Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey forming the country’s economic and cultural heart. This city is located along the Bosporus Strait and the Sea of Marmara. The Bosporus separates two continents of Asia and Europe and Istanbul is the only city in the world that is situated on two continents. For thousands of years, Istanbul served as the capital of three great empires of Rome, Byzantine and Ottoman.




When the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, its capital was moved from Istanbul to Ankara. However, Istanbul maintained its central role as the commercial and industrial center of Turkey and it is now the largest city of Turkey as well. Istanbul is a vast city with a total area of 1539 square kilometers. This metropolis has been selected as the “European Capital of Culture” in 2010. Iranian cities of Tehran, Isfahan and Tabriz are Istanbul’s sister cities.




Ayasofya or Hagia sophia was an Eastern Orthodox Church which was built under the order of Constantine the Great during the reign of Byzantine Empire in 532 (AD). Then, it was rebuilt and restored by Justinian I. Two architects named Isidorus (From Miletus or the present Sukley) and Anthemius (from Tralles or the present city of Aydin) were selected to reconstruct the building. It was completed by daily works of ten thousand workers during five years under the supervision of 100 craftsmen and it was inaugurated on 27 December 537 (AD). The first church was known as “the Great Church”. When Istanbul was conquered by Sultan Mehmed II, he ordered the Ayasofya Church converted to a mosque. Sultan Suleiman I ordered to cover all the portraits and paintings inside the Ayasofya Mosque so that Muslims could perform Friday prayers there. Sultan Salim II ordered the architect Mimar Sinan to restore Ayasofya. During the reign of Murad III, Islamic features such as mihrab, mibnar and minarets were added to the Ayasofya building. During the reign of Murad IV, some verses of holy Koran were written on the walls and the ceiling of Ayasofya by Mustafa Chalabi; in addition, some plaques containing the names of Allah, Muhammad, Abu-Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Hassan and Hussein were mounted all around the ceiling of Ayasofya. These plaques were replaced by the circular plaques written by Ibrahim Afandi during the reign of Sultan Abdul-Majid. When the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed and Ataturk came to power, Ayasofya was converted to a museum and it has remained untouched until today. The height of the great dome of this mosque is 55 meters from floor level and its diameter is 31 meters which has been mounted by forty big ribs on four main columns. The Ayasofya Mosque is one of the seven wonders of today’s world.




Topkapi Palace located in Istanbul is one of the famous palaces of the Ottoman Empire which was a royal residence and a setting for state occasions of this empire from 1645-1853. The construction of this palace was ordered by Sultan Mehmed Fatih in 1459 and the building was completed in 1465. This palace is located on a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara with the Bosporus in plain sight from many points of the palace. In 1853, Sultan Abdul Hamid decided to move his residence to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace which was the first European-style palace of the city. Today, the Topkapi palace has been converted to a museum and it is considered as one of the most fascinating tourist attractions of Turkey. In 1985, the Topkapi palace was placed in the World Heritage list of UNESCO.








A journey to Istanbul – Narrated by an European Tourist

مContinuing on our journey we arrived in Istanbul, a city located in Turkey. Although it was a long way, it seemed that Istanbul is an attractive and spectacular city.


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Blue Mosque

After taking a short rest, we visited the Blue Mosque, one of the most prominent symbols of Istanbul- a highly impressive building with heavenly and elegant domes, a beautiful courtyard and six slender finials and one minaret. This building was built for Sultan Ahmed I by Mehmed Agha, the royal architect between 1609 and 1616. There is an interesting story about the mosque. Sultan Ahmed wanted to have a minaret made of gold which is "altin" in Turkish language. However, the architect misunderstood him as "alti" which means "six" in Turkish. Therefore, he built six minarets for the mosque. When the architect became aware of his mistake, he was scared of being executed for the mistake; however, Sultan Ahmed liked these six minarets and not only he did not kill the architect but also rewarded him.


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There is an entrance toward the Blue Mosque for the visitors. The shoes must be taken off and put into plastic bags and carried. We entered the mosque through a gate. The interior of the mosque is decorated with chandeliers and blue tiles, absolutely beautiful and it is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles of the 17th century; however, they have mostly been used for the upper surface of the walls. The mosque is all carpeted with the rugs which enables Muslims to prostrate during the time of prayer. More than 99 percent of population of Istanbul is Muslim. They follow the teachings of the Holy Koran, the Islam’s Holy Book and Prophet Muhammad (622 AD). The Muslims believe in God (Allah) and Koran is their holy book. However, the Christians call Jesus the son of God, the Muslims acknowledge Muhammad as the Sole prophet of God to whom the Holy Quran has been sent from God through the Archangel Gabriel. Adhan is called out five times a day through a loudspeaker from the minarets all over Istanbul and Muslims are called for prayers. When the time of praying arrives, we (tourists) leave the mosque.


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Prior to praying, people perform partial ablutions (Wudu) in order to be prepared for saying their prayers in the mosque. They should wash their head, hands and feet before going into the mosque. Prior to praying, people perform partial ablutions (Wudu) in order to be prepared for saying their prayers in the mosque. They should wash their head, hands and feet before going into the mosque.

Boys with turbans!

After visiting the Blue mosque, we walked through the colorful streets in order to find a place for eating dinner and having fun. The city is full of licensed agencies, carpet dealers and shops full of souvenirs like jewel and Gerrit. The use of bargaining skills to buy cheaper is very important here. On our way, I saw two little boys wearing very beautiful local clothes which seemed quite interesting to me.


