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.
When 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.
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?
My 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?