Though its rulers became Muslims, the Ottoman empire was home to Christians, Jews and Buddhists co-existing in peace and prosperity with Muslims from Anatolia to Algeria, centuries before the word multiculturalism was thought of. No other partner offers the West a better bridge to Islam or a more promising exit from the clash of civilisations.
Sitting astride the most strategic crossroads in Asia, the Ottomans, with their ships and caravans, achieved domination of the silk road and taught the West everything it knew about trade before the advent of ocean-going ships. Today, it offers a huge market and unrivalled connections to the resources of the Caspian and the Middle East.
A genius for statecraft took a band of nomads from the barren steppe of central Asia to the gates of Vienna. The pioneers of a disciplined bureaucracy and inventors of a standing army, they awed their enemies and seduced the Christian peasants meant to fight them, who could see a better life under the Ottomans.
Turkey has brought us some of the finest works from calligraphy and metalwork to illuminated manuscripts and glass. Chinese pottery, Persian textiles and Venetian painting all flourished at Turkey's imperial court. It was that openness and synthesis that powered a humanist enlightenment centuries ahead of Europe's.
Known as the "storm on horseback" the heirs to Genghis Khan brought their cavalry sweeping across the plains of Anatolia into the Balkans and beyond. Their enemies only matched them with the advent of sea power and by copying their techniques. Today's Turkey, a Nato stalwart, lends credibility to the notion of a European defence force.
They sat on divans on beautiful carpets, smoking hookahs and eating lakoum (Turkish delight). Their tired bodies were steamed back to harmony in ornate baths. Ottoman luxury was a fascinating scandal to the hardy puritans of northern Europe. Now we've learnt to lounge, and oriental comforts are part of our lives.Reuse content