Some pictures from November trip to Istanbul. Hopefully will start posting a few to the Flickr. #log #photos #travels #Istanbul #Turkey #social #culture
So yesterday was the last day for me in Istanbul. Woke up to see rain and a message from very helpful istanbuldayim. Called her up and made up a plan to meet up at 1pm. Since it was raining I just stayed in trying to recharge my batteries. Met her at the Beyazit tram station and went in to explore the Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.
Before I proceed further, let me share some stuff about istanbuldayim She is an exchange student in Istanbul from a University in USA. Can speak Arabic and Turkish, knows way too much about Pakistan, is a very likable and friendly person, doesn’t entirely agree with the American foreign policy and has very well informed opinion on things - what else you need in a person to be termed as a uber-cool person to hangout in Istanbul with?
I guess we talked about stuff ranging from American elections, American foreign policy, Pakistani politics, Pakistani nuclear program, ISI/MI, Turkish Secularism, Languages, reverse Racism and pretty much everything else. I really am grateful to Tumblr sometime, because I have never met more wonderful people through any other Social Media platform than this. If you follow me you might know that I have been even on a Tumblr wedding (they are among the best couples in my list!).
Anyway so we walked around Grand Bazaar, took pictures and then took a ferry to Kadiköy (guess I was going to miss the famous Istanbul Ferry otherwise). There got introduced to this real great candy shop. Bought some stuff for the family (Baklava) and then sat down outside under the shade for some Turkish Cay (Chai) and Baklava. Though I really wanted to go further but since it was already 4pm and I had a flight to catch at 8pm, we decided to call it a day. Istanbuldayim, was very kind to accompany me back to the Fatih from where I took a tram back to my hotel, rushed back to the station (hated those uphill runs when I was getting late, arrr) and took the tram to Zeytinburnu. Funny thing happened there, just before the station I was supposed to get off and change but I made a mistake and stayed on (had to get off on next station and get back to the same again for the change). But luckily this time I bumped into a Tour Guide lady going back home after work and she could speak English. She was very kind to guide me through the whole thing and even gave me a little shortcut advice (saved me a few minutes).
Finally reached the Airport, rushed through the security (requesting ladies in front of me if I can jump in front of them - thanks to them for agreeing). Rushed through the security (my flight was in like 1.5 hours). Got to the Check-in counter and saw a massive line at every counter. The online check-in counter looked awfully empty so I went up there and asked the guy if he can let me through? He probably saw the look on my face (I was probably looking like a lost ugly puppy by that time) and gave me the favour. Next part was the immigration counter and the massive Z-line in front of it! Luckily I made it through and the guy at the immigration counter after putting exit stamp on my passport said “I LOVE PAKISTAN”, and I was like you know what even if I am getting late here are 10 seconds for you, “Thank you very much for everything, I really enjoyed my stay in Istanbul”. Rushed through the second security check (even those people were kind for some reason). And finally reached my Gate just 35 minutes before 8.
Trust me, there were times when I thought I am buying another ticket!
While standing at the non-existent queue which is natural for any flight for Pakistan, I met these two Polish ladies who were going to Pakistan to perform. Had an interesting exchange with them and invited them to my University in Lahore (will be great if we can host them).
Flight was another interesting thing, we were 1 hour late and some other stuff which I am sure I will be writing down in a letter to Turkish Airline very soon!
Got to Pakistan early in the morning, around 5pm. Met family at home. Went to sleep and woke up around noon.
Let’s just say that I am still feeling a little tired, but it was a wonderful experience. More related stuff and hopefully some pictures later.
p.s. Thank you istanbuldayim once again for all the help and taking time out from your busy schedule.
p.s.s. Didn’t proofread again!
Last night was so tired that I could not even blog about the day, so here is for yesterday.
I had decided to spend the day seeing the famous mosques and some museums, so after getting up in the morning I walked up to the Sulemaniye Mosque through the sides of the bazaar. Apart from the marvellous architecture it also sports a wonderful view towards the Galata tower, took some photos there. Then walked through the “little Kurdistan” part of the town blaming myself for why I forgot to write down the name of the famous Kabab shop.
