Istanbul: A Visitor's Turkish Delight

Istanbul is the city that has the unique distinction of being split between 2 continents of Asia and Europe, earning the epithet of being a Transcontinental. Bosphorus Strait is that narrow body of water that divides it between continents. Besides its geographical uniqueness, it also had another uniqueness of being an amalgamation of European and the Middle Eastern cultures, while being steeped deeply in colorful history. All these confluences, currents, and counter currents along with cultural and political influences make it an interesting tourist destination.

If one takes an international flight on that country’s national carrier with its hub in Istanbul, it offers a unique opportunity to experience this melting pot. We started our exploration of the city on February 27, 2023, with a visit to Hagia Sophia and then visited other tourist destinations as under:

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

This unique historical building is over 1500 years old, it was originally built in 360, as a basilica, later converted to a mosque in 1453 during Ottoman Empire, only to become a museum at the end of empire. It was reopened as a mosque in 2020. The building has not just physically survived, but has become an iconic symbol of the city, by becoming a UNESCO heritage site. There are 4 minarets at each corner of the complex, which serves as a grand mosque surrounded by other public structures. A very long queue of visitors starts early in the morning outside the main gates and the visitors are rewarded for their wait with the stunning views of the majestic interiors with rich and artistic calligraphy. There are over 6.5 million visitors a year to this iconic building. Image below shows the interior of the mosque.

Blue Mosque

Not very far from the Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque another splendor of a majestic building that rivals it. This mosque was built between 1609 and 1620, getting its name from the blue Iznik tiles that dominate its interior.

This mosque is also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. It has 6 minarets, one main dome and 8 secondary domes as part of the complex. The main building is presently closed, as the complex is undergoing renovations so only the exterior surroundings can be accessed by the tourists during the renovations.

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque is another huge mosque complex with 4 minarets hovering over the golden horn. This mosque also houses a huge seminary and a library. The sprawling complex has an area assigned to the tombs, amongst the prominent tombs are the tombs of Suleyman and his wife, and the architect of the building Mimar Sinan.

Topkapi Palace

This palace is a surviving relic of the opulence of the Ottoman empire, and it is a museum today. Its construction began in 1465 during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror and has seen many subsequent enlargements to the complex including repairs and renovations over the period. It is the most visited museum in Istanbul with over 3 million visitors a year.

Other Attractions

Besides the above-listed four major attractions, there are other architectural wonders in this historical and charming city to visit and marvel. Now let us see what else adds new colors to this beautiful city to make it a major tourist destination.

Grand Bazaar

This bazaar called Grand Bazaar was established in 1461. The bazaar complex is legendary as a palace, which is a sprawling shopping market with artery-like streets and alleys a home to 4000 shops. For those coming from the Indian sub-continent it is like taking a shopping tour of Old-Delhi or Lahore market by-lanes. The streets are overflowing with vendors, hawkers, customers, and tourists rubbing shoulders in the smoke-filled air with the aroma of the Turkish Coffee permeating makes an interesting spot to visit. The shop keepers welcome their valued customers with offering of Turkish Coffee. Even if one has no plans to buy anything, still it is an interesting place to experience its ambience. Haggling over prices is a standard business practice here and the prevalence of fake deluxe luxury brand purses and accessories is equally prevalent.

Cagaloglu Hamami

A visit to Istanbul is incomplete without a visit to a Turkish Hamam to have a traditional Turkish bath. It is like a Turkish delight for the body. Cagaloglu Hamami is one of the last historical hamam to be built during the Ottoman period. This historical public bath was completed in 1741 and makes the list of Patricia Schultz’s book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”. There are separate sections for men and women. The bath ritual which lasts an hour, comprises of:

  • Hot room rest
  • Bath Glove Rub
  • Bubble Massage

Followed by refreshing treat comprising of Turkish tea, home-made sherbet, with the Turkish Delight dessert.

Dinner Cruise

Like most shore-based tourist cities of the world, Istanbul also offers a variety of cruises with dinner cum entertainment. The tour operators make it easy for the patrons by picking them up from the hotels and then dropping them back after the cruise. Most of these tours are of 3/4-hour cruise duration, offering spectacular views of lighted historical buildings, palaces, mosques, Bosphorus bridges and the newer high-rise buildings. During the cruise a three-course dinner is served with select drinks. While the patrons are savoring dinner, they also enjoy a variety of performances. The finale climax is reached before the time of disembarking, when all the patrons join the performers on the dance floor. The performances include whirling dervishes, belly dancers, Iskh-Majazi and Roma, gypsy folk dances.

Overall, the city of Istanbul is a colorful, safe, historical, and an interesting destination to visit offering a variety of experiences. The native food is tasty, healthy and the people are nice with no language barriers. There are souvenirs, variety of Turkish Delights and other specialty local carpets and lamps for tourists. The visit to the city is like truly partaking of the Turkish Delight for eyes, body, and mind.


More by :  Bhupinder Singh

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Views: 389      Comments: 2

Comment Very beautiful and full of information article.

Sukie Kaur
04-Jun-2023 17:10 PM

Comment i thoroughly enjoud your article. found it quite inrtrsting and picturesque.

Jerry Soni0
03-Jun-2023 15:17 PM

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