Turkey's Bodrum peninsula is an absolute gem. Fringed by the crystal clear Aegean sea and peppered with authentic and pretty towns and villages, the Turquoise Coast it's known is inevitably and rightly getting more and more attention from wealthy vacationers around the world.
That has brought with it a glut of luxury resorts – Aman, Mandarin Oriental and a particularly ugly Hilton hotel all occupy prime spots up on pine-flecked hills over luminous blue bays. but it's the Turkish owned Macakizi that's the pick of the bunch. While not the most luxe (though high-end nonetheless), its more amenable price point (double rooms start from €425 ($475) in low season and €595 ($655), in high season including breakfast and dinner) and unassailable status as the best beach club in Bodrum make it the most compelling choice.
Set on the northern tip of gorgeous hay near the fashionable village of Türkbükü, Maçakizi climbs its way up a steep hill over four tiers from waterside dunking and bar to the open-air restaurant, pool and spa, and villas and suites. It's a triumph of planning and implementation. Gorgeously landscaped grounds bursting in color front magnolia and oleander-rich gardens hide a tangle of stone stairs and walkways snaking their way to the water's edge, connecting everything like arteries to a beating heart.
Among them sit 53 simple but comfortable rooms and 21 suites, many, but not all offering ocean views. Beds are big and comfy, doused in feather-soft covers and Rifal Özbek-designed cushions. My vast Bose TV sits unused on the wall as I prefer the views from my small private terrace. Bathrooms are travertine tiled with rainforest showers and Aqua di Parma toiletries.
Sensibly placed close to the rooms the airy breakfast pavilion alongside a quiet, deserted pool — conundrum quickly answered when compared to the waterfront setting. Below, a spa offering hammam and massage and a gym so buried behind plants it feels like working out in an airconditioned rainforest.
One tier down emerging from the green, and silver-leafed olive trees, the open-air a la carte restaurant is stylish but relaxed. It serves a mix of the Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine with a modern twist under the watchful eye of head chef Aref Sahakyan, who’s worked with the owner for more than 25 years.
Daily, fresh and flavorful breakfast and lunch buffets invite residents and day guests to drift in and out as hunger demands, keeping things buzzing but never too busy. Don't miss out on the manti, ground beef dumplings and daily octopus, which pair beautifully with a sizeable international wine list alongside excellent Turkish wines, in particular, those from the nearby Urla Winery. As darkness descends, soft lighting and candles add elegance and atmosphere. The service day and night in, in a word, faultless.
But it's the expanse of wooden boardwalks connecting warm waters to rows of cushioned day beds to a large central bar that are Macakizi's star attraction. Fanning out along the shore in an angular Aegean hug, they give well-heeled guests direct access to the water from their sun loungers while serving staff glide by silently behind white smiles and black Ray-Bans, topping up champagne glasses, delivering fresh towels to bathers emerging from the water, A live DJ curates a soundtrack to the entire show — well-chosen tunes that complement rather than intrude on the atmosphere.
Sahir Erozan, the Macakizi's owner and beating heart, is omnipresent. A hugely gregarious yet grounded character who named the resort in honor of his mother, - it translates as 'queen of spades' and was in turn the name of the artist retreat she set up in the 1970s - his spirit and personality seeps into every corner. He is a man who has no guests, no acquaintances - only very good friends who he greets more often than not by name. The Macakizi is all the richer for his presence, as his love of Turkey and enthusiasm for the good life lingers around him like the smoke from his ever present cigar.
Pack your most stylish swimsuit, your chicest shades and forget the rivieras you already know this summer, because you'll find the best party on the shores of the Turquoise Coast and the boardwalks of the Macakizi. But if the crowds and in-scene don't do it for you, the private Villa Macakizi is only a quick boat ride away sheltered in the cove of the aptly named Paradise Bay.
Fully serviced (including butlers), its ten rooms can host up to 20 people in complete luxury. There's a spa, huge pool, endless indoor-outdoor social areas - and those glorious trademark gardens that stand the Macakizi out from the crowd. It also has its own private jetty and waterfront scattered with loungers that take advantage of the idyllic setting.
“BODRUM WITH A VIEW” Edited By Christopher Silvester
When Sahir Erozan, owner of Bodrum’s Macakizi hotel, was seeking to convert an old seaside hotel near Bodrum into a chic private villa with 10 sumptuous sea-view suites, he chose the Rome-based architect Fabrizio Frezza to realise his vision.