From there I made my way through the winding bazaars to the Yani mosque (New Mosque). Usually I do not express my religious side much and keep it quite personal but there I heard one of the most beautiful recitations ever in my life. It wasn’t even a very personal feeling because I did hear two three people even cry with loud voice. Again took pictures there and got out, saw kids feeding and playing with pigeons which obviously meant some good photo opportunities. Though one of the old ladies selling the bird-feed didn’t like me taking her pictures. She covered her face with a small broom and said something in Turkish which I am sure was something angry, so am not really inclined for a translation of that.
Here I had to make a choice, either I could take a boat ride to Bosphore or continue down to the Sultanmehmet. What I decided in the end was that if am done before the sunset I will come back otherwise will leave it to Wednesday. I reached the Hagia Sophia, queued up got the ticket and saw the marvel of the architecture with my own eyes. It is just out of the world what they were able to achieve in scale and ingenuity in those times. Though lack of lighting inside made taking pictures quite a challenge, I did enjoy the company of my fellow tourists. One old American couple standing near the Altar looking at the mosaic of Jesus with Virgin Mary said, “look at least even with all their Allah, Baby Jesus is still at the top”. But personally I really liked the idea how the Turks have restored the Christian elements of the once Cathedral, restores your faith in co-existence.
In one corner of the Hagia Sophia there is a “wishing column” where people put their fingers in a hole and turn it one complete clockwise circle. It is rumoured to grant them their wishes, and goes back to the Emperor Justinian who got rid of his headache by just leaning against the pillar. Amid the long queue of people lining up for their wishes at the Column all I saw was a tall man getting angry on a kid who jumped the queue!
On the back of Hagia Sophia there are Royal tombs, and when I was there they were also exhibiting pictures from Hajj. Got out from there wanted to go to Topakapi Museum but the security guard told me that it is already closed and I should come in tomorrow. So I headed towards the Sultanahmet Mosque or more famously the Blue Mosque. It is a beautiful mosque, with the same Hagia Sophia inspired architecture you find elsewhere in Istanbul.
One thing which did disturb me a little was that after the prayers were over some women were just walking around the main hall of the mosque and all of sudden this caretaker of the mosque appears who angrily tells them to leave the main hall right away. It is quite unfortunate that even after so many years and with all the Secularisation of Turkey, we are still keeping our women out of the mosque! They could still pray on the corners in segregated parts but I am not even trying to stir up the old controversy of mixed prayers, it is well after the prayers are done.
Out in the courtyard I sat down with a dog taking a nap, and saw a Japanese tourist fix a tripod for his point-and-shoot camera, put it on timer, pose and then check the picture before repeating the same step. As of now I think that is the only downside of travelling alone if you like your pictures to be taken!
Got out of the mosque walked to the main Devan Yolu Street, saw some old Cemeteries with their interesting tomb stones and engravings. Had lunch on a street side cafe (add more “no you are not a Pakistani” jokes here, which are not even funny any more). Then walked down to the Kumkapi harbour and sat there till the sunset taking some pictures. Encountered a man with balloons tied on strings and beer bottle/cans spread around the stones, so you can shoot them with an air gun. However apparently he also didn’t like my idea of taking his picture and probably I also do not want the translation of what he said. Apart from all this Kumkapi is also a very historic place with once a large concentration of Armenians in the area, and the riots around late 1800s.
Afterwards I thought maybe I should go back to my hotel, take some rest and then try some of those Kumkapi seafood. But once back I quickly realised that even the urge of food won’t take me far after how much tired I was. Ate inside the hotel and called it a night, don’t even remember when I fell asleep.
p.s. can’t proofread it! sorry!
