Aruha Khan is an ISA Featured Blogger at the University of Tennessee. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Athens, Greece Fall 2019.
The Aegean Sea—a fragile, jewel–blue waterway that flows like the subtle sweep of an artist’s brush. A timeless city known as Oía is situated upon the cliffside of the volcanic caldera in Santorini—acclaimed for its remarkable scenery and its picturesque sunset that emphasizes the intrinsic beauty of the island.
The flowers located alongside the pavement riddled with tourists are blossoming as the slight breeze brushes against them. The blue-domed buildings of Oía gazed upon the hustle and bustle of sightseers that swept below.
The roadside is occupied by several quaint marketplaces (“agorés” or “αγορές”) and restaurants (“estiatória” or “εστιατόρια”) that exhibit a vaguely American ambiance.
I was immediately drawn to the aesthetic storefronts that were encircled by striking hues and mannequins draped with elegant textiles. Their atmosphere was almost reminiscent of a Middle Eastern “bazaar” or “παζάρι”—in large part due to the assortment of color, the eye-catching displays, and the murmur of voices around us.
In particular, I recall approaching one marketplace situated upon the central roadway of Oía that spotlighted the Grecian dresses known as the “chiton” and the “stola.” Beyond its clothing, the alluring novelties presented by the storefront offered an insight into a culture that I was almost entirely unfamiliar with—a recognition that captivated me to explore the contrast amidst Greek versus American culture.
The clothing style of a region is greatly indicative of its culture. The storefronts in Oía offered a great variation upon the traditional Greek clothing style, yet they remained symbolic of the customs and beliefs esteemed within Greek culture.
A great example of a cultural belief emphasized by an article of clothing or an artifact is that of the evil eye (“mati” or “μάτι”). In Greek culture, μάτι is a curse or legend imparted upon an unknowing person by the malicious intent of another. It is typically known to yield misfortune or injury to anyone struck (“Evil Eye”).
To combat the evil eye, however, a talisman or charm (“nazar”) with the recognizable outline of an eye is typically used. A vast amount of clothing and Mycenean–styled jewelry in Oía incorporated the nazar. The prominence of the evil eye in Greek culture is thus communicated via its clothing, artifacts, and traditional jewelry.
I will be resuming my studies at the American College of Greece (ACG) amidst the Fall 2019 term, yet my excursion to Oía encouraged me to gain a preliminary insight into Greek culture and tradition.
Upon my arrival in Athens, I recognized that the lifestyle characteristic of the island of Santorini diverges somewhat from the urbanized locale of Athens. However, the cultural under-structure is virtually alike—from its family-oriented atmosphere to its emphasis upon μάτι.
I am fortunate to witness the beauty of Greek culture firsthand, and I look forward to discovering the unique cultural lenses offered by Greece and its nearby islands.