The result is the glorious Villa Macakizi, a natural choice for weddings and landmark occasions, since it is a mere 35 minutes from Bodrum airport, can accommodate up to 400 guests for sit-down meals (with fine dining provided by Macakizi), and has all the facilities you would associate with a top-class hotel inside a private residence (spa, fitness centre, 24-hour butler service, etc).
With bougainvillea pouring over the edge of a flat roof that offers a magnificent view of Paradise Bay, as well as exotic gardens and terraces, it is the perfect party venue. While only 23 guests can stay at the Villa itself, your other guests can stay at Macakizi, which is only 10 minutes away by boat and 15 minutes by car. Prices start from €24,786 per night.
A spiky take on what’s hot for 2020
Originally conceived as a beach club, this Bodrum hotel will make you feel a part of the jet-set
Anyone forming their impression of Turkey's Mediterranean coast solely from the news reports of recent years might end up slightly terrified. But memories can be short. The sea is still a crystal-clear breathtaking blue, and the sun never stopped doing its daily dappled dance all over it. Everything's quite a bit cheaper too after US sanctions caused the Turkish currency to plunge in value. Suddenly there's a lot of people going to Turkey.
Not least in the upscale enclave around Bodrum, which looks like it's determined to have a bit of a moment. In common with other honeypots of holiday high fashion like Bali, Ibiza, or Goa, Bodrum's credentials were crystallized in a 1970s crucible of counterculture cool.
Not much more than a time-worn, overgrown village, the remnants of the ancient city of Halicarnassus, 50 years ago its slow-paced, off-grid allure attracted the attention of Turkey's wealthy Bohemian set. Ahmet Ertegun, the Turkish/American boss of Atlantic records, bought a rundown seafront property in Bodrum for $60,000 in the Seventies, his designer interior widow Mica, eventually sold in 2014 for €13 million.
His fellow pioneer was Ayla Emiroglu, an outlier for Istanbul's arty crowd, who converted a nearby property into a small hotel which she named Macakizi, the Queen of Spades. Bodrum was in with the in-crowd. Mick and Bianca were hanging out on the waterfront where women still washed their goats, and Rudolf Nureyev was dropping by for Sunday lunch, Ayla, nicknamed the Queen of Spades one night by a local Bodrum man became of the shape of her wild hairstyle, drew in Istanbul's rich and famous and mingled them with the musicians, writers, and artists of the day. Bodrum was on the map, and she was right there with it. The hotel relocated a few times until in 2000, in collaboration with her am Sahir, returned from a 20- year stint successfully operating nightclubs in the United States, Macakizi settled into its present position, 90 minutes north of Bodrum.
Originally conceived as a beach club, the current incarnation of Macakizi, nestled into a picture-perfect cove on the edge of the village of Golturkbuku, its 74 bougainvilleas, and oleander-festooned moms cascading down the hill behind, remains at the epicentre of Bodrum's ongoing evolution of opulence. Sahir runs the show now; the Queen of Spades has folded her hand in favour of the King of Clubs. On first name terms with A-listers across the globe, he is perhaps even more socially connected than his mother.
Recent years have seen luxury hotel brands slowly slide into Macakizi's slipstream and onto the surrounding coastline, adding style and substance to the concept of a Turkish Cote d'Azur. No matter how shiny and new, though, the corporate copycats simply can't dislodge this independent style-setter from a pole position that the queen bee created over forty years ago, and around which, everything has buzzed ever since.
To watch the day unfold at Macakizi, as it steadies itself from the night before and readies itself for the day ahead, is a trip to the theatre. Its beach club origins, where eating and drinking are very much to the fore, are evident from the cleverly conceived contemporary design, descending level by level from the expansive open-air breakfast pavilion to the Instagram-ready restaurant down the bayside sun decks and a seriously stylish, busy waterfront bar.
The rooms aren't especially glitzy, but somehow with innovative design and colourful landscaping, that doesn't seem to matter, because somehow it all works. The contemporary cutting edge of regular visitors like Kate Moss and Adam Clayton, sits seamlessly with Eastern Mediterranean glitterati that at times looks like it hasn't jetted far from the 1960s Jet-set, as it slowly smokes itself into oblivion.
