Kutay Family Turkish Heritage



By Kurt Kutay, Wildland Founder and Director

The Kutay Family circa 1935: Kurt's grandmother, Babanne, (sister of Belkis Hala) on lower left. Kurt's dad, Tevfik Kamil Kutay, in middle back.Turkey is part of my family heritage. My father was born in Istanbul into the generation of "Young Turks" just after the new Republic was established in 1920. When I was a teenager, my family made several trips to Turkey to see my grandmother, aunts and uncles, and many cousins living in Istanbul. We stayed with my Turkish relatives in their Istanbul apartment and I soon learned how easy it is to communicate with others of another culture even when you don't speak the same language, especially how to communicate love. I came to understand during these visits that our time together was going to be very short in this life. We were all very focused on the joy of being together and getting to know each other as much as possible. On one such visit in 1968, we had a very memorable lunch and family reunion at the house where my father was born below.

The Abud Efendi Yali on the Bosphorus in Istanbul where Kurt's Dad was bornThese homes, known as "yalis," were built during the Ottoman era along the waterfront on the Bosphorus. Dad was a descendant of the Abud family, who purchased the home in the early 1900's. During the summers when he was a teen, he and his cousin used to jump in the Bosphorus from this house and swim out among the ships plying the waters between the Black Sea and the Aegean.

I'll never forget that family reunion, partly because we ate whole fried anchovies - heads, eyes, fins, everything! Not something a 16 year old from Los Angeles, Turkish or not, soon forgets! Recently, I was doing some research when I came across an article on Ottoman yalis which featured my father's birthplace:

The Abud Efendi yali was bought by Abud Efendi in the beginning of 1900's. Garabet, who was the architect of this yali was from the Armenian Balyan family. They built many of the palaces and important buildings in Istanbul. Abud Efendi's daughter Belkis, who had been a prominent figure on the Istanbul social scene in 1920's, had a fabulous wedding ceremony in this mansion.

The Abud daughter Belkis mentioned was the same Belkis Hala (my great aunt) with whom we had lunch together that day in 1968 and at dinner in the Istanbul apartment below. At the family table that day were represented three generations of Kutay women: my grandmother Babanne with her sister Belkis Hala, my mother Kay Kutay, and my sister Jale Kutay.

From left to right around the dinner table in Istanbul: Tevfik Kutay, cousin Maria, Uncle Mustafa, Aunt Ferasat, Great Aunt Bekis Halla, Aunt Jale, Uncle Jemal, me, my sister Jale Kutay, Cousin Edis, and foreground: Grandmother Babanne.

While the Abud Efendi yali is no longer in the family, we do view it from the Bosphorus on all our Wildland Adventures in Turkey and we are planning a visit for our Wild Anniversary Adventure: Turquoise Coast Odyssey in September.