I was so excited to go to Istanbul because I took a history course in Turkish Islam at University. I was so curious to see it first hand.
Istanbul was such a fascinating city. I experienced this city with my husband Jayda, my good friend Joe, and his girlfriend Chloe. We had such a fantastic time.
To be honest, I was a little apprehensive at first, as Turkey is a mostly Islamic nation, and well, I am a Westerner.
The only real reason why I had a little doubt was that I heard so many BAD things from my American friends/family before I left. When I got to Istanbul, I instantly realized the ignorance. My friends/family heard Istanbul, they then thought Middle East, then after that they instantly were blinded by hate. Too many Americans still think that anyone or any thing in the Middle East is bad. My experience in Istanbul simply strengthened my belief in the importance of travel and how it is the easiest way to educate and get rid of unnecessary hatred and ignorance. I really hope my experience of Istanbul will inspire people to travel as well as have a will to become more educated before making racial ignorant comments.
As soon as Jayda and I got onto the subway into the city I noticed immediately the respect the Turkish people had for each other.
Men would move instantly to let woman and children sit down. As soon as I walked in, an elderly man gave up his seat for me. I told him no, (as best I could) but he wouldn’t accept. So I got a seat. Even though I was younger than him. After living in England for so long, I definitely am used to public transport, but what I was not used to was common courtesy. In England, no one even gets up for a pregnant woman. I instantly thought that the English could learn a lesson from the Turkish
Another tiny worry for me was how to dress as it was an Islamic country, but if you are not a Muslim, they don’t expect you to cover your hair or body. They are very understanding of other cultures and religions as well. Never once did I feel ashamed for showing my hair or skin. Which was a major relief. Even though I knew it wouldn't be like that, it was always reassuring. I do not know if the rest of Turkey would have been like that because Istanbul is broken into Asian and European influences, but from my experience I was genuinely impressed with how accepting of other cultures Istanbul was.
When we first got of the subway, the first thing we saw was the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia (one of the man made wonders of the world) with all 6 minaret’s and everything. After walking with our back packs on in the 90 degree weather we found our hotel (it was amazing to feel sunshine again!). The hotel man at the front desk greeted us with a big smile, was completely helpful, and even took us to our room personally.
|View from our Hotel|
That was when I heard my first afternoon prayers.
As it was an Islamic country with mosques everywhere, when it was prayer time you could hear it anywhere and everywhere in the city. It was honestly the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. I couldn’t understand what they were saying as it was in Turkish or Arabic, but the prayers were in song and it was beautiful. That is how Jayda and I started our days and ended our evenings. On the roof top terrace in the morning sun, or watching the sunset over the magnificent mosques listening to the morning and evening prayers.
Also, Turkish coffee was very tasty. It is blended in such a way where they boil it in water and sugar. Then they put it in a tiny glass (grains and all). They serve it to you in a tiny tiny cup, you let the grains settle and drink it. It was super strong but super good. My souvenir for myself was Turkish Coffee and the tiny pot to boil it in. I can’t wait to try it at home. However, I have the feeling it won't quite be the same.
That was what our days were like, wake up, enjoy some sun and food, enjoy some coffee. Go into this café here, that café there. Appreciate the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the city, then at night eat at a restaurant with a roof top terrace to enjoy the view and food.
Apparently one of them was a famous Turkish Guitar player (or they claimed) but he did have a legit looking case. He took his Guitar out and another guy took out his drum and they came to our table and played for us for like an hour! How nice was that? They sang as well (not that I understood them), but it was so much fun and so cool and soooo beautiful!
They were so happy that we loved their music and singing. We were also enjoying ourselves so much that we stayed there until 230 am! Just hanging out, smoking hookah, and enjoying the music. Our waiter didn’t charge us for a lot of tea’s either so we left him a big tip. We left to go back to our hotel feeling very welcomed into Istanbul and the culture. It was a first hand view of seeing what life in Istanbul was like.
Although, (the one thing I did notice is that no woman were out and about that night unless accompanied by their husband) just a bunch of men drinking tea and singing together. So innocent, but so interesting as well. It was nice knowing people could have fun and enjoy themselves with out alcohol.
|In front of the Hagia Sophia|
We also visited the Spice Market, which was amazing and smelt delicious! Spices were every where, fresh tea, coffee’s, spices, and Turkish Candy. I bought coffee and some of the Flower/ Love tea I loved so much. Joe and his girlfriend bought Lemon Salt and a bunch of spices. It was truly one of the coolest things we did. Especially since we made friends with the Turkish man we bought stuff off of so he let us taste and smell and touch everything we bought. Plus gave us a massive discount. It was fabulous!
We spent 4 full days there, and it went by so fast. The people were so friendly and welcoming, the food was delicious, and the city was stunning. I would recommend it to anyone.
It was the perfect mixture of the Old Ottoman Empire and the new modern fast paced culture of the world. Old dirt streets and buildings, but the interior of the buildings were spotless and modern. Istanbul is split between the the Asia side and the European side and the culture reflects this brilliantly.
Still, after everything I did there, my favourite thing will still be enjoying some coffee or tea on the terrace; listening to the evening and morning prayers while admiring the mosques. Honestly, I can say that Istanbul is Incredible!!