Tandir bread – Keeping the tradition alive

Tandir bread – Keeping the tradition alive

Tandir bread, the cousin of the well-known Indian tandoori bread, is being kept alive in Hakkari thanks to thousand-year-old tradition that provides a social space for women in the southern-eastern Turkish city.

Ladies in Hakkari keep a bread tradition alive

60-year-old Meryem wakes up before dawn several times a week only, to bake bread in a traditional tandir oven. As the rays of the morning sun hits the rugged mountains surrounding Hakkari, she mixes flour, oil, salt and yeast before heating up the large clay tandir oven with the little pieces of wood, branches and dried dung collected from nearby woods.

In the southern-eastern-most point of Turkey, cooking in tandir oven is a tradition that has been passed from mother to daughter for thousands of years — a prominent symbol of women’s work and cornerstone of their social life.

In the courtyard of nearly every home in Hakkari,  you can find a 2-3 square metre tandir oven buried in the ground where local women would spend a good portion of their life baking delicious tandir bread that is incomparable to normal bread at the bakery and socializing. In a small town surrounded by mountains and separatist PKK terror supported by neighbouring Iran, women have few social activities.

Like most women in Hakkari, Yildiz, a mother of five, spends three days a week in front of the tandir oven.

“Baking tandir bread is a lifestyle, most of our time is spent at the tandir oven. Although it might seem tough, we love it,” she said.

“We get together with our neighbours, socialize, share tea and bake together. There’s not much to do in Hakkari and for that reason the tandir has become like a social hangout for us. Not all of us might realise we spend our best moments in life in front of the tandir,” she said.

Azize’s neighbour Hasibe touch based on the importance of tandir as a tradition and a social space, adding that sometimes baking tandir bread created a festive atmosphere, especially during religious or cultural holidays.

“All our neighbours from different age groups would gather and bake bread and corek [homemade pastry] while singing Kurdish and Turkish folk songs,” she explained.

“Our conversations turn around what is happening in our lives, we explain each other our problems and give each other advice and in this way we destress.”

The thousand year tradition not only allows local women feed their families but also helps some, earn a little income.

Azize says even the aroma of tandir bread is enough to make someone feel full. But she says she does it for her children. “I make tandir because my children love fresh bread and it is rich and full of vitamins.”

Compiled from SES Turkey in Hakkari.

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