Ertuğrul: how an epic TV series became the ‘Muslim Game of Thrones’

It has all the hallmarks of a blockbuster, but what has turned this Turkish saga into a global phenomenon is its nuanced portrayal of the Islamic world

On a trip to Istanbul two years ago, outside a restaurant a stone’s throw from the Blue Mosque, the waiter arrived. As he leaned forward to pass a menu, the name on his silver badge caught my mother’s eye: “Your name is Turgut?! Like the character in Ertuğrul?” In a split-second, the two had plunged into an impassioned exchange in broken Turkish and English about a hit series of which I had never heard. To my horror, my mother began yelling “Haidar Allah!” and “Ey Vallah” – expressions from the series, I later learned – to the delight of our waiter, who grinned a wide, Cheshire cat smile.

The series my mother was referring to was Diriliş: Ertuğrul (Resurrection: Ertugrul). Set in the 13th century, it is a historical drama loosely based on the life of Ertuğrul Ghazi, the father of Sultan Osman, who founded the Ottoman empire.

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Ertuğrul: how an epic TV series became the ‘Muslim Game of Thrones’