Turkey May Set Its Clocks To Mecca, Not Greenwich Time

Turkey is considering abandoning Greenwich standard time and adopting Islamic Mean Time, a switch to the same time zone as Saudi Arabia. Rahsan Gulsan questions the motives behind and impacts of the change, and wonders if adopting Mecca time will turn Turkey away from Europe.

al-monitor The four-faced Mecca Clock Tower is seen with characters that read "There is no god only the God, and Muhammad is his prophet" near the moon at the Grand mosque during the annual haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca October 22, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Amr Dalsh.

Topics covered

turkey’s middle east policy, turkey, islamists, akp

Oct 29, 2012

This is truly becoming a puzzle. Every time our Ministry of Energy announces that Turkey will be permanently on summer time I am delighted. We were officially told that this October was going to be end of clock changes. Now they say not yet, and we are going back to the hated winter time once again.

We have another issue with our hours. The ministry wants to change the meridian Turkey uses to set its clocks.

According to a law passed in 1925, Turkey uses the 30th meridian east of Greenwich to set its time. This meridian, which passes through Izmit, puts Turkey in the same time zone as many European countries and is identified as GMT+2. The meridian our ministry wants to use now is 40th, which passes through eastern Turkey. If we adopt that, then Turkey will be GMT+3, which will distance us from Europe one more hour.

As the 40th meridian also passes through Saudi Arabia, it will mean Turkey will be twinned with Riyadh instead of Athens, as it is now.

Then I noticed something else relevant. It was a news report about the Mecca Kingdom Clock that is being installed in Zem Zem Towers Building, close to the Kaaba. Six tons of gold were used in that impressive structure.

The Saudi Kingdom is now calling on Muslim countries to use Islamic Mean Time (IMT), which will based on this clock tower as a reference, and abandon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). According to reports, many Arab media outlets, led by Al-Jazeera, are now arranging their programs according to the new time reference.

Our ministry said it postponed the ending of winter time for “technical reasons.” We have not been told why, and the proposed dropping of winter time will take place in 2014 instead.

We hear that the ministry is determined to use the 40th meridian. This will mean we will have to set our time according to IMT — that is, the Islamic time — from now on. Remember when the idea was first floated, and how international traders and financial concerns in this country had risen against it on grounds it would negatively affect Turkey's foreign trade?

As we understand it, the ministry will not take a step back and wait for the debates to cool down and then, in 2014, impose a new time setting on the country. This will be a significant omen of whether Turkey is turning toward Europe or the Arab world.

There are those who are enraged by seeing chador-wearing women in the back streets of Istanbul in a new movie and yell: “They are showing us like an Arab country. Why don’t they show the European sights of Istanbul?”

I wonder what they will have to say to our new hours.

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