My only souvenir is an evil eye from Turkey

Even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I have a wicked cool evil eye souvenir from Turkey.

And after nearly five years of fairly consistent travel it remains my only proper souvenir.

Nazar in a shop in TurkeyWhen you’re a backpacker you tend to avoid picking up any unnecessary luggage – for obvious reasons. Instead of filling my backpack with souvenirs, I prefer to fill my computer with virtual souvenirs: photographs.

The ultimate souvenir because they don’t take up any space – well, no physical space anyway – photos are brilliant because, with the advent of cloud computing, travellers don’t even have to store them on their computers any more.

Not like fridge magnets, soft toys, postcards, shot glasses and all manner of other things I’ve heard of people collecting on their travels. You won’t find me collecting these things – my backpack is heavy enough, thank you very much.

Having said that, when I was in Turkey I just had to get a nazar boncugu.

Nazar beads hang from a tree in TurkeyThese eye-shaped amulets are thought to protect against the ‘evil eye’, which is a look my girlfriend gives me sometimes when I leave the toilet seat up.

According to Wikipedia, a typical nazar is made of handmade glass featuring concentric circles or teardrop shapes in dark blue, light blue, white and black. They’re believed to be able to protect against jealous, envious and nasty people in general who can project bad luck or injury through a dirty look.

The word “nazar” is derived from Arabic and the belief supposedly stems back to Ancient Anatolia (basically the westernmost extent of Asia). Unsurprisingly, then, these blue beads are most commonly found in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Armenia, Iran, Afghanistan, Greece, Cyprus and, of course, Turkey.

They’re all over Turkey – in shops and markets, hanging from doorways and in cars. Babies wear the blue evil eye knitted in to their clothing and people wear the protective trinkets around their neck or wrists as jewellery.

If a nazar breaks, it simply means that the amulet has scared off an evil spirit and you should purchase another one. How’s that for a brilliant sales model?

I take my evil eye on the road - in this case BaliMy evil eye-protector is a little one because, although I do value protection from evil spirits, I also don’t want to spend a lot of money. I thought one Turkish lira (£0.35) was a fair price to pay for peace of mind and spiritual protection.

I still won’t leave the toilet seat up, though.

They’re pretty cool, aren’t they? What souvenirs have you picked up on your travels?


About Simon Petersen 504 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.


  1. I take lots of photos and make friends, which is a much of a souvenir as I need! Having said that I did pick up a gold necklace from Reykjavik recently, with a small charm in the shape of Iceland. It’s my favorite country by far so I like having a little reminder around my neck is nice 🙂

  2. An interesting post. We are off to Turkey soon so found it interesting. I try to collect something small, either made in that place or something that reminds me of the place – upshots and markets are great for souvenir hunting. Love costumes also – just for a bit of fun.
    The best part of travel is making new friends and learning about the different cultures. We too take many photos.
    Keep up your great blog.

    • Thanks, Gaylene! Haha, I can imagine you do a bit of a fashion show for your friends when you get back, showing off all your souvenir costumes!

  3. I’m not crazy about souvenirs but I do pick up stuff which eventually gets broken or lost. Off late I try and pick up local wines which serve as nice temporary souvenirs and work well as conversation starters when we have people over. From my trip to Turkey besides the evil eye my friend and I pooled in and got a tea glasses set. Trying to be smart with the bargaining at one shop, we quoted a really low price and then were chased by a shouting woman who kept saying ” are you mad, why not take it for free”.

    • I’m the same. I keep mine in my backpack and hardly ever look at it – but it’s nice to know it’s there just in case!

  4. I started the trend in my family that we try and buy a tacky, ugly, sticky-outy fridge magnet for our Mum at every place we go too – she thought it was lovely when it first started, but once my sisters and I travelled more and more, she now had a ridiculously full double fridge surface with some of the hideous things you can imagine!

    • Haha, love it! If I had more space in my backpack I’d probably collect the tackiest souvenirs I could find!

  5. I mostly collect friends on my trips, not so much to bring home, not legal anyway.
    But I usually try to find an elephant for my moms elephants statue collection.
    For myself I usually bring back some good/strange/funny stories

  6. Same thing, don’t tend to buy much souvenirs when traveling, they just weigh too much and well, don’t want the extra stuff. During whole last year of traveling I bought pendant from Easter Island (which I do wear) and a nice set of Buddhist prayer beads from Hong Kong…

  7. I love these too. I was just in Istanbul and had to get a key chain with the evil eye on it. As for souvenirs I am a magnet collector. I can’t help it. I love love love taking photos and know they are the best souvenirs, but I want to have something physical to have from all these amazing places I visit. I know I can’t buy one from every place I visit, but buy a few here and there. The good thing is magnets are small and take up just about no space. I can’t wait to see my collection at the end of the trip.

    • Haha, I’m glad it’s not just me who finds these things to be extremely cool! I had a mate once who collected magnets – their fridge, and yours, must look really sweet!

  8. I love this post. I collect something to bring back home too. Usually, souvenir plates, just the small ones though hehe.

    This looks awesome hehehe.

    • Sounds wicked! At the end of my travels I may be disappointed to only have one thing but it’s either collect a bunch of stuff or pack less clothes!

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