Sahir himself has a cigar permanently glued to his lingers, in an image that should be screaming 'old fashioned plutocrat', but doesn't. On the contrary, this isn't so much a man whose linger is on the pulse; down this end of the Med, he is the pulse!
Every day, an overpowered powerboat pulls up and disgorges one of Turkey's wealthiest men for his lunchtime date. An impressively designed board-walk wraps around the waterfront, transforming the sea into a seductive saltwater swimming pool. The Mediterranean's east-meets-west of beautiful people is laid out three-deep in an oil-slicked siesta of silicon-supported sun worship. The catalogue of contradictions continues when high noon hits high society with the piercing notes of the call to prayer from the village mosque: a wake-up call that's met with bronzed bikini-clad puffs of nonchalance on cigarettes as thin as pipe cleaners. The Bodrum peninsula along this part of the turquoise coast, where the Aegean nestles up to the Mediterranean can be spectacularly beautiful. Slotting like a jigsaw into Greek islands so close you can almost touch them, their ancient intermingled histories deliver up culture, climate, and cuisine, as enchanting as any other corner of the Med.
Dining out in Turkey can be a revelation. The country that introduced agriculture into Ireland 6,000 years ago (according to 2010 academic findings also claiming the Turkish men who did so, fathered the nation!), can do delicious things with its bountiful produce, and there can be few better locations to savor Turkish cooking than in Macakizi's restaurant. The executive chef there, Aret Sahakyan, has been in place torn years and is regularly cited as the most accomplished exponent of Turkish gastronomy outside of Istanbul. The Turkish wine industry is also resurgent, with newly established ventures such as nearby Ude Winery producing wines of outstanding quality. After a trip out on Sahir’s yacht to visit Loft, the Macakizi branded development along the coast, which will offer short-term rentals when it opens next year, I Join him in a swim back to shore. It's the that time I've seen him without the cigar, although he could be doing breaststroke with it underwater.
GETTING THERE: Ryanair flies Dublin to Bodrum from €50 return, visit ryanair.com
WHERE TO STAY: Macakizi operates April to October, from €475 per night, including a three-course dinner
The afternoon sun slants low; hazy as a dream, and paints the water gold. Out in the stillness of the hay a group of girls and boys swim, heads slick as seals, their laughter skipping over the sea hike a song. It is known as the Turquoise Coast but here, where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean, the colour of the sea is capricious as the shifting sky.
The sea informs everything in Bodrum. This place only realty makes sense from the water. Turkey's jagged south-west does not lend itself to sweeping corniches its evergreen peninsulas stretching out into the inky waters towards the Greek islands a couple of miles away. Its seafaring people lived around its edges, in disconnected fishing villages which, even now on Bodrum's sleepier neighbours of Bozburun and Datça, are only accessible from the sea. Well-groomed Bodrum also keeps secrets: fragments of islands too small to name, hidden coves where you drop anchor to swim in lagoons or come ashore for lunch at beach restaurants Bodrum's stars aligned almost 100 years ago when a writer-an aristocrat from Istanbul called Cevat Sakir Kabaağaçli - was exiled here for three year, In a hut! On a beach! He fell in love, of course and stayed for three decades. The local sponge divers showed him the underwater treasures. As the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, he wrote about Homer's land of eternal blue with its submerged cities, its imprints of Greeks and Roman, of saints and apostles, of Antony and Cleopatra. His idea of the Blue Voyage brought all Istanbul society to Bodrum, to spend summers sailing gulets along the fragrant toast.
Well-groomed Bodrum still keeps secrets: fragments of islands too small to name, hidden coves where you drop anchor to come ashore for lunch.
In the 1970s Bodrum emerged as the most glamorous spot in Turkey. And now, in pale-mineral Göltürkbükü bay, the waterside decks shine with oiled limbs lying cheek by jowl like a backgammon board. Hard to believe that a couple of years ago Europeans and Americans had all but stopped holidaying on the Turkish Riviera. It hasn't taken long to recover. 'People have short memories when the offering is this good,’ says Sahir Erozan, the owner of the hotel Maçakızı, surveying all the buzz and beauty with a fiendish grin.
