthusiastic scholars were planning to ride horses across Turkey by way of recreating the journey of a 17th-century Ottoman travel writer, my immediate thoughts were "Who is Evliya? How can I publish him?"' Priced at £25, the initial hardback print run of 2000 sold out in 2011; a paperback reprint of 3000 priced at £16.99 looks set to sell out next year. Sales have been international, with the bulk pretty evenly divided between the UK and the USA.[5.8]

The impacts of Landry's research have been international in reach and concretely measurable in their significance for policy, economic benefit, and cultural enrichment. The creation of the EÇW demonstrates how innovative research can be co-produced with people who will also benefit economically and culturally from its outcomes. The project as a whole exemplifies how the delivery of impact can be made intrinsic to producing research of the highest excellence.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Corroborating policy impact (UNESCO): Dr Mehmet Kalpaklı, Bilkent University, Ankara, and Executive Board Member, Turkish National Commission of UNESCO. Letter 30/06/2013; UNESCO website see `anniversaries'. RSS Source 1.
  2. Corroborating policy impact (Ministry of Culture): Turkish government formally adopts EÇW as sustainable cultural route: See page 6. News of developments on the route can be found at
  3. Corroborating impact through development of tourism: Regional Statistics for Kütahya 2008, 2010, 2011 can be found at the Turkish Statistical Institute website:

Sadık Arslan, Office of the Turkish President, can confirm Bursa and Kütahya municipalities' endorsement of the project's impact and continued support. RSS Source 2.

  1. Corroborating economic impact on tourist business and Bursa mayor's sales figures for Turkish translation of guidebook: Ercihan Dilari, owner of the Akhal-Teke Horse Center. Letter 31/07/2013; website: RSS Source 3.
  2. Corroborating public awareness impact (media): 40+ online media reports of the Ride and events available on the project website's media page:
  3. Corroborating public awareness impact (lectures): `How the Ottomans shaped and were influenced by Europe', City Circle (London, 10/05/2010), and `From Yalova to Mecca with Evliya Çelebi' (Istanbul, 26/03/2011),
  4. Corroborating impact through collaboration (exhibition): Raheel Mohammad, co-ordinator of `The Book of Travels' for the London based NGO Maslaha. Letter 30/07/2013; website: RSS Source 4.
  5. Corroborating impact through collaboration (book): Barnaby Rogerson, Eland Publications. Letter 30/07/2013; website: RSS Source 5.