My actual entry into turkey was not getting off the plane into the Attaturk internal airport in Istanbul, it was when I got into the turkish airways plane. The airhostesses who couldn't give a +0$$ about us, the pilot who did not speak engish arabic, the recorded onboard message about the trip and they safety instructions. The freely served alcoholic beverages consumed by arabs with beards. it was interesting. I was just happy the plane didn't crash.
The airport itself was big and clean (not the toilettes) and it was what I would have imagined a soviet era airport to look like. Maybe I should check my history.
Coming straight out of the UAE there was one thing I could not help noticing. There were NO indians ! most of the people around were turks or iranians. I met alot of iraqis at the airport as well coming mostly from the Kurdish north for business.
The line through to customs was loooong ! this is stressful in a third world country where if you blink 5 people push in line, with thier kids and luggae and passport problems requiring an extra 20 minutes, you had to be ready for that shit !
Anyways, 2 hours later my turn comes up, the hungover looking policeman looks at my dodgy passport (New Zealand passport issued in Saudi, it looks how a fake passport should). He looks at me, then at the passport, then at me, then at the passport, then he asks, is this you ? Yes it is. He shrugs his shoulders like he doesn't care if I'm a drug peddler or an international assasin, go through dodgy passport guy ! thank you, and i'm out !
So I'm in the aiport trying to find my minders, and while I'm waiting around my mind wanders to a few days ago....(make your imagination blurry like in movies when people recollect).
I'm checking my email, FAMSY's been invited to some sort of confernce in Turkey, but it's a late invitation so there is no real feel to go to it. My wife's like, why don't you go ? you're still famsy right ? and you're close by ! and you get a change from the work environment here.
Naah, I think.
Next day, naaah, I think.
Third day, I send an email, I can go !
Fourth day, I book a ticket,
Few days after that, (this is where your imagination blurs back to me in the airport) I'm back in the airport.
Understandably I'm a blur, it's 8am (I got on the plane at midnight). For the first time in my life I'm alone in a country that doesn't speak arabic or english. I know nothing about this place. What DO I know about turkey ?
Birth place of the ottoman empire, the land where the khilafa died, Attaturk (I'll get to him later), crazy mosque architercture, dodgy sleazy turks, Erdogan and Gul, a country of history and contradiction placed on the geopolitical fault lines of Asia, Euroupe and the middle east.
A man comes to me with his hand extended, I take his hand and confirm that yes I am abdulnasser, he speaks some arabic thank God, he's my picker upper from the conference organisers.
The conference, yes it's the IYF, the international youth forum on cultural cooperation of the muslim youth. Held by Millî Görüş . From the little bits of information available online we were not sure about the direction or agendas of this conference, but we were keen to meet and connect with islamic youth organisations from around the world, so we went.
The trip to the hotel was amazing, after living for almost a year in a desert country like the UAE, driving through miles of trees and gardens was therapy for my brain. The driver didn't speak english or arabic but he was still trying to describe Istanbul to be, I understood Bizance to be Byzantian, he was ofcourse pointing to the 1000 year old Byzantian wall still standing. it was amazing to see living history infront of me, this is the wall that faced Sultan Mohammad the second.
During al l this, for those of you who know, you should also imagine my constantly clicking camera, living in the uae I had reached a saturation of what I could take shots of. There were environemts and objects to shoot but because I had my job routine I couldn't or was not much keen to take these shots, I had no time, when I had the time I couldn't find the energy to go out in the melting heat etc... So here the weather was amazing and the sights were all historic and almost made for my camera to capture.
End of part 1 (it's 10 am and I have work tomorrow) .