It’s true, Bodrum is back with a bang, booming like never before, all aflutter with sleek openings which have manicured great swathes of the peninsula into next-level hotels. Old favorites have been revived; Nicolas Sarkozy was among those holing up at reopened Amanruya last summer. The newly enlarged Yalıkavak Marina is now deep and glitzy enough to accommodate superyachts with Monets and Rothkos on board.
Among the newcomers is the Bodrum Edition, importing Ian Schrager’s trademark all-white minimalism and knock-out proportions along with the star chef Diego Munoz from Peru, soft sand on the beach where children splash about on paddleboards and Balearic house music. Its bar Discetto, has a giant peek disco ball. Across the water on the mainland, an altogether more grown-up crowd drink cocktails from copper cups at Kaplankaya’s Anhinga beach bar. Rising up from the shore into a scrub of pistachio and olive trees, Kaplankaya is not just a hotel, but an entire new town: a turbo-smart hideout on a wildly ambitious scale, with one modernist Six Senses hotel and destination spa, and three more hotels in the offing (Cheval Blanc is confirmed) plus a marina by Foster & Partners. Kaplankaya's creator, Burak Oymen, spent hot, happy summers here as a child in the 1980s, his parents part of that Turkish intelligentsia lured by the Fisherman's tales. Like Bodrum, Burak grew up and made his fortune; and with it bought a stretch of empty land. 'I wanted to recreate the Bodrum of my childhood,' he says. Such is the power of nostalgia. It started simply, he and his girl Tereza living in a beach hut, not in exile but in love. If they wanted civilization, they took their boat across the bay for lunch at Maçakızı, the trade winds in their sails.
Maçakızı has encapsulated the spirit of Bodrum since it was opened in 1975 by Sahir Erozan's mother. It is authentically Turkish yet completely international, pretty yet progressive, barefoot and sexy as hell. Whitewashed suites tumble down the hillside among oleander and palms; then deck after deck for eating and drinking and dancing, all the way to the sea. Sahir is invariably found in the thick of things telling stories. He throws the kind of parties that get out of hand. 'You know — you tell two girls, they tell 88 people.' Guests waft around, brown skinned and beautiful with absurdly tiny waists. Kate Moss, so the story goes, checked out of nearby detox retreat LiteCo early and came straight to Maçakızı.
The hotel owner is invariably found in the thick of things, telling stories. He throws the kind of parties that get out of hand. ‘You know – you tell two girls, they tell 88 people’
People dance here all hours of the day, ebbing and flowing with the rhythm of the tides. It looks artfully effortless, but don't be fooled: this is a slick operation. Sahir spends his winters travelling the world for inspiration and rebuilding - last year adding a new beach club and state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen.
'Good, simple food like my mama used to make,' insists Sahir, when the dishes arrive. His mother -whose picture is in every room- must be a sensation in the kitchen, because this is no down-home cooking; it is accomplished and worldly wise, joy after jewel-coloured joy. Chargrilled octopus, its fat tentacle curled into a question mark, suckers like trumpet keys, comes with lentil cream and coconut vinaigrette. There's sun choke and purslane, roasted aubergine and stuffed vine leaves, and heavenly salads with spice. Forget your plans. Lunch Lasts all afternoon. By the end of it I am three hours late and three too many sheets to the wind to drive wherever it was I was supposed to be going. What fool drives here, anyway? 'The important thing is never to stop at stop signs,’ says Sahir. 'Because if you do the person behind will crash into the back of you.’ Luckily, Sahir has a boat. Someone in Bodrum always has a boat.
