Many travellers to western Turkey, and İzmir in particular, are surprised by the sight of Africans who are obviously not visitors. Often termed Arap or “Arabs” by other Turks, they are in fact descendants of the large numbers of Sudanese, Somalis, Algerians and Egyptians who were brought to Anatolia during the Ottoman Empire. Many arrived as slaves, forced to work in the tobacco and cotton fields or as household servants, particularly wet-nurses.
Today there are about 20,000 Afro-Turks (as they prefer to be known) in the western Aegean provinces, most of whom live in the mountains between İzmir and Mersin. Speaking fluent Turkish and devoutly Muslim, they are often proud of their Turkish heritage, though intermarriage is rare with other Turks.