Tesbih is the name for the Islamic prayer beads, comparable with the Catholic rosary. In Turkey, however, it also has a different slightly more questionable meaning. It is said the Tesbih is the characteristic of the so-called ‘kaba dayı’, a type of man with a rowdy, tough image. However, 27-year-old Talip Akça sees more in the Tesbih than just prayer beads or a status symbol for rude kind of men. According to him, it’s the perfect, stylish accessory for today’s modern people. A few months ago he opened a shop in Alanya centre, Tesbih-i- Alâ, where he sells Tesbihs for prices varying from 50tl to 50.000tl. We asked Talip to explain a little more about his passion for the Tesbih.
Can you tell us, what is a Tesbih?
“A Tesbih is a chain made from linked beads made of natural materials like tropical wood, amber, onyx, etc.”
What is the function of a Tesbih?
“In the first place, Tesbih are Islamic prayer beads. The most common one has 33 stones, but there you can also find Tesbih with 99 stones. The believer prays while letting the beads flow through the fingers one after another. Secondly, a Tesbih is often used to relieve stress. The way you let the beads slip through your fingers has a rhythmic yet calming effect.
And thirdly, the Tesbih is seen as a symbol. Some years ago a Tesbih was often seen in the hands of rowdy, rough types of men, called kabadayı in Turkish. The more expensive and exclusive the beads, the higher his status. But nowadays, a Tesbih is more and more accepted as a stylish accessory for everyone. And I believe our shop Tesbih-i- la has helped to achieve that.”
How come a young man like you is so interested in Tesbihs?
“I honestly don’t know, but I do know that I was fascinated by them at a very young age. I always wanted one when I grew up, but my family and friends never let me have one. They said: ‘you’re not a kabadayı. It doesn’t suit you.
But I thought it was a questionable image, that was not doing the Tesbih any justice. Therefore I started this work. I believe everybody can look good with a Tesbih. Our slogan says it all: ‘Efendiliğin Sembolüdür’ – a Gentlemen’s Symbol.”
Initially, you opened an online shop, but recently you also opened a real shop in Alanya. How is the business?
“When I first started the online shop, nobody knew us, and we sold only a few. That changed when we gave a beautiful Tesbih to a famous actor in Turkey, Oktay Kaynarca. From that moment on we became well known all over Turkey and also abroad. Many orders came from Iran and Arab countries. Many people advised me also to open a retail store, so we did. Now I see that more and more European customers visit us. Just this week a Norwegian man bought one to give as a souvenir present to his friend back home.”
What makes a Tesbih extra special or expensive?
“Two elements; the material of which the beads are made plus their unique history. I have some Tesbihs created during the Ottoman Empire period in the 19th century. They are antiques and worth around 50.000 TL. But we also sell Tesbihs for 50-60 TL. As we use natural material, some beads change colour when they are used a lot. I have an antique Tesbih of which the amber beads were once yellow but are now dark red. The point is that no matter the price when you buy a Tesbih and keep it with you, after awhile it becomes special to you.”
Website Tesbih-i- Alâ: www.tesbihiala.com
You can also find Tesbih-i- Alâ on Facebook
This article is published in Hello Alanya Magazine August 2017.
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