The first thing I was expecting when I arrived in Istanbul were crowds and filth. Surprisingly I found neither. Instead I found clean streets, orderly shops, and nice restaurants. The only crowded area was to be expected at the Topkapi Palace or the Grand Bazaar in the afternoon. My first day was quite productive since I managed to see the big three: The Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. The Topkapi Palace is quite something in that you can see an 86 carat diamond, Moses’ walking stick, and strands of the Prophet Mohammed’s beard all in one shot. The faithful must have been wetting themselves over that last bit.
I am having mixed feelings about all of this Islamophenalia given the recent beheadings, European train attack, and destroyed archaeological sites by the followers of the religion of peace. But then again most of the recent atrocities as well as the rise of ISIS can be attributed to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s ridiculous, self-serving misadventures in Mesopotamia. Still I grow weary waiting for this major world religion to join the rest of us in the 21st. century. Anyway I find all religions to be a bit silly which I can easily ignore. It’s when they become hypocritical, dangerous, curtail personal freedoms, or ultimately threaten the survival of mankind that I draw the line.
I felt really badly today for a woman getting a tourist photo with the supplied ethnic costumes, and there she was with her beekeeper ensemble poking out of the top of the outfit, unable to wear the beautiful veil. It looked like the Elephant Man’s sister had traded in the drab head sack for a chic new black model. The underlying message of powerlessness, and being marked as chattel really comes across when you observe this firsthand. Islamic veiling is a form of sexist patriarchal oppression, and supporters of equality have a responsibility to say so. The reason Western feminists (male or female) object to seeing women in burqas is not that we can’t tolerate diversity, but that the burqa is a symbol of patriarchal Islam’s intolerance of dissent and desire to contain and repress female sexuality.
This is not a part of the world you want to be born a woman.
The Blue Mosque – Taken from the rooftop of my hostel.
Blue Mosque Courtyard
Blue Mosque Interior
If It Were Only That Easy – I listened to the presentation and I still don’t understand.
Have A Nice Day
The Hagia Sophia – One of the great structures of the world.
Originally a Christian Church, the Hagia Sophia was repurposed as a Mosque and ultimately turned into a museum and Unesco World Heritage Site.
Christian imagery with Islamic medallion below.
Ionic Column – Note the amazing detailed carving on the capital.
It’s too bad that they had renovations going on during my visit, but the main dome is a wonder of ancient architecture. The original collapsed so they replaced it with a dome with a higher arc and more windows which cut down on the load and stress. The increased light also did wonders in illuminating the beautiful artistic detailing throughout the church.
The Beautiful Door – Bronze Door from the Hellenistic Temple of Tarsus 2nd. Century B.C. Placed here by the Emperor Theophil0s (829-842)
Entrance to Topkapi Palace
The Kitchen Area
Pots & Pans
Circumcision Room – Where little princes went to get their pee-pees cut.
The Blue Mosque – Another lovely vantage point.
The Grand Bazaar – Before The Crowds
There is also a small bazaar near the Blue Mosque which I recommend. It has some quality shops and is less of a clusterf**k. Also, the neighborhood below the Blue Mosques has a number of good shops as well. One of the best offerings is for the ladies. You can find top quality replica leather handbags by Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and the like that are very difficult to tell from the originals due to the excellent craftsmanship and leather. These are not the crappy Chinese knock-offs you see in big cities around the world. Wealthy Arabs even buy these for their wives, and all the international flight crews go wild for these fantastic bargains. I went a bit crazy myself, buying a quantity of them for my expectant daughter, daughter in law, and friends back home.
Meerschaum Pipe Maker – Craftsman of 40 years – Made Danny’s Christmas Gift. Can’t speak a lick of English, but a super nice guy nonetheless. That’s not Danny’s pipe by the way.
Teas & Spices
One of many Corinthian columns
Sad Eyes Peeking Out Of A Burka – Another Saudi with his property.
Yet Another Mosque
Back In Town
THE BLUE MOSQUE