Written by Kaleidescaping
16 November 2019
Turkey is a beautiful and complicated country, situated at the crossroads between east and west. Its most famous city, Istanbul, literally stretches from Europe to Asia! We recently spent two weeks exploring this fascinating country, and although we loved every place we visited, it was Istanbul that really captured our hearts. There are a thousand reasons why, but below are our top five.
There’s a beautiful mosque around every corner
As a muslim, it was so spiritually uplifting to be awoken each morning by the melodious harmony of a hundred muaddhins (person who does the call to prayer) sounding the adhan (call to prayer), their voices melding and echoing off the empty streets. Looking out of almost any window treated us to the sight of a thousand towering minarets, and we were never more than five minutes away from a mosque. The best part was that mosques were not just places of worship, but places to gather, to meet people and to watch children play.
While we visited the more well known ones, like the historic Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque and the newly constructed Camlica Mosque, we actually found that the atmosphere in the less popular mosques was more enjoyable. The Blue Mosque, while beautiful, is too touristy to appreciate as a mosque. Conversely, the sheer size of the Camlica Mosque made it seem too impersonal. Eyup Mosque, built at the site of the tomb of Abu Ayyub Al Ansari (RA), was the most lively, with people constantly praying and offering treats to visitors. The Little Hagia Sophia felt like a small community mosque, and when we visited Mehmet Pasha Mosque early one morning, the caretaker came to chat to us and open up the doors for us to explore.
They are so kind to animals
I’ve never seen a nation take such good care of street animals, as the Turks do. There are tons of cats and dogs wondering around the city, but none seem wild or starved. They saunter around as if they own the place, settling down in any comfortable spot. Most also seem friendly, and we found ourselves playing with cute kittens more than once. All the dogs we spotted had tags on their ears, which indicates that they have been vaccinated. A few hotels and other establishments even have collection boxes where you can donate cash to assist in taking care of the city’s stray animals. It was a strange and unexpected thing, but gave us a newfound respect and admiration for the people of Turkey.
The city is indescribably beautiful
Coming from South Africa where there are almost no historic monuments, we found ourselves stunned over and over again by the centuries old buildings that were majestic and so well cared for. The engineering that went into building these structures, without all the modern technologies available today, simply boggles the mind. It was so interesting to see how they co-exist harmoniously with their modern neighbours, creating a city that celebrates its past and present in the most beautiful way.
Topkapi Palace was once the opulent home of the Ottoman Sultans, its every room and feature a testament to eastern art. Dolmabahce Palace, on the other hand, is so European that it wouldn’t be out of place in Paris or London. Aside from its historic offerings, there are modern structures too, in the form of glistening skyscrapers and imposing stadiums.
Written by Bibi Ayesha Bismilla, from , a civil engineer by trade, but a traveler by heart.