Ken Grubb

More Incirlik Alley Photos (It's a Ghost Town These Days!)

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While I was staying in Adana, I went to Incirlik Alley, which is just outside Incirlik Air Base. It's normally a very busy place, with local Turks selling anything that can be sold to military personnel. It also has a lot of bars, discos, and restaurants. The Alley currency is the US Dollar (Turkish Lira is also accepted, of course). It its heyday, the shops, bars, and restaurants were open until 2:00 AM, and were sometimes quite crowded. Unfortunately because of the recent threat condition, Incirlik has been in lock-down for about a year and a half now, so the local merchants' customers have completely disappeared.

I wanted to see what the Alley was like these days. Practically everything is closed. Most of the old places were there, like Incirlik Coin, Copper Ali's, Smiley's Disco, Falcon Bar, Moonlight and Royal Restaurants, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, and Woody Woodpecker Furniture. All closed with their interiors collecting dust.

Here are some photos I took of The Alley as it is today.

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The Entrance.

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Pop's Leather and Abe's Carpets.

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I remember Blue Angel Bar, Paris Leather World has appeared since I was there.

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Spent a lot of time at Cheers myself.

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Everybody who has ever been to Incirlik knows Copper Ali's!

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Deja Vu Bar, which appeared a few years after I left Incirlik back in 2006 or so.

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Deja Vu. I could swear I have seen this before.

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Falcon Bar. One of my other hangouts. They had fantastic chicken wings.

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The Chinese restaurant, Great Wall, had a chef from China. The food was excellent. I heard they relocated to Adana. I couldn't find it, my friend said he thought it had closed. If you're in Adana and see it's still open, go there for the best Chinese food around.

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The Huğlu Shotgun Shop. Military people would often buy fine Turkish shotguns, often engraved with their names on them. The shop also has a partner in Texas which has a federal firearms license, so they can mail the shotgun to them, and have them forward it to the customer. A great shop with a great reputation.

And they're still open. And serving tea. :)

If you're interested in buying a shotgun in Turkey, here is their contact info:

Çukurova Av ve Spor LTD. ŞTI
Yeni Mahalle Atatürk Caddesi No: 39/A
Incirlik/Sarıçam/ADANA

Tel: +90 322 346 7182
Web: www.curkurovaav.com.tr

Here are some shots (no pun intended) of the interior.

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Not much going on at Incirlik.

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Now there's a supermarket there for those living in the apartments in the village.

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Great Wall Chinese Restaurant.

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All the military guys used to get their unit "challenge coins" made here. They also make fantastic plaques and shadow boxes for retiring military personnel. I am sure they still do that, it's just their walk-in business that has suffered. The door was still open and there was somebody there.

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I ate many a meal at the Moonlight Restaurant. They were popular for hail and farewell lunches.

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Rooster! Rooster's patch shop is still open, and Rooster's still there. He remembered me as soon as I walked in. The Turks have an incredible ability to remember someone they've met before, it's uncanny.

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Rooster's patch shop interior. He can make any kind of patch imaginable.

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The Royal Restaurant was also a great place to eat.

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If you needed any kind of furniture made, Woody Woodpecker could do it. You could just show them a page from a catalogue and they could reproduce it at a much lower price. Because of the relatively high weight allowance US military personnel had, they would often have furniture made at Woody Woodpecker and then ship it back to the states when they left.

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And for carpets? Go to Yellow Star. Well, not now of course.

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It's sad to see a place, once thriving, now empty. The poor business people, how do they survive?

 

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They generally just go where the money is, like any good entrepreneur would. On 1 May 2003, the day of the invasion of Iraq, the mission supporting the no-fly zones in North and South Iraq (Southern Watch and Provide Comfort, collectively called "Operation Southern Comfort" [after the whiskey of the same name!]) suddenly ended. Thousands of NATO troops, who were living in a tent city on Incirlik got on planes and left. Overnight. There was no longer any reason to continue the no-fly zones. 

So business in the alley also died then. Many of the merchants in the alley just cut deals with the organization which runs the base exchange (BX), pulled up stakes, and moved to Iraq. In Iraq they opened basically the same shops, but this time, actually on the NATO bases! And a lot of the Turkish workers in the alley shops also went to Iraq for the same work.

At Incirlik, I think all of the alley merchants know that this can happen at any time, so they're prepared for it. At any time the threat can suddenly increase, or some other incident can happen which causes the commander to put the place in lock-down and make the alley off-limits.

And while the shops are closed down, they still own them, even today, waiting for the boom times to come again. They will.

It actually has nothing to do with tourism. Nobody would ever go on holiday to Incirlik. There are no hotels there. There were some travel agencies, but they basically just dealt with NATO troops who wanted to get away for a while, and some car rental places. It really is feast or famine. During good times with a low threat level, the merchants in the alley make a fortune!

I even ran a bar there once, called Sky Bar. I didn't make a fortune, though. Too much competition! :)

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I was there from 2005-2007. There was no Red Onion or BP's, but the owners may have had places under another name. It was always busy then, too, especially on weekend nights. How did you like Incirlik?

