I wrote this brief overview of our six days in Istanbul, this October, for the Australasian Muslim Times Newspaper. I’ve only had the time to upload to the blog today, having finally returned from our two-month long travels! I’ll follow up soon with a full series of articles on my travels, along with some photo essays.
Being on route to Iran, we had the joy of ‘transiting’ in Istanbul for six days. Both my husband and I had visited Istanbul previously, but we used this as an opportunity to re-visit some of our favourite landmarks in the city and also to explore new places.
Our first day in Istanbul was spent doing a spot of shopping on the famous Istiklal street of Taksim, one of the more trendy and modern areas of Istanbul. This was mostly out of necessity as the small suitcase containing my husband’s clothing was currently missing from a flight and yet to be recovered!
On our next day, we embarked on a mosque-athon, travelling mostly by foot and occasionally tram, to see some of Istanbul’s most fine mosques. We visited the following in order:
- Şehzade Camii
- İskenderpaşa Camii
- Fatih Camii
- İsmailağa Camii
- Yavuz Selim Camii
On the other days we continued, by visiting:
- Süleymaniye Camii
- Rüstem Paşa Camii
- Yeni Camii
- Sultan Ahmet Camii
Each mosque has its own unique history and design worth reading up on when you visit Istanbul. The older mosques built during the Ottoman Empire were especially grand and distinct in their design, attracting most tourists.
From the hip streets of Taksim, the next day we found ourselves in Çarşamba, a more religious and conservative neighbourhood in Fatih. It was fascinating to walk through their Wednesday ‘Pazaar’ and witness another side of the diverse metropolis of Istanbul.
On a separate day, we got to visit the Asian side of Istanbul and see the new “Şakirin Camii”, designed by female Turkish architect, Zeynep Fadillioglu. Whilst on the Asian side, my husband ensured we visited the Asatane bookshop, which has a valuable collection of texts in Arabic. More importantly, the bookshop is on the street leading to the Maqam of Aziz Mahmud Hudayi, the Sheikh of Sultan Ahmet who was the first to lead Jummah at Sultan Ahmet Camii.
In the last few days of our trip, we had booked to stay at an Airbnb residence, with our host, “Basma” whom you may find on the website. She was a friendly and hospitable host of an Egyptian background. On our first evening with her, she cooked us and some French tourists also staying there, a traditional Egyptian dinner. This was a great social and culinary addition to our trip.
Our last day was spent in the Eyup Sultan district where we visited the maqam of one of the sahaba, Abu Ayoub Al-Ansari. The Eyup Sultan Camii is beautiful, and attached to the complex with his maqam. We took a cable car up to Pierre Loti, where you can take in the best views of Istanbul along with a good meal at the restaurant.
If I had more time in Istanbul, I would go on a day trip of the Prince’s Islands, and also visit a traditional Turkish hamam. There is always plenty to see and do in Istanbul, so a generous allocation of time when traveling there, is advisable!