Introducing: The Evliya Çelebi Way Project

We are very excited to announce that we are featuring a new project on Geokult Travel – the Evliya Çelebi Way Project.

In 2011, we met one of the project team, Gerald MacLean (Mac) in Avanos, when we went trail riding. At the time we had a great conversation about many things, and he told us about some research he was undertaking that involved horse riding across Turkey and retracing the hoof prints of Evliya Çelebi, a seventeenth-century Ottoman travel writer. At the time we found this project fascinating and kept in touch with Mac, hoping that we would meet up again in Turkey and learn more about this project.

Project overview: The Evliya Çelebi Way Project
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

In October 2013, the Evliya Çelebi Way was formally designated a UNESCO European Cultural Route at ceremonies held in Babasultan, Bursa.

Evliya Çelebi Way UNESCO Map

Evliya Çelebi Way UNESCO Map

Named after Evliya Çelebi (‘ev-lee-ah chel-ebee’) the great seventeenth-century Ottoman traveller who described travelling this way in 1671, the Evliya Çelebi Way is Turkey’s first long-distance walking and riding route and runs south from Istanbul to Evliya’s ancestral home town, Kütahya, then west to Uşak and Simav. It was explored and established in 2009 by a team of equestrian enthusiasts and Ottoman scholars who followed, on horseback, in Evliya’s hoof prints for forty days and nights. Check out this video from the 2013 ride.

Over the coming months, we will be sharing with you more information about the Evliya Çelebi Way Project. Stay tuned!

The Evliya Çelebi Way Project Team
Ercihan Dilari has lived with horses all his life and has established the finest riding stables in Cappadocia where he brings on young horses by instinctive and modern methods at his ranch by the Kizilirmak (Halys) River. Under his care, Ercihan’s horses, mostly Arab crosses, become not only suitable for commercial trekking, but also successfully compete in races held to International Endurance standards. In addition to bringing modern shoeing methods and introducing equestrian dentistry into his own practice, Ercihan regularly consults with, and helps train, academic and commercial equestrian veterinary specialists throughout Turkey. After consulting plans and maps developed by Caroline and Donna, Ercihan and his champion Akhal-teke mare, Anadolu, led the 2009 expedition.

Caroline Finkel is a British writer who has been based in Istanbul since completing her doctoral thesis on the Ottoman army at the University of London. Caroline is the author of the standard narrative history of the Ottoman Empire in English, Osman’s Dream (2005), which has been translated into numerous foreign languages. A Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and Honorary Fellow of Edinburgh University, Caroline lectures extensively in the UK and Turkey, is a regular contributor to learned journals and magazines. She most recently appeared in the first episode of the BBC documentary ‘The Ottoman Empire: Europe’s Muslim Empire’ (2013). In preparation for the 2009 expedition, Caroline mapped Evliya’s route and, with Donna, visited key areas in advance to scout out riding conditions, especially where modern roads cross Evliya’s route. Caroline wrote most of the copy for the guidebook with the editor/publisher Kate Clow, and set up the website that accompanies the guidebook ( After forty years with her feet firmly on the ground, Caroline rode without mishap on the exploratory expedition for the Evliya Çelebi Way in 2009, demonstrating that the route is for everyone. And she has ridden it again since then, several times.

Donna Landry recently published Noble Brutes: How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture (2009) and is currently writing about the equestrian travels of Evliya Çelebi and Lady Anne Blunt. Currently Professor of English at the University of Kent (UK), where she directs the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Donna has been horse-obsessed since childhood and successfully competed during her teenage years riding her Polish-Crabbet bred ‘Rifdi’ at shows throughout the southern Midwest. Since then, she has travelled extensively throughout Turkey and the Middle East, sometimes lecturing on Ottoman horse culture, and sometimes simply mounting up and taking to the road to ride without end in view. Donna wrote the horsey-bits of the guidebook.

Gerald MacLean recently published Abdullah Gül and the Making of the New Turkey (2014), a history of Turkey since 1950 through the life and career of the 11th President, but is primarily a cultural historian of Britain during the long seventeenth century. His studies of British views of the Ottomans – The Rise of Oriental Travel (2004) and Looking East (2006) – have been translated into Turkish. After reading English at Jesus College, Cambridge under the direction of Raymond Williams, ‘Mac’ trained to become a British Horse Society Assistant Instructor at Wellington Country Park in Hampshire, but left before taking the exams and pursued an academic career that enabled him to travel. During the 1990s, with Donna, he regularly conducted horseback rides across Dartmoor for the legendary ‘Skaigh Stables’ of Belstone, Devon.

Susan Wirth is German-born, grew up in southern Africa, but currently lives in the USA where she is US photo editor for Der Spiegel. Susan is an enthusiastic long-distance horseback rider who has covered many miles on the hoof in far-flung places, from Ethiopia and the Thar Desert of Rajasthan to Mongolia, who first rode with Ercihan for a Cappadocia photo-shoot that appeared in Cornucopia Magazine, and has returned since. Riding through northwest Anatolia has been one of her most satisfying and exhilarating experiences, mostly because of the wonderful people encountered along the way. With Ercihan, she has been busily planning a 2014 expeditionary ride, the Central Anatolian Trek, that will set out from Avanos and join up with the Evliya Çelebi Way, having passed south of Hasan Dağ to Konya, and then north-west through Akşehir and Afyon to Kütahya.

The 2009 Expedition Team
In 2009, the project team were joined on the expeditionary ride by Patricia Daunt, Andy Byfield, Turkish Jockey Club vet Ayşe Yetiş, Cappadocian entrepreneurs Özcan Görürgöz and Alper Katrancı, trekkist and academic Pınar Durmaz, and Montreal advertising executive Thérèse Tardif. The expedition was accompanied for part of the journey by Mehmet Çam and other members of the Istanbul production company Ajans21, who shot footage for a potential documentary about Evliya and the expedition.