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The Red Onion never completely recovered from the strike of 1998.  As the restaurant was right across from the main gate to the base, the union made it their strike headquarters.  One of their classier actions was to throw eggs at the DODDs teachers returning for the first day of school. To be fair, it was never proved the union members did this, just like all the other "misfortunes" that happened during this time.  Those of us that lived through the strike boycotted the restaurant since and told all newcomers about their role in it.

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Jeez, sorry, my memory is fading. If it was there during 1998, I was there. Now I seem to remember the Red Onion!

We called it QuakeStrike 98. There was the earthquake, then the big labor strike. I was in Izmir then. I had just arrived. Rented an apartment, got my household goods. I was supposed to get furniture delivered. But because of the strike, it was impossible to get any furniture (like a bed). So rather than sleeping on the floor, I slept in the office. On the commander's sofa. 

I always set my alarm to be up and awake, showered and dressed, and in my own office, without a trace of me in the commander's office, when he arrived every morning. And I also attended the 425th Air Base Squadron's strike meetings every Saturday, which gave the commander an uninterrupted day off.

In spite of my extraordinary, and complaint-free devotion to duty, one of the questions my colleagues asked me during my going-away was if I had ever "entertained" a lady on that sofa. The answer was "no," but for over a year, whenever they were in a staff meeting, sitting on that sofa, they always wondered what might have happened on that sofa the night before.

In the meantime, the Incirlik guys were having a hell of a time with the labor strike. So they figured it was a good idea to send me TDA to Incirlik to help them out. I was there during the strike, but the earthquake had already happened. And somehow, to my delight, I ended up in the Hodja Inn and was able to sleep on a proper bed. I guess the Hodja was outside of the union contract for some reason.

At Incirlik, we had a battle plan. If we needed to do something, we would set up a diversion. Somebody doing something in violation of the contract. Then the union guys and their cronies would come over like screaming banshees to stop it, shouting and raising hell. And as our decoys did their utmost to keep that going, we would get whatever job we needed done elsewhere.

The union guys were diabolical. In Izmir, one of the union leaders, while making a speech, held up a Turkish bank note which had some insult about Ataturk depicted on it. He blamed it on the Americans to get the crowd worked up. I am sure the Turkish workers knew it wasn't the Americans who did it, and that it was the union leaders.

After that strike, some of the Turkish workers told me that if the union ever did it again, they would not strike with them. They were angry about how the labor leaders would show up in their Mercedes, give a speech, and leave, while the workers were struggling with the problem and trying to make their financial ends meet. It pissed me off too, since the Turkish workers were some of the best, and nicest, people I had ever worked with. I hated to see them suffer as they did.

I remember somebody had T-shirts made which showed that the wearer had survived "QuakeStrike '98." And it brought back a few memories to see that during the Siege of Incirlik (during the coup attempt and aftermath when the base was sealed off and all utilities cut), somebody did the same thing. Apparently it's still damned hard to get that good ol' American military morale down.

As far as the Red Onion, if they supported that damned strike, and went down as a result, then good riddance.

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Sorry to hear about the Red Onion. Those guys always treated me good there. Just before I left, there was a strike. I was in there and several of the strikers started coming at me. The shop owners protected me. The Turks can get pretty aggressive. Lol  Incirlik was my favorite assignment. 

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Ken Grubb. Turkey was my favorite assignment. It was just before the Gulf War and tensions were not very high. The Gulf War broke just as I left. I was in 1st Combat Comm and returned for TDY for about a month. The Red Onion and BP’s was still there. The Red Onion was just outside the gate. BP was at the end of the Alley at the gas station on the highway. 

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I heard a story during the strike that some strikers got aggressive with a US military person in the alley. Then later, some of the local merchants gave them a lesson, shall we say. The last thing they wanted was for the alley to be put off limits.

OK now I remember BP's... near the petrol station... it has been a long time.

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When the strike began, we all assumed it would be a normal strike situation like in the states. It would be annoying but peaceful; man were we wrong.  On base, the tactical dining facility set up to feed over 1500 military on base without kitchen units was vandalized the first night.  The TAF commander refused to allow repairs, so we had no way to feed these people.  Due to threats made to our people in the alley, it was off limits since the first day.  When a man was followed to Adana on the second day of the strike and beaten up in front of his family, Adana was off-limits. People then tried to order food from the alley restaurants and brought on base by taxi; only to have the taxi stopped by forces unknown and ground glass put in their food.  So ordering food off base was stopped. The BX, commissary and Shopette were all closed as any facility that wasn't mission essential and had Turkish worker striking there were not allowed to open. So there wasn't anyway to buy food on base.  Additionally, air conditioning units and emergency generators all over the base were also being vandalized. This was just by day two of the strike.

I have no problem with workers striking, but when they break the law and threaten children with harm and attempt to cut off all attempts to feed our people; this is war.  I could go on for pages about the strike, but I would bore most of the readers to this site.  The strike ended at after almost three months and they accepted basically the same terms offered the first day.  Most of the workers didn't want to strike, as they were stuck outside at their assigned post in the hot/humid Adana summer weather.  The more radical members of the union were easy to identify and were fired afterwards for breaking the law.

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That's as I remember it. Months of hell the workers had to go through (not to mention us!), then they got basically the same thing they were initially offered before the strike. After going for those months with no income. Then the union bosses congratulating themselves as if they had scored some great victory!

 

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