Mehmet Cenan has an interesting story to tell. He is most content these days, running a popular kebab shop here in Armidale. He tells us about the trials and tribulations of his former life growing up in Turkey.Where were you born?
I was born in a little village called Golbasi in South East Turkey, in the State of Adiyaman. The village is quite a cute little town, consisting of approx. 20,000 people. The town is very close to the famous Nemrut heads – an unforgettable sight, the amazing carved heads on Mt Nemrut combined with the stunning scenery.
Adiyaman is one of the oldest civilizations in history and is among the most important provinces in Turkey from the aspect of tourism and history. Especially on Nemrut Mountain, which has graves, temples and the statues of kings that are extremely interesting for tourists (see photo above). The province has recorded great developments in agriculture, and industrialisation has accelerated in recent years.
My home region was founded in the first century B.C. which is on the lands of the Adiyaman Province today. King Antiochus I, who was known to be an art lover, decided that his grave should be at the summit of Nemrut Mountain and said, “Those who come to visit my grave should wear their most beautiful clothes and the most fragrant perfumes. I will give them happiness and prosperity for generations on these lands.”
In fact, the Nemrut Mountain National Park and the summit of Nemrut Mountain, with its impressive silhouette at a height of 2,150 m, is the place in the province visited the most by domestic and foreign tourists. It’s a very spiritual place.
Describe your life growing up in Turkey …
Life growing up was very family oriented, as well as disciplined. I have one brother and three sisters; I am the youngest. Life in Golbasi, when I was young, was attending school and praying five times a day at the mosque. My parents owned a jewellery store in Golbasi that I worked in for many years. I designed, made and sold most of my father’s jewellery in the family store.
When did you move to Armidale?
I came to Australia in 2002, then moved to Armidale in 2007.
Do you have family here?
I have two children, both boys, 5 and 6, with my wife Sarah. The only other family I have in Australia is my cousin Murat, who lives in Dubbo. All of my other family live in Turkey and Switzerland. I am very close to Sarah’s parents, who also live in Armidale and own a local Armidale business.
How did your strong interest in Thai Boxing come about?
I was brought up on Thai Boxing from a young age, approx. 5, with my brother playing a large role in the development of my skills. I trained every day for many years. I travelled to Thailand (which is where the sport of Muay Thai originated) for 6 months to study Thai Boxing and to develop my skills.
What is the exact name of your sport and what titles have you won?
The name is Muay Thai, and I competed for many years in Turkey and gained myself several titles such as (Turkey) Muay Thai heavyweight champion in 2001, (Eastern Turkey) Muay Thai underage champion in 1996, Second in the European Muay Thai Championship in 2000.
Where did your competing take you?
My competition took me all over Turkey and to Thailand, Germany, Switzerland and Greece.
Why did you stop your sport?
In 2002 I had completed my training for the evening and was heading home. I was approached by several men who knew me from my competing in Muay Thai. The men began to have an argument with me regarding my sport. After a brawl broke out between us, one of them drew a gun and shot me in the side. As it was night and I was left alone to fend for myself, I proceeded to walk up the hill to my parents’ house, approx 2 km, in order to get some help. I was unconscious in hospital for 29 days and then had to have surgery. I will never be able to compete professionally again.
Tell us about your new kebab shop in Armidale?
Baba’s was a dream that my wife and I had for a few years. We started making plans for Baba’s when we found the perfect shop in May this year. We have many ideas when it comes to the shop. We both have a background in Turkish food and plan to implement many Turkish delicacies in the up and coming months. Savoury crepes will be introduced in November, along with daily made Turkish Bread. Baba’s will also start to branch out into making several different Turkish sweets. We also plan to open a Turkish restaurant within the next three years in Armidale. The restaurant will have a complete Turkish theme, meaning that as soon as you walk through the door, you will no longer be in Armidale – you will be in Turkey.
Where is your shop?
Baba’s Kebabs is at the east end of the Armidale Mall. It’s the old Independent newspaper building on the corner of Marsh and Beardy Streets.
Come and have a look! Enjoy the taste of Turkey.
Thank you Mehmet.