Like the sponge divers of Bodrum past, restaurant owner Çağlar Bozçağa still swims for his supper. Even this morning, with a broken leg, he slipped off the plaster cast to free-dive 25 metres down and pluck urchins from the sea bed as though it were an underwater larder. Whatever he does not slice open and eat raw for lunch on his boat, he serves in his restaurant, Orfoz. It is found on an unlikely side street of Bodrum City, where bergamot trees planted by the Fisherman of Halicarnassus shade the whitewashed buildings, next to a statue of the cross-dressing singer Zeki Müren. Beneath the bougainvillea Çaglar is clattering around on crutches, balancing plates of meze and pouring homemade wine from bottles scribbled with 'Chardonnay' and 'Shiraz’ in marker pen. It all looks unassuming, but what he serves is a bold adventure in seafood. Grouper soup is followed by morsels of house-smoked eel; oysters grilled with Parmesan; stone crab and sea snails and huge clams in their shells, sweetness in saltwater. The grand finale is testing: mantis-shrimp ceviche. Çaglar is particularly delighted by these semi-opaque götügöz (ghosts), which he gleefully calls 'eyes on arse'. People who lustily slurp down oysters should try raw mantis-shrimp ceviche. I manage a head or an arse, I can't tell which; then sink a glass of biodynamic white in a rush. It is made in a tiny local vineyard called Neferiye. The hand-labelled bottles may hint at moonshine, but the wine is good, clean and sweet, as Çaglar points out, ‘They've been malting wine in Bodrum since 2000BC.’ Homegrown and home-cooked is not a trend here, but an eternal way of life. At the peninsula's quiet tip, Gümüşlük's sheltered shore is lined with rustic restaurant tables set literally in the water ( in-the-know Turks head for Mimoza, the best of them), so you can cool your toes while you eat what the fishing boats hauled in that morning. Hidden in the hills above, bohemian Limon is possibly the best sunset spot anywhere, a patched-together outdoor café with bright-painted sculptures among the mismatched vintage furniture, and festoon lighting strung tree to tree, serving seasonal dishes and mama's legendary mint lemonade. Nearby, grass-rootsy Adali Kafe opened in summer 2018: blue views on a cool hillside, where the family pour local Vin Bodrum and grow their own tomatoes. Turks, like Italians, can talk about tomatoes for hours. In Bodrum the pink ones are the sweetest; seek them out in the market, where the sellers tease with scoops of stardust, offering them up to my lips to taste and leaving the scent in my hair and on my skin. People still shop like this here. Testing the firmness of fruit and swapping cookery tips. Around the periphery, old men sit in the shade beneath strings of dried chilis, smoking like mad and drinking sweet black tea, and playing okey (rummikub with Turkish rules), the tiles rattling in their hands like pebbles in a jar.
Old and new swim together in Bodrum. As the muezzin calls at dawn, young things are swaying home, the night finally over. Out to sea, a gulet cuts across the water, its prow thrusting sharp as a sailfish. There's a softness to the early-morning light that's something close to nostalgia for this very moment, even as it happens. And it is easy to see how, despite all Bodrum's newfound glossiness, you can fall in love with the simple life here. Just as long as there is good food, to eat and good wine to drink, and someone has a boat.
WHERE TO STAY
One of the Mediterranean’s most blissful little seaside hotels. There are 74 fairly simple rooms (though you wouldn’t know it) among the tropical and Mediterranean greenery, bowers of bougainvillea framing sea views from every spot. It has a small but marvelous spa, a beach-rocking bar and the best restaurant in all Bodrum. In the pipeline for 2020: summer hotel residences, Maçakızı Lofts. macakizi.com. Doubles from about £450 half board.
Bodrum Peninsula, Turkey
Maçakızı is, in a word, hot. Its hip-hotel credentials have endured since its opening in the Seventies, when it established itself as a favorite summer escape for the super-chic. This glamorous ‘beach restaurant with rooms’ is made for a good time, with daybeds and a pavilion decked out with comfortable sofas scattered with Rıfat Özbek's Yastik cushions. Maçakızı is the epitome of understated good taste across a myriad of chilling spaces, from the utterly serene palm-shaded pool to the lower level beach, a vibrant expanse of canopied decking that is the place to while away the day, going directly from sun lounger to sea as a DJ spins soft disco classics. Delicious cocktails are served by well-dressed waiters, relaxed lunches roll into mellow evenings, and you can always find the owner, Sahir Erozan, holding court at the bar chatting to his loyal customers. With a fabulous restaurant conceived by Turkey's star chef, Aret Sahakyan, a gym, spa and Turkish bath to recover from the glut of indulgence, the chicest boutique and a yacht for rent, Maçakızı encapsulates the joyous spirit of a barefoot beach club at its best. Double, from £368 (macakizi.com)
Want to work out like an A-lister? Maybe in an outdoor studio by the ocean? With their ruthlessly effective personal training and high-luxe locations, it's no wonder many of Hollywood's elite blaze a trail to Bodyism. If you're interested in a full-body reset with a kick of sunshine, you'd do well to consider their new retreats in Kate Moss' favorite Bodrum hotel, Maçakızı.
