The tradition of Kolonya

Kolonya is found in every house in Turkey, probably one of the widest selling household goods on the market. I know its a strange topic to discuss, but it is so significantly part of the culture that it can’t go unmentioned.


Kolonya comes from the world cologne to mean fresh scented water. Usually it is scented with rosewater giving it a very sweet flowery smell that fills the whole room.The turkish use this water in the same way as cologne was traditionally made to be used, until it was later developed into something used merely for cosmetic reasons.

It was originally used for medicinal purposes, and is still used for this in Turkey today. Drops of cologne are used for its antiseptic properties, and for massage as relief for muscle and joint pains.

It is also used for scrubbing the skin. Much like the hamam experience where they scrub skin ferociously to remove the dry and dead skin cells, in homes the cleaning of the body is treated the same way. Very harsh stones, scrubbing cloths are used to rid of the skin. After showering my auntie would scrub the areas of her face where our hair usually lies that makes the skin extra oily or dirty. Backs of ears and neck are scrubbed with Kolonya which very effectively cleans what a general shower might not do effectively.

Most significantly, Turkish people use it on the hands of guests after an exchange of pleasantries. This is very important etiquette in turkish social life and not doing this is a sign of rudeness.

You are likely to be offered cologne not only in homes, but on buses, whose passengers are looked upon as guests. When visiting someone who is ill or buying souvenirs for friends during a visit to another part of the country, a bottle of cologne is one of the most acceptable gifts. Cologne is probably produced in more variety in Turkey than in its homeland. 

Almost every part of the country has its own distinctive variety.Izmir is renowned for its Golden Drop, Secret Flower and Izmir Nights colognes, Antalya for its bitter orange flower cologne, Rize for its tea cologne, Duzce for walnut leaf and tobacco leaf colognes, Trabzon for hazelnut and anchovy cologne, Amasya for apple cologne, Isparta for rose cologne, Edremit and Ayvalyk for olive blossom cologne, Syndyrgy for pine cologne, Balykesir for white lily cologne, and so on.

Whether the common lemon and rose cologne or these more exotically scented varieties, cologne has played a part in the polite formalities of Turkish social life, refreshing guests, travellers and the sick, for more than a century.


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