DATCA, Turkey – Turkey’s Datca peninsula is no stranger to nudity.
Back in the 4th century, the formerly Greek city of Knidos — in Turkey's southwest — bought the first life-size female nude from the sculptor Praxiteles. The more prudish citizens of the city Kos had rejected the piece owing to Aphrodite’s state of undress.
With Turkey’s first nudist hotel opening soon, this region, where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean, is set to host enough sparsely clad visitors to make a goddess blush.
The Golmar Adaburnu Hotel is the brainchild of Ahmed Kosar, a 15-year veteran of the Turkish tourism industry.
“It’s a niche market, there is no other hotel like it,” said Kosar of the 64-room resort. Turkey, a top-10 destination for travelers, attracted more than 30 million foreign tourists in 2008. The industry reports annual revenues over $20 billion.
Guests of the Golmar Adaburnu will have the opportunity to bare all around the pool, or to take a shuttle bus to a private beach.
Datca was chosen as the location in part because of it’s relative isolation. A three-hour drive from the nearest airport has spared the peninsula from much of the overdevelopment and gaudy beachfront tourism infrastructure that plagues much of the region.
The local population has, after being assured that the naked guests would be kept to the resort and private beach, been largely supportive of the hotel.
“Some people were afraid at first, thinking that people would come and make orgies or something,” Kosar said. “But now they understand that naturalist hotels have nothing to do with that.”
Already the hotel seems to have attracted more than its share of problems. Just six days after its initial opening the resort was forced to close after a local authority found that one of the balconies did not confirm to the architect’s drawings. The first dozen guests were taken — clothed — to alternative accommodation.
With the balcony fixed and the building plans approved, a second opening was planned for another weekend. That is, until the Environmental Ministry informed Kosar that the hotel needed a garden before it could open.
“It is like a game ... they keep on finding new mistakes, and once we have finished our garden project they will just look for another one,” lamented Kosar, who explained that many hotels in the region lack the multitude of licenses officially required but are still allowed to operate.
Despite the hurdles, Kosar is adamant that the hotel will open — with or without government support.
“If the government is fighting with me I will fight back,” said Kosar decisively. “I will open a second or third hotel, and make it a naked hotel too.”
“Maybe even a gay hotel,” he added.
He doesn’t appear to be bluffing.
He will begin working on a second naturalist hotel in Marmaris this week that he claims he can already fill with an overflow of reservations. He plans to open the project, called Panorama Park, by the end of the season.
When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the republic in 1923, he imposed a vigorous doctrine of secularism. While the country is 99 percent Muslim, how one's faith is understood and practiced has largely been a personal, rather than a public, matter. With the rise this decade of Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), whose roots in political Islam are well-known, tensions between the two camps have been on the rise.
The AKP’s supporters argue that the threat to secularism is exaggerated, pointing to their party’s pro-EU stance, democratic reforms and economic successes. Their opponents, meanwhile, frequently accuse the party of being held back by its Islamic past and quietly implementing a conservative agenda.
“‘A good Muslim does not do …’ seems to be the direction of the AKP government's acts that [are] also the driving force of social change in Turkey,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in a recent op-ed published in the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
For Kosar, it is simply an issue of mutual acceptance.
“Naked is not our culture, but it’s the tolerance of other people that is the point,” Kosar said. “If I must respect a religious hotel, they must respect a nudist one.”
When asked why he chose Turkey as the first country in the region to be home to a nudist hotel Kosar answered with a cheeky “Why not?” again harking back to the lovely Aphrodite of Knidos.
While the statue no longer exists, the beguiling figure of Aphrodite of Knidos once stood naked, a towel held loosely in her left hand. As legend goes, the goddess was incensed when she saw the statue displayed in Knidos for the first time, angry that Praxiteles had seen her naked.
The statue was one of the most widely copied figures of the ancient world and replicas reside everywhere from the Vatican Museum to the Musee du Louvre in Paris. Her most recent devotee was Salvador Dali, whose 1981 painting by the same title was one of the last works he ever created.
“Now history is moving full circle,” said Kosar. “After 1,700 years, Datca is known for a nude hotel.”