Istanbul is a modern...
Istanbul is a modern city with a world class airport, hotels, shopping, and restaurants. But it is also an ancient city that served as capital for three different empires. If you want to see how early civilizations lived, worked, and played, then you must go to the museums. Beautifully crafted items tempt travelers to take advantage of the exchange rates. Shopping can become addictive in such places as The Grand Bazaar's more than 4,000 shops. Gold and silver jewelry, coins, silk scarves, leather goods, rugs, household items made from copper and brass, ceramic tiles, gorgeous pottery, and logo covered T-shirts.
Unless you avoid eye contact, these super salespeople will sell you something from their stalls, and look wounded if they fail. Expect to bargain up to 50 % less than the original offer, but not all vendors accept that reduction. One exception: if the shop owner confirms a price...that's it.
Most people want to take home a genuine Turkish rug. Look for them everywhere, from specialty rug shops to fine stores, crafted from wool, cotton, and silk. The Grand Bazaar offers bargains in used rugs and cushions made from old carpets. Dealers will tell you a rug from Turkey is an investment because it takes a couple of years to weave a large rug, and it becomes harder and harder to find people who want to spend that kind of time.
Near the Galata Bridge, in one of the oldest sections of Istanbul, stands The Spice Bazaar, another ancient trading place also known as the Misir Carsisi. I had never seen so many spices and herbs in one place. Big baskets and tubs of powdered cinnamon, saffron, sumac, chili, paprika, and many I couldn't identify, resembled a vast artist's palette, rich with varying shades of orange, ochre, umber, brown, green, and red. Dried fruits, teas, nuts, cheeses, honey, and candies perfumed the air, blending with the dialects and exciting chaos of an assortment of cultures, both visitors and vendor.
A primary sales pitch promoted an aphrodisiac known as 'Turkish Delights.' The Turks delighted in passing on the legend while offering samples. It seems a certain sultan had a problem of performance with his many wives and harem. He offered a tempting reward for the person who could produce a cure. The resulting product contained 43 ingredients including royal jelly, the product honeybees feed their queen, and apparently worked wonders. The sultan paid the man a handsome reward, then banished him from the country.
If you've read any of my other scribblings you probably will have gathered that my boyfriend and travelling partner, Jonathan, likes a drink or several now and then. Given that I love to visit predominately Muslim Countries, and given that - as a rule - Muslim's don't drink, we've had a few problems travelling together in the past. The fact that we have travelled to two Muslim Countries during the Holy month of Ramadan has caused poor Jonathan no end of sorrow.
Let me just clear this up - Jonathan is not a lairy, in your face, drunk. Unless you take note of how much he's drinking you will probably not notice that he's been drinking alcohol at all. It's just that without a drink he is less confident and tends to get a bit grumpy with less enthusiasm for my random excursions and, worse still, the hangover starts kicking in! Generally I humour Jonathan in his drinking and try to indulge him if possible and acceptable.
In Turkey the local community seems split between those who like a drink now and then and love their Raki above all else, and those who hate sight, smell and would not even think of tasting an alcoholic drink. This is where it gets a bit confusing because, to some Turks regard alcohol as in England, where as other Turks are very offended by anyone who drinks near them and hate to even touch a can that once contained an alcoholic drink.
My advice to anyone travelling through the areas of Turkey which aren't dominated by tourists would be to abstain from alcohol if they want to completely avoid causing offence. Though the majority of Turkish people accept alcohol as a habit/treat for non-Muslims to enjoy, and some even partake of the odd glass of Raki themselves, there are people who are very offended by alcohol in general. If you are going to drink then generally there is a radius around every Mosque where it's considered poor etiquette to drink and you'll find that places in this area won't serve alcohol.
Rüstem Pasha Camii (Mosque)
A hidden gem for sure, this mosque is very pretty, both inside and outside. It's unique how there are decorative tiles on it's exterior, as you approach the prayer hall.
The tiles, made at the height of Iznik's supremacy, have a good deal of the famous red colour that was the envy of other tilemakers (blue, yellow, white and green were easy colours to produce, but red was extraordinarily difficult.)
This is the first example of the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan building a mosque to an octagonal plan.
Finding it is not easy, quite a task really, which makes your 'discovery' all the more worthwhile. A real treat to the senses.
Rüstem Pasha (1500-1561), a Bosnian by birth, was the son-in-law and a grand vezir of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566). Although competent, he is remembered in history for having plotted with Süleyman's wife, the famous Roxelana (Hürrem Sultan) to denounce Prince Mustafa, Süleyman's son and heir to the throne, as mastermind of an army plot to dethrone the sultan. Süleyman had Mustafa beheaded, which allowed Roxelana's son Prince Selim, an incompetent drunkard interested only in the pleasures of the harem, to succeed to the throne.
Although the pasha was among the wealthiest men in the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power and glory, as the sultan's humble servant, it was not Rüstem's place to build a grand mosque that might rival that of his imperial master. So he selected a site in the midst of the market, at the foot of the hill crowned by Süleyman's grand mosque, the Süleymaniye—Istanbul's largest.
Instead of size and grandeur, Rüstem sought exquisite artistic refinement, and that's what he got.
Make sure you avoid prayer time, as tourists are asked to leave during those periods. Any other time, admire it to your heart's content :)
The best way to visit the Rüstem Pasha Mosque is starting at the Grand Bazaar in Beyazit Square, continuing along Uzunçarsi Caddesi to the mosque.
Or from the Galata Bridge, head for the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar in Eminönü, continuing along Hasircilar Caddesi, then turn left (west).
Istanbul Rami Koc Industry Museum
Who said you can't have fun when you learn?
Seated in the shores of the Golden Horn, this place is absolutely fabulous. The steel building houses original real size boat, tram, and a unique car collection .
The flavor of the Orient
A short walk from the Eminonu ferry docks, the Spice Bazaar offers a true flavor of the Orient. Built in 1660, it is the second largest covered market in Istanbul. Whatever spice you are looking for, you will surely find it here. Nuts, dried fruits and many other culinary delights can be found here. The Spice Bazaar is also referred to as the Egyptian Market, as it was built from duties collected on Egyptian goods.
The Spice Bazaar is closed Sundays. It is open every other day between 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.