Thursday, October 9, 2014

Let’s Talk Turkey

My friend DW gave me idea for the title to this blog.  It seemed to be the most logical way to start talking about our second holiday since arriving in the Middle East (ME). Thanks, DW!

I survived my first Ramadan and the heat of August.  Now at the beginning of October, we have the second Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Again, hubbie D’s office is closed.  To fill the holiday, we planned to visit Istanbul, Turkey with our friends DW and SW from Texas.

DW and SW have also come to Bahrain to help build a buildings business in the ME.

Eid al-Adha is an Islamic festival to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) to follow Allah's (God's) command to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Muslims around the world observe this event with pilgrimages to Mecca and by making animal sacrifices.

Here is a link to pictures of this significant Muslim holiday.

I loved Istanbul.  You could walk down the street and see layer upon layer of history unfold in front of you. There were voices in so many different languages that I could not ask people fast enough to find out where they came from.  In one day we heard Spanish, English, French, Dutch, German, Arabic, Turkish, Russian and Urdu.

I loved listening to the sound of the muezzins dueling from their minarets as the “faithful” scurried off for prayers at the many mosques. 

If you are reading this blog in an email, you can click on this link and see the video in the live blog.

Even in the middle of the Grand Bazaar, the Muslims stopped in the hallways to kneel in prayer.

Istanbul lies at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.  In fact, half of the city is in Europe and half in Asia. Istanbul’s strategic location is significant.  The city has been ruled by Greeks, Persians, Romans, Venetians and Ottomans. You can find bits of history for all of these covering the city.

The old part of the city is the Sultanahmet District that has a concentration of historic sights, shopping areas, hotels and restaurants.  It is filled with mosques, palaces, and churches dating as far back as the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

On our first day we rushed off the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar.  Because this was the week of the Eids holiday, these bazaars would only be open on the first and last days of our visit.
Standing in the shopping district after our first purchase of some Turkish Delight.
Wedding and beaded dress fabric shops lined the streets between the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar.

Sultan clothing to be purchased or custom made.

The street leading up to the gates of the Grand Bazaar.
Gates of the Grand Bazaar.
D and DW inside the Grand Bazaar.  This was a very quiet area.  Mostly it was very crowded and extremely noisy.

We stopped for a break at an outside cafe at the edge of the Grand Bazaar where we could watch the people.  A juice vendor was very close by so we purchased some fresh pomegranate juice. It was great!
Tea and fresh pomegranate juice.
After our bazaar experience, we returned to our hotel for drinks on the patio overlooking the city and then strolled down the street for dinner.

As we walked along the sidewalk, in front of us a shoeshine vendor dropped his brush as he was walking and SW politely picked it up and returned it to him.  The man immediately offered to give SW and D a free shoeshine.  Out of no where, two other shoe shiners showed up and offered free shines. Unfortunately, the shines ended in the request for money – significant money. 
No such thing as a FREE shoe shine.
Later during our trip, D was reading a local guidebook and apparently this is one of the oldest scams in the city.  We were sucked right in….once! We only paid a small amount for the FREE shoe shines but several minutes of emotional demands from the shoe shiners for large amounts of money certainly made me nervous.
Our hotel was wonderful, our room was very large and the bathroom was great. It was located in a newer area and we planned on staying there for 3 nights.  The second half of the trip we would be moving to the Sultanahmet area of the city.

Our visit to Turkey started with great food, interesting history and beautiful sites.  I don’t want to overwhelm you so I will divide this adventure into a couple of blogs.  More to come!

Adventure was one of our goals in coming the ME and we are definitely achieving that goal.


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