Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Road to Istanbul

Upon collecting my childhood bestfriend, Katie, and meeting up with my poet-friend (from the Ezra Pound Inst.), Emily, my mom and I proceeded to play tourguide in Istanbul. The New Mosque, pigeon-ridden, was funded by the Spice Market back in the day.

The Suleyman Mosque, which was mostly closed for construction.

The greatest part of that story includes my mom forgetting her purse in the area where we left our shoes to walk inside the mosque. As we were walking through the busy town to get back, my phone kept ringing and I ignored it because everyone I knew in Turkey at the moment was with me. When we stopped to buy Turkish Delights, my mom realized she did not have her purse. Then I remembered the missed calls and dialed that number. I was able to hold a conversation in pigeon Turkish and talk with the man at the mosque who had her purse. Katie and my mom stayed on the bench while Emily and I hiked back up. When we got there, prayer time was in session, so we had to wait while men came to take off their shoes to enter the mosque for prayer. It was the first time I sat so close to prayer; it sounded much like the call to prayer in that there was more singing/chanting. Afterwards, the "priest" questioned me on the contents of the purse (again in Turkish), and I was able to get it back. By the time we were handed the purse back, my mom and Katie appeared, having walked up because we had taken too long (and in that time, Emily and I had been waiting for prayer to end, a man who appeared to be working there asked me, "Are you poor? There wasn't much money in the bag." Um, inappropriate question. Also, while we were waiting, an argument broke out between this same inappropriate-question-asking-man and a praying man, about what who knows, but situationally ironic nonetheless. Prayertime?
The four of us walked back down the hill to eat dinner at a place overlooking the Bosphorous.

Then we went out to a tea garden in the Sultanahmet to listen to Sufi music and watch a whirling dervish spin. I look forward to seeing a real whirling dervish ceremony and not just watching a performer.

The next morning, before meeting up with Emily, Katie, my mom and I toured the Aya Sofya. Some impressive facts: It was the largest enclosed space in the world during the Byzantine Empire. The dome is 30 meters across, an architectural feat of the time. It underwent some changes with the damage of fire and earthquake. In 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror initiated the restoration of the church to a mosque. The mosaics were painted over in yellow paint, and large discs were hung in which Arabic script was printed. The alter was moved a few meters, so it was facing Mecca.

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