Wishes and Stuff

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck
“Hello Mustafa, my friend,” Pete answered into the phone pressed against his ear, as Kirsten and I sat across the aisle from him on a local bus. The bus had only two other patrons and was yet to move, the driver repeatedly called out our destination “Edremit, Edremit, Edremmmmmit,” to any person who happened to wander in the vicinity.

“We are on our way to Edremit and then Akçay, to watch the sunset,” Pete explained. Staring forward, he nodded and spoke the appropriate ums and huhs until he finally motioned for us to get off the bus. He pressed the phone against his chest and engaged us in a quick conference.

“Mustafa said there is some sort of celebration going on right now, down by the river. People are making wishes and stuff. Wanna go? He said he’ll come and pick us up in five minutes.”

The sun sets everyday, but it’s not often that you can see large groups of people making “wishes and stuff“. We quickly agreed to the diversion in our plans and Mustafa arrived to retrieve us within minutes.

The large, vacant river valley that we had passed by so frequently was now blanketed with hundreds of people. Whole families huddled on the rivers banks, seats on the wild prickly grass were made with single sheets of newspaper. Most sat in quiet conversation or eating sunflower seeds, everyone faced the gentle river glistening in the evening sun.

The sun sets every day, but it’s not often that you can see large groups of people making “wishes and stuff.”



The Hıdırellez, a folkloric tradition held annually in the first week of May, is a commemoration of the day two important prophets met in Islamic belief. It is believed that any wishes made that day will be granted within the span of a year. Many towns see people flocking to river banks, throwing small pieces of paper with wishes inscribed upon them into the rushing water, or etching images in the sand with sticks or by arranging rocks.

Young boys seemed to enjoy this outing most of all. Not concerned with the desire for houses or cars, they instead threw stone after stone into the river. Some sat snacking on the cotton candy that was made readily available for the event.

Older girls sat with handfuls of wild daisies, carefully braiding them into decorative wreaths.


On our way out, I inadvertently stepped right in the middle of a designed wish, noticing too late that I had displaced stones that had been arranged into a large rectangle with smaller dividing stones throughout. “A house,” Mustafa guessed as he came over to inspect, “a house with three bedrooms.”

I had destroyed one of the walls. Having just previously proclaimed that I didn’t need to make a wish (that I already had everything I could possibly want), I made an exception at that point. I dearly hoped that I hadn’t ruined the dreams of another.



37 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • May 25 2012

    Never heard of or seen this tradition but I love this post – You have truly captured the locals in your photos. I think this post might become my favourite.
    Natalie recently posted..The Colourful Greek Island of Meis

    • May 26 2012

      Thanks so much Natalie. We consider ourselves very lucky to have a friend like Mustafa to show us these kinds of intimate traditions!

  • I love the girl with daisies in her hair!

    • May 26 2012

      Thanks Andi – I love that photo too. 🙂

  • Chrystal McKay
    May 25 2012

    Wow, these photos are so beautiful. The people all look so contemplative staring off at the river. I’ve never heard of this tradition before, but it seems like something I wish I had known about 3 weeks ago (As I am also in an Islamic country -Morocco – currently). I’m glad all YOUR wishes have come true for you!

    • May 26 2012

      Aw, thanks Chrystal. It was a pretty cool experience for us, I wish you had seen it too!

  • May 25 2012

    Love this post! The local festivals and traditions are some of my favorite parts of travel, especially when you just randomly come across them!
    Jennifer Dombrowski recently posted..Opening Soon! Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa

    • May 26 2012

      Those are the BEST occurrences, when you expect nothing at all!

  • What a neat tradition. However… I do wonder what people think when/if their wish doesn’t come true that year. Do you know if this is more along the lines of fanciful hope (like wishing on a star) or religious belief (like praying)?

    • May 26 2012

      As far as I understand, it isn’t a religious belief so much as a bit of a superstition. Mustafa explained to us that on this day their wishes will be “considered”, but other things I’ve read say that they “should” come true. 🙂

  • May 26 2012

    How interesting! I’ve never heard of this tradition, either, but it sounds lovely. And, as always, the photos are beautiful!
    Amanda recently posted..Introducing My Summer Travel Partners

    • May 26 2012

      It was an interesting thing to bear witness too, for sure. We were so glad to have a friend show us the way around!

  • What a great tradition, and I’m sure an experience you will never forget.

  • May 26 2012

    You’ve got that right! 🙂

  • One of those great little unexpected treasures of travel! Awww, that cute little girl in the last photo!
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..SPAIN WEEK: Living With the Fishermen

    • May 28 2012

      It’s these kinds of experiences that makes the tired days of travel all worth it! 🙂

  • May 26 2012

    I think you must’ve thrown a piece of paper into the river last year asking for some fantastic photos of a special and local ritual…

    • May 28 2012

      Our time in Turkey was very blessed indeed…

  • May 26 2012

    Wishes and stuff! Great way to accompany a sunset 🙂 Also, great photo of the girl with daisies in her hair. Love what you’ve done there 🙂
    Laurence recently posted..Celebrating two years of blogging! (and some things I’ve learnt on the way)

  • Wonderful storytelling & photos here, guys! As for stepping on the wish house, maybe you helped them get an extension for an even bigger house? That’s my take on it, anyway. 😉

    • May 28 2012

      I like the way you think Bret…always a positive side, right? 🙂

    • Jacquie Pohorelic
      May 28 2012

      Perhaps you got them an extra bedroom for an extra person?

  • May 27 2012

    What a great rearrangement of your plans 🙂 Beautiful post, in both prose and photos!
    Phil recently posted..Kedjenou: an Ivorian dish that we serve at our restaurant

  • May 27 2012

    What a beautiful tradition. How lovely to come across something like this!

    The photos really capture the moment perfectly.

  • May 28 2012

    You guys are really getting the local experience in Turkey, what a great story.

    • May 29 2012

      We were so lucky in Turkey to have a great friend to show us these things. 🙂

  • Jacquie Pohorelic
    May 28 2012

    Tears in my eyes. This is so beautiful. Every photo, every word. Thank you.

  • Ali
    May 29 2012

    Sounds like a great experience! I’m not sure how anywhere else will ever live up to what you’ve experienced in Turkey. Love the photos too!

    • May 30 2012

      Ali, that is my worry too. Turkey may have spoiled the rest of the world for us! 🙂

  • May 30 2012

    I’m in love with this photo essay. The colors caught in the warm sun are phenomenal.
    Erica recently posted..Tattoos: Permanent Reminders of our Latin American Adventure

    • June 1 2012

      Thanks Erica! I agree, Pete did some good work on this one. 🙂

  • It sounds like a beautiful tradition to make wishes at sunset. Good thing you’re friends with Mustafa 🙂

    • June 1 2012

      Our time in Turkey would not have been the same without Mustafa, we are grateful to him for so much!

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