Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Welcome to Turkey 3, Istanbul chillin'

The conference is finished.

For the most part, the experience of the confernce was amazing, the ideas presented, the scholars, polititians and activists who spoke and presented, the sheer scale of it all, I loved being part of it, and even more I loved that was able to contribute positively, and even though I expected the cold shoulder from the organisers after my little outburst, they were actually very gracious and curteous towards me. I was actually very happy about this seemingly insignificant point because if this happened in an arab country, the organisers would have kicked me out the country for not sharing their exact values and beliefs.

The aftermath of the confernence was just as exciting, if not more exciting than the confernce itself. The organisers set up a trip around trousti areas in Istanbul such as the Hagia Sofia and the TopKapi Palace.

The Hagia Sofia

When the Ottomans took over Constantinople in (circa) 1200 C.E. The ruler at the time Mohammad II bought the church there (called Hagia Sofia, also the biggest church in eastern Christendom at the time) and converted it to a moque, and it remained a mosque untill the pig Attaturk converted it to a museum.

It was a fascinating experience to see this place, one thing you noticed straight away was how large it was, the cieling was at least 80 meters in the air, There are very large green plates on the walls with the names of the prophet (pbuh), the 4 kaliphs and the two sons of Ali (May Allah be pleased with them all).

The contrast between byzantine christian architecture and islamic verses and arts was very clear, however the dominant factor was the age of this building, the old faded red cobble stone walkways looked felt and smelled like a thousand years old.

Though to be honest, nothing came closer to the majesty of the blue mosque, but we'll get to that later.


In arabic it's الباب العالي, The High Gate, it's the name of a palace which used to host the ottoman ruling family.
Again the weight pulled by Milli Guruc is shown again as our tour guide takes us through the long lines and gets us free tickets to get in. we were pretty stoked at that.

The palace itself is a work of fiction, the front gate is one of the most amazing sites to behold.

One thing you notice about the history and architecture of Turkey is that it's clearly islamic, ofcourse this is because Islam was the official relegion and choice of rule for close to 800 years.

The text on this gate (which is the entry to the topkapi palace) is a verse of the Quran that says "A victory from God and a conquest, and give gladtidings to the belivers oh Mohammad".

From this angle you can see that wonderful blue mosque in the distance, but we'll get to that later.

The 2 Km walk to the actual palace is lush green park with trees and the river (I Don't know what river it is but I know it's the one that seperates Asia Turkey from Euroupe Turkey). Though the feeling you have in these places is that ONCE it belonged to a great world power but now it's the remains of a long dead old man. What fills the gardens is now dignitaries and princesses but tourists and beggars.

Once inside, we are again struck by the lavishness of these living qurters. how large they were, how intricate the smallest detail was, from the water fountain to the furniture to the doors and gates to the windows. Oh man I wish I could have been a visiting diplomat to Turkey 300 years go. From the FAMSY organisation in Australia, hahahaaha !

We saw the Topkapi museum, world famous for its artefacts from the prophet's time and beyond, but to be honest it was a dissapointment, the items placed in front of us, said to belong to the four kalifs or of prophet David etc... It's highly doubtfull. It may very well be true, but I wouldn't bet on it.

The women's quarters were the most intresting part, an enclosed minipalace on its own, decorated with rich gold and red colors, baths, budoirs, chillout rooms. it was magnificent to see, if you go there you should definitely see this place rather than anything else.

One place you should NOT GO at the this palace is the restaurant, OH MY GOD IT'S SO EXPENSIVE ! I ended up paying 60 YTL (50 Euros) for 4 pepsis, a plate of chips and four rice puddings.

I'm tired, I'll write the rest later.

Is this intersting to anyone ?