Entirely bespoke, each retreat begins with a full-body analysis, encompassing sleep patterns, nutritional deficits and hormone imbalances. This information feeds into a programme based on functional strength and interval work, balanced with yoga and massage. Each session builds to the next so your body is efficiently and completely worked — a wonderful excuse to spend the rest of your time idling among the beautiful people on sundecks built out over the Aegean.
For those who are less interested in change, but who want to maintain their physique while dancing late under the stars with the supermodels who come ashore from their superyachts — no problem. "Some people come for transformation," says Nathalie Schyllert, the fearsomely talented former model and CEO who has taken over James Duigan's share of the Bodyism business. 'Some people come to Bodyism to balance the partying..." There's even a Bodyism-styled cocktail of vodka, mint and lime.
As well as Maçakızı, Bodyism has a second base a 20-minute helicopter hop along the turquoise coast. D-Maris Bay is a far larger hotel, with five private beaches and six restaurants (don't miss the "meat sushi" at the steakhouse Nusr-Et, as liked by the eponymous chefs 19 million Instagram followers).
As with Maçakızı, the Bodyism team will design a menu for you to work best with your regime and room service will deliver your pre- and post-workout supplements. Perhaps take your training session out on the hotel's 14-metre sailing yacht; maybe make your post-workout protein hit some black cod under the stars at the only outdoor Zuma. I mean, you owe it to yourself, right? From £2,400 for four nights. bodyism.com
At this little-known treasure it’ll be just you and beautiful Turkish models and actors you won’t recognize sunbathing and taking dips in the Aegean.
At this little-known treasure it’ll be just you and beautiful Turkish models and actors you won’t recognize sunbathing and taking dips in the Aegean. Macakizi.com
As the far end of the town of Türkbükü, an unmarked path meanders up into the hills to the Maçakızı a regal hotel and classic beach club (the name translates as Queen of Spades) on Bodrum’s most exclusive bay. Hidden behind a riot of bougainvillea, the terraced wooden decks meander down the hillside to the sea and have hosted a smart yacht set and innumerable Hollywood A-listers for almost 40 years. Revelers arrive early to snap up a seat at the bar, feed the incongruous flock of tame ducks, and sip a signature Dirtier Diva (rum, passion fruit, ginger, lime and chili). The restaurant has a terrific supper menu, including dishes such as pan-seared sea bass and roast rack of lamb with sun-dried-tomato-and-feta pesto and smashed potato. +90 252 311 2400 macakizi.com Dirtier Diva cocktail £14
Tucked away in a glittering corner of the Bodrum peninsula, Maçakızı does the chic-seaside-scene thing to a T. Yes it’s glamorous and sexy and fabulous. But it’s also very laidback, which means the charming staff couldn’t give a monkeys if you’re Kate Moss (a regular) or just an average Joe. The beach deck is the hotel’s heartbeat flop on a sun lounger, toes tickling the turquoise Aegean, and peer over your paperback as the bronzed and beautiful swan around clutching icy mojitos. Now put that book away and order a cocktail. Things get amped up at sundown as pit-stopping superyachts arrive to get their pre-dinner groove on (spot the DJ hidden in the hot-pink bougainvillea); the music and the drinks flow until the early hours. Snaffle up plates of ocean-fresh seabass in the restaurant (a foodie destination in itself), then float back up the hillside. Big, breezy bedrooms are spread around cottages with cooling stone floors and powder-white sofas: the perfect, head-clearing antidote to all the happens, down by the water.
HIT THE DECK – TURKEY
On the north side of Bodrum in the village of Türkbükü lies the Maçakızı hotel, nestled in the hills. Family run, it was founded in 1977 as a place of inspiration for artists and intellectuals. It’s also the perfect spot to get that first bit of spring sun in our cruise and swimwear.
Like Rick's Cafe, everybody—or so it would appear during summer's long, sun-drenched days and jasmine-scented nights—comes to the Macakizi. Here, in this once inconsequential Aegean port on Turkey's newly discovered southern coast, Sahir Erozan has created more than just another hotel or fashionable beach dub but rather a world of in own, splashed against the sparkling waters of the sea and embraced by a new international jet set of sophisticated travelers, from Manhattan red estate wizards and French media stars to the occasional Kennedy and the opulently tanned and white-bikinied beach princesses from Kazakhstan and Cairo.