So last night I walked all the way to Sultanmehmet and all these other historical places to see them at night and in return got some very interesting interactions. So I get into this shop to get juice and the guy at till asked me something in Turkish about my camera. I couldn’t pick up anything except for camera and that too because he was directly pointing at it, so I politely told him that sorry I do not understand what he is saying. To this the other guy behind the counter says, “he must be from Pakistan” (I can pick up some Turkish, if they speak it clear). The first guy looks at me and says “no, England” and then looks up and me and asks again, where am I from?
I told him that I am from Pakistan but the two still had a little argument as not convinced but I got a 10 kuruş discount!
Also tried this interesting lamb sandwich from a street vendor and when I was about to leave he asks me with a very cold face if I am from “Arab”? I told him, no I am from Pakistan to which I got a very warm handshake and loads of smile!
Brand Pakistan seems to be working once I end up convincing people that I am indeed from Pakistan!
p.s. Looking up in the mirror I see that I look like crap, not sure if I should continue like this or head to a Turkish barber!
Got early in the morning to Istanbul, decided to take metro instead of taxi to experience the real Istanbul way of travel. Missed my change at the Zeytinburnu because apparently Turks are completely fine with not bothering with any temporary signs while they renovate the station. Anyway took the next station back and got to Beyazit and finally to my hotel.
In the way I broke my bag, which made the travelling by metro and tram a little annoying but anyway nothing which couldn’t be managed. Staff at hotel was kind enough to let me have the room early (I was there at 7am). Later got some help from them and the pointers given to me by istanbuldayim marked some places on the map and set out to Istiklal Street on foot. I just followed the T1-tram and got all the way to the Taksim square, stopping on the way for Kilic Alipasa Cami and under renovation Nusretiye Mosque. From Taksim had lunch at a cafe (who I think over charged me, but anyway I was hungry) before leaving for Galata tower from Istiklal Street. A thing about this street; technically it seems like the High Street of Istanbul and honestly it has such a strong British flavour to it that at few times I felt if I am back in UK. Probably someone with more grasp on the local history can tell me why is it so, but anyway that is what I felt.
Galata tower seems like an interesting place but it is really once in a lifetime thing (like really you will only do it once, unless someone is taking you there for a dinner the second time!). You can see the whole beautiful city of Istanbul in it’s full glory from a platform around the top of the tower.
From there I set for trip back to Fatih passing again via Galata Bridge where there are more people catching the fish than probably all the fish in the channel! But it was good fun sight and I got to take some pictures so why would I be complaining about anything. On my way back decided to take a trip inside the famous Spice Bazaar, which is interesting if you haven’t been to the spice market of any other Asian country. It was however a fun place to be, with so much energy and people doing all these different salesmen pitches. One person in particular has signs posted in Japanese and apparently it works for him (and as per my observations Japanese are quite generous travellers).
On my way back from there, I decided to take inner streets passing through Ankara Road, Babi-e-Ali and seeing these different specialist markets for different things. Finally got back to the hotel and took some rest, checked emails and now shall leave for another trip of the Fatih at night. I couldn’t visit any of the museums today because apparently they are all closed on Monday, so probably tomorrow with that along with the important Sulemaniye mosque.
Plus interestingly a lot many people through I am a local and would start conversing in Turkish and if that was not enough a lot many though I am an Arab. Since when did I stop looking like a Pakistani?
p.s. I really need a local help me with some Turkish Sweet shopping! Where the hell should I buy the real good stuff?
Next stop Istanbul (mobile)
and I haven’t even been to Istanbul yet!
Oh Turks you and your “zalim” chai! (mobile)
Am lying in bed at the Istanbul airport hotel now, again opted against going out for 6 hours because everyone keeps on scaring me about Istanbul’s notorious traffic jams. Will get back to Istanbul after the meetings in Cyprus for that 60 hours of craziness.
By the way I think I absolutely hate the Benazir International Airport in Rawalpindi. Don’t know if I should blame the name of the Airport for it or just the general insensitivity of the people supposed to be making decisions. Just imagine if Zardari really think that this Airport does justice with his late wife’s name, then I am sure he hated her from bottom of his heart. And plus that she was one ugly witch in his eyes.
