It’s not every day that a senior politician from a foreign country pops over to one’s house for dinner, but that’s exactly what happened to Londoner Türker Çakıcı, who received Fuat Oktay, the Vice-President of Turkiye, and his wife Hümeyra as guests on Friday night.
VP Oktay was one of more than 100 state leaders and representatives who had arrived in the British capital ahead of the Coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on Saturday morning.
At a loose end the night before, the Turkish politician, who is responsible for North Cyprus affairs, and his wife took up a long-standing invitation by Mr Çakıcı to have dinner with him and his family at their Hendon home.
The high-profile political couple were joined by the Turkish Ambassador Koray Ertaş and his wife Sevcan, and Ambassador Çimen Keskin, who is the London Representative of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC).
The guests were treated to a traditional Turkish Cypriot meal of molehiya (an edible green leaf and meat stew dish) and rice. After the meal, speaking in her best Turkish Mr Çakıcı’s 14-year-old granddaughter Esen Volkan asked the guests whether they would like any Turkish coffee and how sweet they would like them, before making and serving the Turkish beverage to them.
Mr Oktay and his wife asked after the teenager and her younger brother Ediz, aged 12, and their parents and grandparents, enquiring about their lives in London in what was a “very warm and friendly atmosphere”, Mr Çakıcı told T-VINE.
Afterwards, the VIP guests posed for pictures with Mr Çakıcı and his family, which VP Oktay shared on his social media pages with a short message about the evening.
“We experienced Northern Cyprus and Lapta with the hospitality of the Çakıcı family in London this evening. Eating molehiya in London is another [experience]…
“Afterwards, we enjoyed a riveting conversation with the taste of baklava from our Beypazarı [Ankara]
“No matter where in the world, we are one with the Turkish Cypriots, we are together’” wrote VP Oktay.
Mr Çakıcı told T-VINE he and his family were “deeply honoured” to host the Turkish vice-president and his wife, and the two ambassadors. “It was a wonderful evening. My family and I were very excited and also a little nervous to have such important guests for dinner, but Mr Oktay and his wife were so easy to get on with, it felt like we’d known them for years.”
A stalwart of the British Turkish Cypriot community, the now retired Mr Çakıcı had previously written to Fuat Oktay about Cyprus matters and issues affecting British Turks.
Originally from Çamlıköy, North Cyprus, Mr Çakıcı moved to Britain in 1967 and quickly became an active member of London’s Turkish Cypriot community.
He has devoted many years as a volunteer to championing Turkish and Turkish Cypriot culture in Britain, most significantly establishing a number of Turkish supplementary schools in North London, including the highly rated Hornsey Atatürk and Southgate Atatürk Turkish Schools.
As T-VINE has previously reported, Turkish supplementary schools in Britain have been struggling to cover the ever-increasing costs of running weekend schools for children of Turkish heritage in recent years, and this turned out to be a key topic of conversation over dinner.
“We discussed the need to find a permanent home for Turkish schools in North and South London, and how that could be advanced. The Turkish Vice-President was eager to hear about our problems and explore possible solutions. It was really heartening to get his support,” Mr Çakıcı said.
During the relaxed Friday evening, VP Oktay also called TRNC President Ersin Tatar.
The following day, Turkiye’s senior representative was inside Westminster Abbey for the special Coronation ceremony. He met with the King to extend his warmest wishes on behalf of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the people of Turkiye for King Charles’ reign as British monarch.
At a special Coronation reception, VP Oktay posed for pictures with the representatives of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan and Ozbekistan who had been present for King Charles’ historic ceremony.
Before leaving London, VP Oktay also dropped in to see members of the West London Turkish Volunteers group.
This story was updated at 23.30 on 7 May 2023 with comments from Türker Çakıcı about his Friday night dinner for VP Fuat Oktay and guests.