Nor that for all high-finance or rich-guy frivolity here on the Turkish Riviera- Merchants hawk “Turkish" silver and dried apricots in the nearby seaside souks, and burly fishermen still sell unrecognizable sea creatures from wooden baskets. Where, too, I ask, are you ever going to find Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia at Sunday brunch on the sundeck overlooking Paul Allen's yacht, the Octopus? True story. But more about that later I'm getting ahead of myself.
Call them Luxury's New Lifestyle Nomads—those fiercely curious, competitively discerning travelers manage, before the rest of us, through some sort of carefully calibrated inner radar, to know where to and whom to know. I first met Sahir in Istanbul last January at his house on the Bosphorus. "You must one day come to the Macakizi,” he said with a fluid pronunciation that I still haven't mastered—properly pronounced it's Mah-tcha-kee-zeeh. “We’ll have fun.” I told him I had been there having sailed, thanks to the hospitality of good friends, on a particularly magnificent gulet from the port of Göcek out final stop in Bodrum, where we bunked for one night at his hotel. I said I had always hoped to return.
Bodrum is a port city on the southern coast of the Bodrum Peninsula. (Historians, take note: This is also the site of Halicarnassus and the Mausoleum of Maussollos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.) Here, about 45 minutes from the airport, on a winding, dusty road, is Türkbükü, a tiny fishing village with the chic, sophisticated scent of the Cote d'Azur. That, too, is the appeal of the hotel: As the rest of the world becomes bloated with bold-faced and brand names, the Macakizi has most defiantly not. At least not yet. "If we were really smart," an LA businessman confides to me over a lunch of grilled octopus and a Moet Ice with mint on the rocks, "you and I would scrape together a few bucks and invest now. This place has The New St.-Tropez written all over it."
In a feat of architecture masterminded high above the Aegean Sea, the Macakizi's 74 rooms and villas are cantilevered over a rocky hillside, past an open-air cocktail bar, lunch terrace and pool. It is, in fact, about 120 steps from the open-plan lobby, dining morn, gym and hammam to the water's edge, where Sahir has created his piece de resistance: a huge, U-shaped, tented wooden deck, where hot summer afternoons morph into cool, cashmere-sweatered nights. After dinner it’s the sounds overlapping waves, guests laughing in different languages and the low beat of lounge music into the wee hours.
Now about Ginsburg and Scalia: At 19, Sahir left Turkey for America to “get educated,” as his parents told him. An uncle taught at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore ("Not that I stood a chance of going there," he says), and as the family was keen on education and one of the more powerful newspapers in Turkey, Washington, D.C., seemed like a good stop. It was-- and wasn't. Sahir ended up not finishing college. "I was always kind of the black sheep of the family," he says. Instead he began a career as a sommelier, then as captain and waiter, eventually as a restaurateur. There were the fancy joints like Le Pavillon and Le Lion d'Or. Then he created his own, first Cold Med and then Cities in 1987.
Back in Turkey, Sahir’s mother has started the first beach club in Bodrum, in the mid-‘80s. In 2002, her son returned home and expanded on her original idea. Twelve years ago, they had opened the Macakizi in its current incarnation. It was, to be honest, a visit by Caroline Kenned and her husband Edwin Schlossberg, reported by gossip columnist Cindy Adams in the New York Post, that first got my attention. As far as Ruth and Antonin? Sahir says, “I don’t like to comment on famous people. It’s not nice.”
Nice is what this guy specializes in. To the max. His role is to life here a floating banquet of good friends and energy, fabulous food and Sternal summers. "My mother's now in her seventies, but I try to carry on in her original spirit, that same feeling that this is a living thing. Neither trendy modern nor old and classic. It's somewhere you feel at home.” Sahir says it's all about location. they places may have opened more recently (the new Amanruya is 20 minutes away), and more are to come (including a $200 million Mandarin Oriental scheduled for 2014). "I do think this is one of the most perfect locations on which you could build a hotel, a beach and a restaurant. It’s on a slope and the sun goes east to west, so you get light all day, breeze and waves but no choppy waters."
