Istanbul 3

Ramadan 2008
In this post I would like to talk about:
  • our hotel
  • the Grand Bazaar
  • carpets
  • Turkish Baths
  • Ramadan

HOTEL We stayed at the lovely Hotel Niles in the old city. It was beautifully decorated, had a lovely roof top terrace and was located minutes from the Grand Bazaar. I particularly remember the wonderful breakfasts: home made jams, goats milk cheeses, Turkish olives, salamis, coffee and breads. Turkish coffee is made unfiltered with finely ground coffee beans. The ground beans are as fine as cocoa powder and boiled with sugar and cardamom in a special pot called a cevze or ibrik.

What too was interesting was a leather goods workshop next door we could see people working shifts at. The Bosphorus was visible from the rooftop. The staff were very gracious and accommodating. We were very comfortable there for our 4 night stay. But, Turkish coffee takes some getting used to. I liked it, Marie not so much.

GRAND BAZAAR We walked to the Grand Bazaar. It is a huge indoor/outdoor shopping experience with 61 covered streets and 4000 shops. It attracts 250,000+ people every day. In 2014, it was listed as the world’s number 1 tourist attraction with over 91,000,000 annual visitors. We marveled at the colours, fabrics, artisan creations, kiosks, carpets, jewelry, cafes and throngs of people speaking in many different languages. It is a 560 year old marketplace. We were not the first ones to be so overwhelmed! The huge Spice Bazaar near the Golden Horn is jam packed with colourful  spices, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, people and vendors. It is just as impressive. CARPETS

There are carpets everywhere for sale in Istanbul. These are very beautiful. We were walking down the street when a man offered us some unsolicited tourist advice. Then he asked if we wanted to buy a carpet. It would soon become a standing joke “Would you like a carpet with your fries?”

Travelling with a suitcase we were not about to buy a carpet but we came very close. Of course they offer overseas shipping but we resisted the temptation. It is a common experience that many visitors are not adequately prepared to deal with well here. Scams happen. Here is an article on how not to get scammed when buying a Turkish carpet.

TURKISH BATHS Turkish Baths or Hammans are everywhere in Istanbul. They are places of public bathing associated with the Islamic world. It focuses on water. Men and women are separated and each given a private change room. You then start with relaxation in a room with warm water and hot humid air. You then move to an even hotter room with a heated pedestal that you lie on. Finally you wash down in cold water. You can have an optional message too before moving to the final cooling down room. Being adventuresome, we decided to try it. It was very proper, relaxing and cleansing. We enjoyed it. When in Istanbul or anywhere in Turkey, a not to be missed experience that we recommend.
RAMADAN You likely have heard of Ramadan too. But what exactly is it? Simply put, it is a month of increased reflection, fasting and prayer that most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims observe annually. It commemorates when God revealed the first verses of the Koran to the Prophet Mohammed. It is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadam which means no food, no water, no sex, nothing until after sunset. While this sounds harsh, it is actually a period of great joy and celebration spent with loved ones. Muslims keep working during this period and it must be a real challenge to keep their energy up as the work day progresses. At the end of Ramadan, families come together to share big meals and exchange presents in Eid al Fitr- a kind of Christmas time celebration for Muslims.
Men in prayer at the Ortakoy Mosque
Ramadan 2008 was nearing its end when we were there. We did not see any visible evidence that it was Ramadan except on one night. In the middle of the quiet street in front of our hotel, a large circular table with 6 chairs was set up. After sunset some women brought huge platters of food – pizza like breads piled high with meats, cheeses, vegetables. Six men in their 40s or so sat down and had a feast – right in the middle of the street. It was an amazing sight. The food looked and smelled so delicious and they looked so happy!
Social distancing in the Ortakoy Mosque during the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic
We also went on a road tour, saw the ancient underground water reservoir, visited a carpet factory, a pottery store and small church. Such was the first day of our adventure in Istanbul.

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