As we have mentioned in previous posts, visitors to Turkey will often see the evil eye everywhere – usually blue glass with an eye painted on it – to protect against evil.  However, this is not the only symbol one will repeatedly see in Turkey.  The Hamsa is another popular symbol.  In its simplest form, The hamsa (Arabic: خمسة khamsah, also romanized khamsa, meaning “five”) is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa.


Just like the evil eye, is commonly used in jewelry and to hang on the wall. The hamsa looks like an open right hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many cultures and societies throughout history, the hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye. 


The hamsa symbol is also an ancient symbol.  It is older than Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  However, all three of the Abrahamic religions use it.  In Islam, it is also known as the Hand of Fatima, after Muhammad’s (PBUH) daughter Fatima.  Middle East Christians call it the hand of Mary, for the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ.  Jewish people refer to it as the hand of Miriam in remembrance of the biblical Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron.


If we look at the hamsa’s more ancient roots, it can be said that it reminds people of Buddha’s gesture of protection and teaching.  Ancient Egyptians used a popular amulet similar to the hams to show protection of children by their parents.  The Hamsa is also said to remind us that God is in everything.  It is also said to represent femininity from ancient times.  



Maureen Gumus is a writer, editor, jewelry enthusiast, and world traveler.Originally from the U.S., Maureen is proud to call Istanbul her home - one that she shares with her master jeweler husband, Nurhan, and their cat, Mink.

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