Yasar Baba Restaurant, Urgup Turkey
Are you looking for a great evening where you can view traditional Turkish dancing accompanied by authentic local cuisine, set in a lively atmosphere? Then you cannot do better than a visit to Yasar Baba restaurant in Urgup.
As soon as we arrived in the parking lot, a group of three musicians emerged–seemingly from out of nowhere–to greet us, happily playing traditional Turkish instruments. We were then led to the restaurant door where we began a long descent, down a wide ramp to enter a large ballroom-like area in what seemed to be a huge, underground cave. It was very cool there, just like you’d expect from an enormous cavern, and we were glad we brought along our jackets to this dark, subterranean Turkish grotto. Squinting in the darkness, I noticed on the perimeter of the large dance floor were rooms with long tables set with plates and table furnishings. We were shown our seats in one of the large rooms as other diners also entered and filled more of the hollowed cavities. Appetizers were brought in short order followed by periodic visits from waiters who brought beverages and course after course of authentic Turkish food. There was no menu to consult and the waiters seemed short on the formalities of explaining the different dishes set before us. Nevertheless, each item—from relishes to vegetables, to prepared foods, both cold and hot—was savory and enjoyable. The food was ample, artfully presented and thoroughly satisfying.
We knew the main event ahead for the evening was to be belly dancing as pictures along the walls outside the ballroom indicated. Sometime after our main course was delivered and we had been given ample time to enjoy the many tasty flavors of Turkish cuisine, the lights were dimmed and the musicians appeared, this time seated on stools. Then, over a loudspeaker, came a pre-recorded introduction alerting us that a sacred dance was about to be performed by the famed Whirling Dervishes. Three men came out to the floor and for the next quarter of an hour performed the spinning dance that is part of the Sufi religion. Throughout their performance there were many instances of repeated bowing to one another in between the hypnotic, gyrating movements of their ritual dance. Once they had finished, a troop of four couples, dressed in traditional costumes, began their series of lively dance steps and athletic moves. The dancers clapped their hands high over their heads, spun each other around, jumped in the air, laughed and twirled and marched in rhythmic fashion, accompanied by the amplified sounds of the instruments of the seated trio of musicians.
Then, for the grand finale, with sultry and deliberate musical fanfare, a large cage slowly descended from somewhere high in the darkened ceiling above, revealing the presence of the bejeweled and sequined belly dancer who artfully performed her studied moves to the accompaniment of the Turkish trio. Then came the moment I had been dreading, as I realized the “audience participation” game was about to begin. I knew, going in to the restaurant that evening, it would be difficult for me to hide my all-American 6-foot, 3-inch frame among the group of dining tourists who seemed to blend more easily into the cave walls than I was able to do. Sure enough, the belly dancer made her way over to me, spotting me like an eagle zeroes in on her prey, and despite my weak objections, grabbed my hand and led me out to the dance floor where I was given the opportunity to publicly embarrass myself as she invited me to mimic her moves. Yes, it was all in good fun, and my teenage son now owns a video performance of his dad dancing with a real-live Turkish belly dancer—something he can use either as leverage or for blackmail at a future time.
For a great evening of fun—without the feeling that you’re stuck in a typical tourist trap—where the food is great, the entertainment is superb, and where happy memories can be made (you may want to make sure your companions leave behind their video cameras!)—be sure to check out the Yasar Baba restaurant in Urgup.