In many ways, Mahir's tiny corner of the worldwide web is pretty much typical of its genre. "WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE!!!!!!!!! I KISS YOU!!!!!" are the words which greet the visitor in large letters. Underneath is a picture of a smiling Mahir wearing a shirt and tie and an ill-fitting, shiny jacket. He sports a moustache, like many of his compatriots, and his most prominent feature is a large, protuberant nose. Below, there are other pictures: Mahir playing table-tennis, still wearing a shirt and tie; Mahir lying on the beach in a pair of skimpy swimming trunks; Mahir grinning and playing the accordion; a moody, bearded Mahir in denim jacket and sunglasses.
Along with the pictures are the bare outlines of his life. "I like music, I have many many musicenstrumans my home I can play," he writes. "I like sport, swiming, basketball, tenis, volayball, walk... I like sex." A lover of travel, he lists the 15 countries he has visited. "My profession jurnalist, music and sport teacher, I make psycolojy doctora," he continues. "I like to take foto-camera (amimals, towns, nice nude models and peoples)."
Mahir says he is 6ft 2in high, weighs 78kg and has green eyes. "I live alone!!!!!!!!!" he adds, although he seems keen to find a mate. "Who is want to come TURKEY I can invitate," he says. "She can stay my home." Helpfully, his phone number and e-mail address follow, just in case a passing surfer should be interested in getting in touch.
And in the middle of last week, Mahir began to discover that a lot of people were very interested indeed in getting in touch with him. Having forgotten all about his home page, he suddenly began receiving phone calls from all over the world. Apart from a few who wanted to criticise his use of English, most of the callers wanted to tell him how much they liked his page and a lot of women wanted to come and visit him. Naturally Mahir was somewhat taken aback, because what he didn't know was that, after the craze of the dancing baby and the craze of the dancing hamsters, his home page had become the latest Internet cult.
Although it is virtually impossible to know exactly where Mahir Mania began, one report suggests that it started when his web address began circulating through the e-mail systems of the World Bank, the IMF and various human-rights organisations towards the end of last month. From there, the phenomenon mushroomed across the globe. On 26 October, the counter at Mahir's site was showing around 11,000 hits. By 29 October, the figure had topped 400,000. By last Friday, it had passed the million mark and Mahir had stopped answering his phone.
Stunned by this sudden interest, Mahir decided to take a look at his page and it was then that he realised something strange had happened. When he typed in the address, he drew a blank. His home page seemed to have disappeared. So the next time someone called, he asked them where they had found his page and was surprised to discover that it had moved, lock, stock and accordion, to another site.
Mahir says he was even more surprised when he finally accessed his page, because it wasn't entirely as he remembered it. Although the photos and most of the writing were his, other bits, he claims, had been added, namely the bits about liking sex and photographing nude models, together with the invitation to women all over the world to stay at his home.
According to Mahir's lengthy account of the affair, which now appears on his home page, with professional help he managed to track down the perpetrator. "He was someone from another city and was also afraid and shocked," he writes. "He called me afterwards, apologised me and told that it was just a joke."
But the joke had already got way out of hand, and the press was beginning to take an interest. The Turkish newspaper Sabah devoted a whole page to Mahir's story, in which he told them he was embarrassed that everyone thinks he is obsessed with sex. However, he slightly contradicted this line when speaking to the Swedish daily, Aftonbladet. "Many people phoning me now," he told them, before adding, "Sweden nice girls there."
Meanwhile, Mahir Mania had spread to all corners of the Internet, with "I kiss you!!!!" rapidly becoming the e-mail greeting of choice. Something about Mahir had appealed to the web community. Some put it down to his appearance and others to his charming naivety, although it was hard to escape the conclusion that cultural snobbery played a major part.
A Mahir fan club was quickly established, with a message board on which devotees of the so-called "Turkish stud" could talk to others who were similarly smitten. The fan club is still growing, and at another site, Mahir T-shirts, mugs and mouse-mats are now available, with a promise that the profits will go to charity. Meanwhile, at Mahir's Fun House, you can play a Mahir version of Pac Man and do a quiz to find out "Are you obsessed with Mahir?" There's even a site where you can listen to a Mahir song, entitled "She Can Stay My Home".
Perhaps not surprisingly, porn sites have been quick to get in on the act. At Mahir's Babes, naked Natasha from Sofia opines that she likes to date ping-pong players. "Table-tennis is not popular in Bulgaria," she says. "If I cannot date a Chinese champion, then I date Mahir. I like a man who knows how to handle his balls." And the Barbie-esque Tiffany from Wichita, Kansas, has similar feelings for accordion players. Pausing as she strips off her briefs, she comments that she likes to imagine Mahir playing a gypsy waltz all over her body: "That makes me so hot!"
Perhaps the ultimate Mahir site features the Mahir Dance, in which Mahir's photographs have been animated to a funky backing track along the model of that previous Internet craze, the Hamster Dance. Indeed, a hamster even makes an appearance, popping up from beneath the ping-pong table, although the site's most notable feature is undoubtedly the bulge in Mahir's swimming trunks, which takes on an alarming life of its own.
Despite having become a worldwide laughing- stock, Mahir remains sanguine. "I came a well-known person in the world, although I didn't want to be," he now writes on his home page. "I became the headlines of many newspapers and TV in different countries. My messages ran over a number of 1 million, and still going on. New web-pages including my photos were running over the internet. There were people hanging my photos on their walls, and sending me messages that they love me... I'm too happy that I made lots of people laugh and for a minute I could take them away from their private problems."
At this point, Mahir takes a philosophical turn as he asks us to consider the starving and under-privileged people of the world. "Please, think for a minute. How old are you? Where are all your past years? Can you return back? Please, look at your family, yourself, your life, your clothes, your beverages and food, and your fun. How much of these did you share with hungry, poor, naked and homeless people?" Perhaps it's no surprise that one website is now organising a petition for Mahir to be nominated as a UN Goodwill Ambassador "in recognition of his efforts to promote world peace and love".
But there are signs that Mahir may have decided to cash in on his fame. At the end of his message, he invites everyone to visit his new site, with new pictures, which he says will be appearing in a few days' time. He has already admitted that advertisers from all over the world have been knocking on his door, and for Mahir-watchers, the big question is whether the temptation will prove too hard to resist and this new site will turn out to be a banner-strewn money-making exercise.
The first sign of a mercenary Mahir came the other day when it was reported that he had demanded $50,000 from CNN in exchange for an interview. And who could blame him? As Mahir himself might put it, something fell on his head and now it's time to win the price. He may well have the last laugh yet.
Mahir can be found at http://members. xoom.com/_XOOM/primall/mahir/index.htmlReuse content