Second, I have made a new rule that this should be my first and last travel with Turkish Air based on preference. Someone should tell them something about in-flight entertainment! If it wasn’t for that documentary on Einstein’s theory of relativity and time-travel I would have tried to change even my return ticket.
And finally, God bless the Uzbek and Kazakh people! Amen.
Got my ticket, bookings and everything but don’t have my documents back from the Northern Cyprus embassy yet! Leaving for Lahore in an hour or two, will ask someone to pick up my documents tomorrow from the embassy. Got to be in Lahore to smooth some stuff at the work and also pick up my clothes (how intelligent of me, right?).
Hopefully if I have all the stuff ready I can be in Islamabad again tomorrow night so I can leave on 1st. I know that I can try to leave anyway since I can get visas on port but the thought that the immigration at exit in Islamabad can annoy the hell out of me is keeping me away from doing that.
Anyway let’s see how it goes :)
Went around the mountains near Islamabad, and had a little taste of dirt-road driving with Danial to get some test footage on GoPro Hero2. Was able to get some real good stuff but I do need that LCD BacPac as soon as possible. It is not funny trying to shoot on a camera capturing at 170 degree on pure guess.
Was also hoping to catch Cloud Atlas on Eid but interestingly one cinema which announced that they would screen it on 26th October do not even have a mention of it on their website any more. Not cool at all!
Plus have got my tickets for Turkey earlier today. Should be in Istanbul from 5-7th November.
Probably I should take a hiatus from making any plans. Was supposed to be going on a documentary/travelogue making trip up North (Skardu and Hunza), but that got delayed. Now am going to Turkey instead. I need to stop planning!
Do I have any followers* from Istanbul? I will not mind someone local telling me something interesting on 5th and 6th of November, maybe tell me something about the best place for Sultan Köfte.
Will have to leave for Islamabad in a little while.
*I will not mind if you let me borrow your Turkish followers you know!
The Turk who saved the world (and other stories)
From the 1960s to 1980s Turkish popular cinema - dubbed Yesilcam (Green Pine) - produced a large number of films that borrowed storylines and ideas from American blockbusters and pop culture. Some even lifted entire sequences and scores from Hollywood.
Many had a superhero or fantastic theme but the range is vast, from James Bond adaptation Altin Cocuk (Golden Boy), to a Turkish exorcist called Seytan (Satan). (complete article)
So this is the cinema which establishes how much friendly relation Turkey and Pakistan got!
Turkish Cyprus: Finally got around selecting photos from the trip. Uploading some from Famagusta at the moment and if you wish you can see the higher resolution pictures here on my Flickr.
Taken on: 25h April 2012
Tuesday Movie Recommendation: The Edge of Heaven (2007)
A German-Turkish film by Fatih Akin, which is simply just amazing. It goes under the original German title of “Auf der anderen Seite”, and moves seamlessly between Turkish and German language - so probably majority of the viewers will like to watch it with subtitles.
It is beautiful story of an old man Ali living with his son Nejat (a Turkish professor of German at a German University) who asks a Turkish prostitute to live with him. Nejat is perhaps secretly looking for a mother he never had. It is a beautiful story about an angry Turkish girl Ayten whose mother works in Germany and she runs away to Germany to avoid arrest. Ayten is probably not an activist, rather just angry. It is a beautiful story about Lotte, a German University who falls in love with a girl and then she travels all the way to Turkey for her. Lotte is perhaps just an idealist. It is a beautiful story about Susanne who is grieving and learning to reconcile with the new reality. Susanne perhaps just wants to make mends.
This story does not believe in revolutions, that is maybe why I liked it so much.
One of the best dialogues from the film was perhaps when Susanne sees Muslim men going for prayers in Turkey and asks Nejat what is happening. After telling the story of Abraham that was willing to sacrifice his son, Ismael, to show God his obedience. Before Abraham could slay his son God sent a lamb to sacrifice instead.
Nejat: I asked my dad if he would have sacrificed me as well.
Susanne: And what did he say?
Nejat: That he would even make an enemy of God to protect me.