SULTANAHMET, ISTANBUL, TURKEY – I am taking this opportunity to post, of course, about a city I have lived in and loved in and which is continuing to struggle along with the rest of its country.
I was taken by surprise when first I visited Istanbul. I imagined that I would be impressed by the history and the architecture, intrigued by the cultural differences, probably delighted by the food – and I was. But the city was so much more than I was ready for.
I always used to claim that Hong Kong was the perfect combination of East meets West, until I went to Istanbul. Though they are strikingly different, Istanbul offers a greater scope of things both “East” (near and far) and “West” (also near, and far), and you will find them clashing in everything from food to politics to fashion. The result is beautiful. It is the most romantic city I have ever experienced (sorry, Paris). You can sip tea amongst roses as you watch boats move across the jewel-blue Bosphorous. You can descend underground to an ancient cistern, lit solely by warm red lights that decorate the bases of the columns you move through. Walk into the Hagia Sophia and find yourself beneath a sea of chandeliers hanging from impressive Muslim art atop equally impressive Christian mosaics. Sit on the plush carpet floor of the Sultanahmet Mosque and gaze up at the periwinkle blue designs covering every inch of the domed ceiling and walls. Even a stroll down Istiklal Caddesi munching on baklava or lokum (Turkish delight) can feel romantic as you get lost in a swarm of people. People from every corner of the globe pass around you.
Talk to a Turkish person and you will find beautiful passion and extreme generosity – Turkish people I met throughout the country were the kindest people, as a whole, I have come across in my travels.
This picture I took with my back to the Hagia Sophia, the path leading to Sultanahmet Mosque in front of me. It was a hot, busy summer day, and I had just moved to the city.
I fell in love when I first came to Istanbul, and again when I returned a year later. It’s painful to know that unnecessary violence continues in cities throughout Turkey. I find myself wishing I could be there, one more body among the masses, fighting for fair treatment. My body is here but my mind is in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, the entire country. Everywhere is resistance.