Istanbul, Turkey is a tremendous city with a vibrant culture with a mix of European and Asian influence. With such a large population, it doesn’t feel as massive as it is. Istanbul is a top city on many people’s bucket list. Yes, it has political issues at times so you need to keep an eye on the environment, but the beauty the city holds makes it a top location to visit when possible.
1) Listen to the call of prayer in the plaza between the Blue Mosque & the Hagia Sophia –This occurs 5 times a day. Islamic holy men, called muezzins, will call out prayers from a minaret (tower), that can be heard over loudspeakers at different mosques in the city. Regardless of one’s religious denomination, it is truly a moving experience to see hundreds of people outside the mosques in the plaza praying or sitting on a park bench or blanket to take time in their day to reflect and be one with the reverberating sounds.
2) Attend a whirling dervish show – The ritual performed is called Sema. The ceremony represents a spiritual journey. The Samazens believe that all things revolve, thus ones who whirl participate in this shared revolution of existence and becomes one with God and truth.
3) Tantalize your senses at the Spice Market – At the Spice Market there are heaping, colorful mounds of spices, herbs, tea leaves, nuts, and dried fruits and the aromas from the spices fill the air.
4) Test your bargaining skills at the Grand Bazaar – At the Grand Bazaar you will find thousands of shops that have hand-painted tiles, original paintings, copper and brassware, handmade leather purses and belts, handmade jewelry, handmade blankets, and quilts, etc. However, beware of what are actually authentic, original pieces vs. items shipped in from other countries. Also, beware of pickpockets but, yes, it is safe to travel there.
5) Drink Turkish coffee – Upon our arrival, the very first thing we did was drink a Turkish coffee. Note: Turkish coffee is not a type of coffee. It is simply a method of preparing the coffee. Finely ground coffee beans are simmered in water (not boiled) then placed in a cup and allowed to settle to the bottom.
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6) Visit the Hagia Sophia
7) Attend a belly dancing show
8) Visit the Blue Mosque – This mosque has 6 minarets and a bold blue domed exterior. Make sure to dress modestly (both arms and legs covered if you are a woman) and you will have to remove your shoes upon entering the mosque. I suggest you bring a pair of socks if you are worried about your bare feet touching the carpeted floors.
9) Treat yourself to a Hammam (Turkish bath) – This is used as a method of relaxation and cleansing. The experience starts with a relaxation room, also known as a warm room. This room is heated by hot, dry air which allows the bather to perspire freely. After the warm room, the bather is washed in cold water and then receives a body massage. The washing step does not include full submersion in water. The bather is rinsed and scrubbed under cool, running water. The last step of the hammam, the bather is moved to a cool room where they experience the relaxation part of the hammam.
10) Eat Turkish Delight
Traveled March 2012