After a great sleep in a real bed and eating a delicious Turkish breakfast, we decided to visit the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar was first constructed under the order of Sultan Mehmed II (the Conqueror) in 1464. This bazaar is a labyrinth of beautifully colored covered streets. The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı in Turkish) is one of the largest covered markets in the world with 4400 shops, 3000 firms, some 17 Hans(separate inns for specific type of products), 64 streets, 25000 workers, 4 fountains, 2 mosques and 22 gates. It is a real heaven for shoppers offering excellent shopping: beautiful Turkish carpets, glazed tiles and pottery, copper and brassware, apparel made of leather, cotton and wool, pipes of the sea floor, alabaster bookends and ashtrays and all sorts of other things.


We hope we can buy an old dagger which we saw in Bazaar at a low price! There is not a fixed price for it and the dealing will be done on a negotiation and a mutual agreement. The shopkeepers are relentless in their quest for a sale and you must be prepared to be hassled at every moment. After some searching and haggling, I finally bought a bolt of beautiful white & purple fabric for my friends as souvenirs. The salesperson was hospitable and attempted to make us satisfied with our purchase.


We unknowingly arrived in Istanbul for the beginning of a very important religious event called Holy Month of Ramadan. As an introduction to Islam, there are five basic duties for every Muslim. The first of these is the profession of faith: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” They are also enjoined to pray five times a day, give alms to the poor, make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives and finally to fast during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, which is a lunar calendar on the sighting of the new moon. Since the lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar used elsewhere, Islamic holidays are changed each year with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan which are different from the Gregorian calendar.





آAtaturk – Father of the Republic of Turkey

This government building beautifully displays the Turkish flag on the left and a portrait of Mustafa Kemel, A.K.A. Ataturk on the right. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923 and Ataturk was elected as leader of the new state. He admired European lifestyles and envisioned a modern, westernized Turkish state. He adopted legal codes from Germany, Italy and Switzerland and abolished Islamic courts and religious schools. Some say his most profound step was replacing Arabic and Persian alphabets for a Latin-based alphabet to coincide with a progressing world. His statue and/or photo is everywhere throughout Turkey, truly a significant man in the countries evolution. The crescent and star on the flag symbolizes Islam.


After some down time at the hotel, we headed out for supper and found ourselves in the Spice Bazaar district. From medieval times, spices and pickles were a vital and expensive part of cooking and they became the market's main products. The bazaar came to specialize in spices and pickles from the Orient, taking advantage of Istanbul's site on the trade route between the East (where most spices and pickles were grown) and Europe. The streets are narrow, colorful and filled with an amazing mix of aromas and traffic jam. One thing we found slightly amusing is the amount of traffic in these narrow streets.


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A journey through a journey  
در Early this morning we went to Eminonu, a bustling port from which ferries depart to many destinations and also for the boat trip along the Bosporus. The boat chugged up the strait offering an excellent vantage point from which to view many of the city's famous landmarks, including the Suleyman Mosque. The trip took about two hours to our final destination of Anadolu Kavagi, a small village located on the shore of the Bosporus, just before entering the Black Sea!






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Hagia Sophia

This beautiful church is located just opposite the Blue Mosque, but until today we have admired it only from the outside. It is of special interest to us because it is the reverse of the magnificent church/mosque conversions we have seen to date. In places like Cordoba and Granada, Spain, the mosques were converted into churches when the Christians regained control, whereas the Hagia Sophia was a church converted into a mosque when the Christian city of Constantinople fell to the Ottomans on May 29th, 1453.




Originally designed as an earthly mirror of the heavens, the Hagia Sophia truly is among the world's greatest architectural achievements with its huge dome reaching to a height of 56 meters (184 feet). Now more than 1400 years old, the vast edifice has undergone drastic changes: inaugurated by the Christians in 537 AD with its monumental figurative mosaics, to its conversion into a mosque in 1453. The addition of minarets, a mihrab (the niche indicating the direction of Mecca) and calligraphic roundels (huge medallions inscribed with the names of Allah and Muhammad) were built. Hagia Sophia is no longer a place of worship and is now a museum where Christian images survive side by side with those of Islam.







Military Museum with Joel and Gerrit!
This most impressive museum traces the history of the country's conflicts from the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 through to modern warfare. The museum is also the main location for performances by the Mehter Band formed in the 14th century. They start parading outside the museum as in the ancient times that the sultan accompanied by his troops started moving into a battle.


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The Ayasofya building located at Sultanahmet Square of Istanbul is one of the world’s greatest historical monuments of Byzantine Empire era and was built during the reign of Constantine the Great. The building with a wooden colonnade was inaugurated on February 15th 360; however, it was largely burned down during the riots against the government. This building was rebuilt by Theodosius II, who inaugurated it in 415. During the reign of Justinian I, it was again burned followed by another riot against the government. Two architects Isidorus (From Miletus or the present Sukley) and Anthemius (from Tralles or the present city of Aydin) were selected to reconstruct the building. It was completed by daily works of ten thousand workers during five years under the supervision of 100 craftsmen and it was inaugurated on 27 December 537 (AD). This building hosting hundreds of thousands of local and foreign tourists has been frequently rebuilt after that date. After the conquest of Istanbul, this building which served as a church for 916 years was converted to a mosque. This mosque was opened for 481 years during the reign of Ottoman. Ayasofya was converted to a museum in 1935 after the addition of some buildings, minarets and reconstructions to it and then it served the tourism and tourists. The museum is open every day from 9:30 to 16:30 for the visitors who are interested in visiting this building. (Sultanahmet Square/ Istanbul)





Goodbye Turkey!

It is time to leave Turkey and continue our journey. Although we had a very little time for visiting all the attractions of Istanbul and Turkey, it was a very good experience.