From Mosque to Lost
Rise and shine virtual travelers. It's midnight, time to get up and go walk around Istanbul! Gotta say our bed never felt more comfy. After a night of tossing and turning since the body clocks were upside down, 7am still felt like midnight. But we got up like the troopers we are, to enjoy our 24 hours layover.
What is very distinctive about visiting a country with a large islamic population is hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day. "Day" is used very loosely here since 2 of them are in the middle of the night. I'm sure this might become mundain or even soothing for visitors to hear this after spending a bit of time here but it's a little eerie being awaken by someone chanting loudly in a microphone that can be heard throughout the city, including well insulated hotel room : asha(aaaahh-aaaa-aaaa)du anna(aaa-aaa-aaa-aaaa) la ila(aaaaaaaaaaa) il Allah(ahh-aaa-aahhh-aaahh)..... And this keeps going for quite a while. The call to prayer does exactly what it says it does. The translation is something like:I testity that there is no God but Allah, I testify that Mohammed is God's prophet, come to prayer, come to salvation (...). I want to make it clear that I dont think its the religious part of the chant that makes it eerie. I think being slapped out of sleep by someone chanting "somewhere over the rainbow" would be just as freaky.
Our Hotel was in Old town and had a few touristy spots we decided to hit. First, we stopped at the blue Mosque. On our way there, a very nice Turkish man started talking to us and offered to show us around the Mosque since it was on his way to work. Obviously, we guessed very quickly that he insisted on being our guide in hopes that we would buy a carpet from his family business. Little did we know that the carpets he was selling started at $900 for a 2 feet by 4 feet rug... Come to think about it, he did mention something about magic flying carpets before we got to his store. Maybe thats why it's so incredibly pricey, It could have been a good buy after all!! Back to the Mosque. Beautiful building, inside and out. Take off your shoes, women- you need to wear a head scarf, now take a look inside.
Next stop was Topkapi Palace, primary residence of the sultans back in 1465 for 400 years, converted museum. Huge palace but honestly not that interesting to visit other than their impressive armory collection and tons of different home items covered in gold and expensive stones, including an 86 carats diamond. 86. Carats. You'd need a mini crane to follow you around if you want to wear that puppy on your finger!!
After that, we went to the grand bazaar. That's over 60 covered street and more than 3,000 shops. There's a little bit of everything in there but its mostly hand painted dishes, carpets, scarves, laterns, and jewelry. 30 minutes in there was sufficent to grab a couple little souvenirs and get completely lost in Istanbul by leaving the bazaar from the wrong door. Yup. Completely lost for about an hour, we took the north exist when our hotel was south. We walked through dumpy little roads with not a tourist in sight and no one speaking english or even able to read a map to point us in the right direction. We finally arrived in a busy street and saw a cab , who declined to take us our hotel because he would have to do a u-turn. Hummm. What? At least, while the 8 cops we asked just before sent in the wrong direction, that cab driver pointed us to our hotel...
Now we are in Ethiopia, waiting for our plane to Tanzania. 9 hours layover. Its 4:30 am here and we are both pooped but really excited to finally start our Safari!!!