Life here is all about the sea and the sun, leisurely lunches of the grilled fob and endless muses and candlelit dinners by Ares Sahakyan, the Armenian Turk whom Sahir met years back in D.C. Not that there isn't plenty to do—seaside shopping for trinkets just down the hill in Türkbükü or perhaps a day at sea, maybe with Sahir himself or on his one-of-a-kind Ferretti 48 high-performance boat, designed as a prototype for a race in Monte Carlo. After all, Leros and that Greek island's best restaurant, Mylos Tavern, are only an hour away by boat. Just tell them Sahir sent you. They'll know what you mean. This year Sahir began a major renovation. "Everybody was com-plaining and yelling—'How can you charge this much for rooms with no TV or music?' What can I say? They all hated my hundred-dollar TVs. So I redid the rooms and replaced them," he says. When the hotel opens in April (it closes this season on November 1), Sahir will have completely redone every room, the gym and the pool, replacing the latter with an infinity pool fronted by an enormous aquarium.
This year Sahir began a major renovation. "Everybody was com-plaining and yelling—`How can you charge this much for rooms with no TV or music?' What can I say? They all hated my hundred-dollar TVs. So I redid the rooms and replaced them," he says. When the hotel opens in April (it closes this season on November 1), Sahir will have completely redone every room, the gym and the pool, replacing the latter with an infinity pool fronted by an enormous aquarium. He won't touch the original artwork by Suat Akdemir, but Turkish designer Rifat Ozbek will design new bed linens. "Even fish for the aquarium will be from these waters, not those silly bright-colored things from Hawaii," he says. "This is, after all, Turkey!"
On a peninsula with its share of opulent villas and over-the-top resorts, Maçakızı (pronounced mahcha-kiz-uh) is a standout, the sexiest hotel in all of Bodrum. That it’s hardly a traditional hotel is one reason; it feels more like the shoreside estate of some globe-trotting Turkish family blessed with considerable wealth but also the good sense to keep things simple. The property unfolds along a hillside studded with olive trees, tangerine groves, and bursts of bougainvillea. Eighty-one guest rooms are minimally but tastefully furnished and swathed in creamy white, punctuated by the bold abstract canvases of Turkish painter Suat Akdemir. Balconies offer knockout views of Türkbükü Harbor.
In July and August that harbor fills up with yachts and impossibly tall sailing ships, their masts piercing the sky like minarets. All day and night, launches to glide to and fro across alight at Maçakızı, whose beach club is a landmark in Türkbükü: a series of wooden decks over the water, strewn with white cushions and pillows, shaded by sailcloth canopies and twig-roofed pavilions. The water is clear and generally calm, sheltered within a semiprivate cove. Most guests spend their daylight hours -and much of the evening- at the beach. Every so often the muezzin’s call the prayer drifts across the water from the town mosque, a trebly counterpoint to the languid jazz playing at the bar.
Maçakızı is, in fact, owned by a globe-trotting Turkish family. Ayla Emiroğlu, who moved here from Istanbul in 1977, runs the hotel with her son Sahir Erozan, a former restaurateur who spent two decades in the power-dining rooms of Washington, D.C. At Maçakızı, the guest list alone is intriguing: Caroline Kennedy, Chelsea Clinton, Antonin Scalia, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have all vacationed here, along with the requisite Turkish music and film stars. During the summer, paparazzi float in Zodiacs just offshore, training telephoto lenses on Maçakızı’s decks.
While it’s definitely a scene in high season, Erozan does his best to keep the atmosphere refined, the crowd just this side of raucous. Ant the food – served on a breezy terrace just above the beach – is fabulous, particularly the lunch buffet, with its tantalizing array of Turkish kebabs and meze: flaky spinach börek, stuffed peppers spiked with cloves, and a smoky patlıcan salatası (eggplant purée) that haunts me still.
So the heat and the maps put a damper on our explorations. By 3 p.m. we’d usually turn back, exhausted to Maçakızı, change into our swimsuits, and hit the decks. Here, people had more sense. None of them had broken a sweat. For the beautiful Maçakızians, sightseeing was limited to ogling their own cartoonish bodies: an all-day parade of gazelle-like women and the men who love them, or at least pay for their drinks. The women change bikinis after every dip in the water – seven, eight times in an afternoon, each swimsuit with a corresponding (and wholly ineffective) cover-up.