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“If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
Istanbul is one of those places that will instantly wake up your five senses. Random strangers and invitations, strong Turkish coffee, colorful carpets, soft silk scarves, salted yogurt drinks (Ayran), pistachio-flavored Turkish delight, the voices of the muezzins that call the Muslims to prayer, and the sweet smell of Hookah from the outdoor bars are still vivid in my memory.
One of the buildings of the Topkapi Palace Complex, where I saw an 86-carat diamond. It’s called the Spoonmaker’s Diamond because the guy who found this in the streets sold it for three spoons.
I went into the Süleymaniye Mosque, mistaking it for the famous Blue Mosque. I actually liked it much more because it wasn’t swarming with tourists, didn’t smell like feet, and was just as impressive and beautiful.
It was the first time I had been to a mosque. I was surprised at how open and inviting it was. I took the scarf off my neck and carefully covered my hair, and borrowed a shirt from an old man that was handing them out in front of the mosque to cover my arms.
The Sultanahmet camii, or the Blue Mosque, was Sultan Ahmet I’s 17th century masterpiece that was intended to rival the Ayasofya. In fact, he constructed it only 300 meters away from it.
Muslims pray facing the Mihrab, which always points toward the direction of Mecca.
The entrance of the Blue Mosque made me realize how beautifully sky blue and gold complement each other.
The courtyard of the Blue Mosque.
The Sultanahmet Mosque got its nickname as the Blue Mosque from the tens of thousands of blue Iznik tiles.
The main dome and minarets of the Blue Mosque. It’s highly unusual for a mosque to have six minarets. Only the Grand Mosque of Mecca had six minarets at the time (it now has nine), which caused controversy.
There were little kids running around and taking pictures as well as tons of tourists taking pictures with flash at the mosque. I don’t know how the others were able to concentrate on their prayers.
From Kadıköy, which is on the Asian side of Istanbul. It’s only a short ferry ride away from Eminönü.
Turkish men dancing in Kadikoy.
From a rooftop in Eminonu, where we cooked barbecue.
A boy wearing traditional clothes. He reminded me of Aladdin.
Why I love Turkey.
The Basilica Cistern was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian to provide water.
There were a couple of pillars with Medusa’s head at the bottom at the Cistern.
The Hippodrome of Constantine was initially just a horse racing track, but later became a more important venue used not only for sporting events, but also for ceremonies and coronations by the Byzantines.
So I was walking through the Hippodrome, and ran into the Serpent Column that dates back to 480 BC! The bronze column that depicts three intertwined snakes was brought to Constantinople from Delphi by Constantine I the Great.
The Obelisk of Thutmose III was created in 1490 BC, but is still in perfect condition. This Egyptian obelisk was moved to Contstantinople in year 390.
The main entrance to the Grand Bazaar.
Most of the stalls at the Grand Bazaar were selling lanterns, spices, jewelry, carpets, scarves, and leather and silk products.