They Died with a Smile (Or, That Joke's a Killer) -- When Sultan Orhan arrived in Bursa, he immediately set out to build his mosque. He appointed a man named Hacivat as supervisor, who in turn hired a local blacksmith named Karagöz to oversee the installation of the iron supports. Hacivat and Karagöz used to pass the time with clever quips and witty conversation that kept the laborers in stitches. The two eventually had the workmen doubled over in hysterics, to the point that work on the mosque came to a complete halt.

When the sultan found out about the construction delays, he had Hacivat and Karagöz hanged (or decapitated, depending on which interpretation of the oral history you hear). The decapitated version is favored, because illustrators have had a grand time depicting the two hapless jokers approaching the sultan's throne to protest with their heads under their arms. Whichever demise you choose, the outcome is the same: Orhan finds someone to relate the dialogues, until the sultan, too, is keeling over with laughter. Realizing his error, the sultan orders a local leather worker to create lifelike figures of the two, so that they can continue their legacy of comedy. This puppetlike shadow play gained momentum and grew into a popular cultural tradition, boasting as many as 200 characters in one presentation.

As you drive from the center of town toward Çekirge, ask your driver to point out the Karagöz Hacivat Memorial, a small but colorful representation of the two folk heroes.

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