I realized, after talking to a friend the other night, that I never wrote about my trip to Istanbul. I have been back in Malta now for two weeks, and I am finally able to generate my thoughts about my time in Turkey. Granted, I was only there for four days, but it was filled with some good experiences.
I took my time in Istanbul to learn as much as I could, in that little time, about the Islamic faith. I am a firm believer that when you travel, you have to take every chance you can get to learn about cultures and ways of life in the communities you are visiting. Failing to do so, in my opinion, is failing to really travel. My trip to Istanbul was my first time to an Islamic country, I knew I was going to experience and see things I never had before. I welcomed those experiences with open arms.
I am 29 years old. I have lived a majority of my adult life in a post-9/11 world. September 11, 2001 was two weeks into my freshman year of college. I may have been naive but I didn’t know much about Islam prior to that day. I knew that kids at my high school were Muslim, and I would see them pray daily. Sometimes in the hall, sometimes in places more private. I never really thought much of it.
After 9/11, the attitude in the US towards Muslims changed. For me, it made me just become more curious as to what their religion was based on and entailed. Turkey was that lesson for me. Istanbul is an amazing place where the east meets the west. It’s a HUGE city. People told me it would be large, but I never expected the magnitude of what it is.
It totally blew my mind the first time we heard the call the prayer. Despite my religious beliefs, it totally took my breath away. It was rather moving and something I will never forget. Walking into the Blue Mosque the first time had the same effect. Don’t even get me started on Hagia Sophia. That could be the most jaw dropping sight I have ever seen.
The people in Istanbul were some of the friendliest people I have encountered in my travels. They were eager to teach us about their culture, and faith, and were just as eager to learn about where we came from. There was one experience I will never forget.
We went and had tea in a cafe with a top floor view of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Our waiter spoke little English. There was one other person upstairs with my friends and I. He was American too. Our waiter was so excited to have four Americans, he pulled out his cell phone and showed us photos of his hometown. He then proceeded to Google our hometowns and look at photos of where we were from.
I think that sums up my Turkish experience very well. I realized that other people were just as eager to learn about my culture and faith and I was to learn about theirs. It was a fantastic opportunity to see cultures collide and work in harmony. It made me wonder why, in other parts of the world, it seems so hard. But, alas, I know that’s something that may never be fully understood.
The other best part of Turkey? The Sahlep. Seriously that stuff is the most delicious stuff ever. I wish I could have bottled it up and brought it back to Malta with me. That and the Jasmine tea. Yum!!!!!
In other news, tomorrow is a BIG day. TOMORROW MOM ARRIVES IN MALTA! Granted, she may arrive in the middle of the night but TOMORROW! We have a fun two weeks planned while she is here – Malta, Madrid, Marrakesh, Madrid, Malta. It’s going to. be. awesome. Not going to lie. In Marrakesh, am I excited to see snake charmers? Nope (I am horrified of snakes). Am I excited to see the monkeys in the square? Eh… (Who the hell lets monkey’s climb on them anyways? Isn’t that how people get monkey diseases?!) Am I excited to ride a camel? ABSOLUTELY. Ask my friend Heidi! Years ago we tired to venture from Seattle to Tacoma (a whopping hour drive) to ride camels, and failed miserable on that mission. Ever since that fateful, rainy, night, I have been looking forward to sometime riding a camel. Hopefully it’s not like my swimming with dolphins experience. I was SO excited, and then I got to the dolphin place and promptly didn’t want to do it anymore. Ha! Fingers crossed.
“Whether you go to Turkey or Mexico, China or Australia, find time to involve yourself with the people you’re dealing with.” – Brigitte Nielsen
- Week 13 Photos: Istanbul (rachelae.com)
- 24 hours in Istanbul – A 24 hour travel guide to Istanbul (essentialtravel.co.uk)
- Set in Heaven: Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) (turkishdelight2012.wordpress.com)
- Hagia Sophia Trompe L’Oeil (daydreamtourist.com)
- $20m sponsorship from seven companies for Istanbul bid (3news.co.nz)
- Istanbul’s special mission in facilitating Turkey’s EU integration | Egemen Bağış (guardian.co.uk)