By Chris Drum Berkaya
Zai Bodrum is entering its first summer after a winter of gentle growth amongst the olive trees that inspire its name—‘Zai’ is an old word for ‘olive.’ This library and cultural space, which opened its doors to the public in November 2017, is a green and calm oasis located on a dusty road behind The Avenue shopping centre and just off the relentlessly busy highway that cuts across the Bodrum Peninsula.
While many gnarled and ancient olive groves of Konacık and Bitez fell to concrete and brick, the foliage of surviving trees rises behind Zai Bodrum’s walls. Visitors passing through the gateway are greeted by a soothing vision of a well-tended garden and water features between two buildings originally made of stone, and extended with steel and glass.
On a sunny Spring afternoon, people quietly sit at the scattered tables outdoors, or on the garden sofas and chairs along the back wall; reading, sketching, or chatting over coffee.
The library has a main room full of books that can be either bought or read here in comfort. The subjects range widely through history, psychology, social sciences, food, design, and art—all in Turkish. Translations of foreign literary classics are shelved beside the best of the Turkish literary canon.
Through the library’s doorway, visitors are tempted by the alluring sight of the café and a display of cakes which go so well with a book in hand. The menu offers an extensive selection of brewed, filtered, and syphon coffees, as well as a healthy choice of herbal teas.
Make sure to climb the stairs to the mezzanine to appreciate the ‘reading room’ atmosphere at two long tables, where visitors work quietly at their laptops, make notes, or read books. This section also houses a ‘read only’ collection of many treasured art books belonging to the Büyükkuşoğlu family, renowned collectors of art in Turkey.
Derya Büyükkuşoğlu and her team created this oasis to share their love of art and literature, and have grand plans to extend the project by hosting talks on literature and book signings, and showing selected films—with a larger dedicated screening space in the works.
Zai Bodrum has tapped into a hunger for a public reading and cultural space on the Bodrum Peninsula, and it has already found a dedicated band of devotees who are willing to follow the mission of Zai Bodrum’s creators: “Read, listen, watch.”
Open daily 10am-8pm.
Halide Edip Adıvar Caddesi, No:7, Bodrum; T: (0252) 319 18 88; zaibodrum.com
Children under the age of 15 are not allowed.