|Upon arrival last Wednesday we decided to book ourselves on two tours. One, a must from my perspective and thankfully Rose agreed, that would be the cruise of the Bosporus. The second was a ½ day walking tour of some of the “regular” sites in Sultanahmet the old part of Euro Istanbul. We did so thinking that even though we may not have as much historical motivation during the waning days of our “tour”, by making this booking we would have at least some commitment to get out there on our last day. HA!
I must admit that we are not big fans of walking tours, especially in big cities as we have had too many unfavourable encounters with various hordes of walking tour people crowding around the site of the moment to the exclusion of almost all others.
I do have patience, just not a lot of it, and the combination of an indecipherable guide and a disparate pack of fellow tour-ers led us to make an early exit from said tour.
In the meantime we did find the Blue Mosque to be an impressive edifice which did however have a dress code that Rose did not meet. I had worn long pants for the occasion and managed to pass muster, Rose had to don a long skirt, provided free of charge, as her capri pants were deemed too short. Of course everyone had to take their shoes off and carry them in a plastic bag, also provided free of charge.
“Blue” because of the predominance of that colour in the ceramic tiles lining the walls, this mosque has 6 minarets. The result it is said of a miscommunication between the Sultan, Ahmet I and his architect in the early 1600’’’s. There are usually fewer minarets associated with adjacent mosques, but Turkey has two, the other was built in Adana in south eastern Turkey in 1998.
Minarets were climbed 6 times a day by the prayer caller (muezzin) to chant the “ezan”or call to prayer.
According to our guide, Muslims are only required to actually pray 5 of those times as the 2nd call just before dawn is not used for prayer. The 1st call, 2 hours before dawn is a required prayer call and here it happens at 3:31 am…..every day! The closest minaret to us is about 100 feet…..Auggh!
Rose and I also managed to visit the Hagia Sophia, a short walk from the Blue Mosque.
Originally built around 537, it was a Christian Church until about 1453, whereupon the vagaries of politics and power rendered it into a Mosque and it remained so until 1935 when the Turkish government turned it into a secular museum.
Turkey, bye the way, is constitutionally secular but there is a lot of controversy over that. They adhere to some secular practices but at the same time seem to support religious studies in school.
SO! That’s pretty much a wrap for Istanbul… We did manage to find our way to the Grand Bazaar which was somewhat spectacular, but ever since our Kusadasi guide told us that we could probably get a better rug deal in Canada I’ve been a tad skeptical about buying anything more than a T-shirt.
Who the hell buys all this crap??
Anyway...our last dinner in town was pretty low key, but pleasant all the same. Our host was quite articulate and explained that a combination of the recent turmoil, Ramazan and the Eurocup in France has seriously affected business. Time to go home and download our boarding passes!