Turkish stars meet global celebs at Istanbul Madame Tussauds
ISTANBUL: It’s the place in Istanbul where you can meet modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent, then pose next to Julia Roberts, or maybe, Turkish superstar actress Beren Saat.
At the new branch of the iconic waxworks franchise Madame Tussauds, the brand’s famous mix of global celebrities has a special Turkish flavour.
The attraction, which opened on Monday, is situated in the heart of the European side of the city and hopes to help reverse a trend of declining tourism after a spate of terror attacks this year.
The very street where it is located, Istiklal Avenue, was early in the year hit by a suicide bombing and has seen numerous businesses close as visitors stayed away.
On entering the museum the model of Ataturk, Turkey’s national hero who founded the modern secular state out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, is the first figure the visitor meets.
Getting Ataturk right was the number one priority, after a previous model on display at Madame Tussauds in London was accused of bearing little resemblance to Turkey’s revered leader and called a “disgrace to the nation.”
“We think it is the best replica ever made so far,” said Sarper Hilmi Suner, a general manager at Merlin Entertainments, the Britain-based company which runs the attraction.
Those less knowledgeable of Turkish culture will also find familiar faces like Hollywood actors Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts or sports figures including tennis champion Rafael Nadal and sprinter Usain Bolt.
But some prominent Turkish soap opera actors and actresses on display like Kivanc Tatlitug and Beren Saat could attract foreign visitors, as Turkish soap operas take Arab and even Latin American countries by storm. “We created a mixture that could attract foreign and domestic tourists,” said Aydan Alboga Uslu, marketing manager at Merlin Entertainments.
But there is no model of current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — at least for the moment.