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For Devout Turks, 'Alternative' Tourist Resorts
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For Devout Turks, 'Alternative' Tourist Resorts

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For Devout Turks, 'Alternative' Tourist Resorts

For Devout Turks, 'Alternative' Tourist Resorts
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A woman modeling a burqini i

A lifeguard in Australia wears a burqini. The swimsuit is in compliance with the teachings of Islam. Matt King/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Matt King/Getty Images
A woman modeling a burqini

A lifeguard in Australia wears a burqini. The swimsuit is in compliance with the teachings of Islam.

Matt King/Getty Images

On a scorching summer afternoon at the Tulip Hotel, Turkish pop music is blaring, and guests are playing water polo in the pool overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea.

The only people in the pool, however, are men and boys. At this hotel, women have their own swimming pool in a separate area, surrounded by high walls and far away from the prying eyes of men.

Ahmet Altinuglu, a hotel guest, says that the segregated pools are an essential prerequisite for most of the guests here. His wife wears sunglasses and a burqini — a plastic, full-body swimsuit with a hood that covers everything but her face, feet and hands.

"Our religion prohibits other men from seeing certain parts of women's bodies," Mrs. Altinuglu says. "At a separate women's pool, I can relax and wear a normal bathing suit."

'An Important New Economic Group'

The Tulip Hotel is what Turks call an "alternative" tourist resort. The hotel's marketing director, Mustafa Kemal Canfedai, says the hotel recently converted to this format to cater to the country's increasingly prosperous class of observant Muslims.

"We saw demand for this kind of hotel because religiously conservative people are an important new economic group in Turkey. That's why we decided to open this business," Canfedai says.

Turkey is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, but public displays of religiosity have long been frowned upon because the government and traditional ruling elite are strictly secular.

As a result, there were no resorts designed for observant Muslims until the late 1990s. Today, there are nearly 30 resorts like the Tulip Hotel.

At the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at the Tulip, a sign reminds guests not to waste food because gluttony is evil.

Faithful and Politically Active

Families sit and eat together here much like anywhere else, except many of the women wear Islamic headscarves, and there is no alcohol available at the bar.

The scene at the Tulip is dramatically different from the public beach in the nearby town of Alanya, where hordes of European and secular Turkish tourists party in bars and sunbathe topless in the sand.

Many of the hotel's guests are proud supporters of moderate Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan and his AK party.

Tulip Hotel managers say most of their guests ended their vacations early this week, so that they could go home to vote in the country's parliamentary elections Sunday.

Nigar Goksel, editor of Turkish Policy Quarterly, says four and a half years of AK party rule have emboldened the country's rising class of religious Turks.

"So you see a new group of people who haven't cut their ties with the values that they were brought up with and the traditions that their parents had, yet have become empowered in terms of education and economy and with AKP [Erdogan's AK Party] also in terms of politics. They do not feel they need to compromise these [values] in order to be accepted into mainstream society," Goksel says.

Hotel managers predict, however, that business will soon slow down. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan falls in the summer next year, and many consider it un-Islamic to swim during the month of fasting — even in segregated pools.

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