The Chameleon City

Will you ever get enough of Istanbul and its mystic, when every passing day heralds new discoveries that points to a deeper past? The relentless historical and archaeological excavations that continues to this day promises more objects and finds that denotes an even older civilization in the continent’s history than we already know. Change has been a synonymous factor for the city, as it saw the rise and fall of empires and now a convergence into a global meeting point between the east and west.

On the Bosphorus Bridge that connects the two continents, like an invitation for lovers from two lands to meet, locals set up fishing lines as a daily after-work ritual. As they wait patiently for the catch of the day (if luck dictates), they banter and admire the strait while tourists throng the walkway with cameras and excited chatters. Istanbul is no stranger to the influx of travellers curious to see the glory of the Islamic empire that blended seamlessly into the Christian throne that they have taken over from. But with its evolving historical landscape and the rise of its own modern pop culture, the city beguiles visitors to return again and again. It is like drinking from a cup that never ends.Go deep into the heart of Sufism – the defining spiritual experience that is unique to Istanbul – at the Hodja Pasha Dance Theater. Once a day, the theater opens its doors for visitors to experience the highly private Sema ceremony where men go through a spiritual ascent of mind through the physical act of whirling. It is a hypnotising sight and endears you to reflect internally on your own state of mind. A spiritual journey later, get familiar with the complex history of the Byzantine and the Ottoman through the many monuments that were built to awe, the Topkapi Palace, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Basicilia Cistern. The city remains probably the only place in the world to soak in the glory of the Islamic civilization as the Topkapi Palace plays sentinel to the holy relics of Prophet Muhammad himself.

The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market offer a treat to the senses with a rainbow of colours, smells and tastes – indulge in a Simit (Turkish bagel) and Pide (flatbread) as you mime sign language with street vendors to bring home Turkish delights and exotic tea concoctions. For a slice of the hip Turkish culture revolution, head on to Tunel and Karakoy for quaint cafes and local boutiques designed by local artists. The Istanbul Handicrafts Center, housed in a restored 17th Century madrasah (school), is a gem for its hand-painted silk, ceramics, porcelain and contemporary interpretation of “ebru” – an age old Turkish art form of marbled paper. Stay stylish into the evening and get visual at 360, the much-lauded rooftop eatery with a complete view of the city that specialises in some delicious Kibbe meatballs.For a final chance to soak in the magnificence of the city from the inside and out, head upwards to the Eyup district, a predominantly Muslim area that has long been used as a place of burial. The calmness that envelopes the elevated area makes for a quiet cup of Turkish coffee while you take in the almost bird's eye view of the Golden Horn at the boutique cafes on the hill.

#culture #travel #istanbul #mosque #bazaar

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