Source: Architecture and Color
Source: Bankgok: Travelogue
The name of Turkey can be divided into two components: the ethnonym “Türk” and the abstract suffix –“iye” meaning “owner”, “land of” or “related to” (originally derived from the Greek and Latin suffixes –ia and later from the corresponding Arabic suffix iyya in Turkiyya (تركيا).). Currently Turkey is bordered by eight countries: Syria and Iraq to the south; Iran, Armenia, and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan to the east; Georgia to the northeast; Bulgaria to the northwest; and Greece to the west. Starting from the late 13th century, the Ottomans united Anatolia and created an empire encompassing much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, becoming a major power in Eurasia and Africa during the early modern period. The empire reached the peak of its power between the 15th and 17th centuries, especially during the 1520–66 reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. After the second Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 and the end of the Great Turkish War in 1699, the Ottoman Empire entered a long period of decline. Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic with a diverse cultural heritage. The country’s official language is Turkish, a Turkic language spoken natively by approximately 85 percent of the population. According to the World Factbook and Wikipedia, 70–75 percent of the population is ethnic Turks, while the Kurds are the largest minority at 18%. The vast majority of the population is Sunni Muslim, with Alevis making up the largest religious minority. Turkey is a member of the UN, NATO, OECD, OSCE, OIC and the G-20. After becoming one of the first members of the Council of Europe in 1949, Turkey became an associate member of the EEC in 1963, joined the EU Customs Union in 1995 and started full membership negotiations with the European Union in 2005.
Turkey’s growing economy and diplomatic initiatives have led to its recognition as a regional power. Going back to the history, in 1453 A.D. Sultan Faith Mehmet II conquers Constantinople killing Constantine XI and ending the Eastern Roman Empire. 8 week battle is added by treason when one of the City gates is opened. After one year, 1454 A.D. First Ottoman Royal Residence built where Istanbul University sits today called Eski Palace (Old Palace). Grand Bazaar starts being combined under one roof. One of the most spectacular bazaar. In 1459 A.D. Ottoman’s take Yoros Fortress back from the Greeks and in 1460-1478 A.D. Topkapi Palace & now museum and Harem built over former Greek Acropolis to replace Eski Palace. Now where are all religious and sacred relics are preserved including Asa Moosa, swords of all great battle fighters, turban of Hazrat Yousaf, Kaaba keys, Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) swords, clothes, old Quran and others breath taking old sacred things that one heard during childhood times. In 1481 A.D. Ottoman power grows to control all of modern Turkey, areas around the Black Sea and Greece and after 11 years, in 1492 the Ottomans welcome the Jews to settle in Istanbul. In 1517 A.D. Hagia Sophia turned into a Mosque. Wow what a unique combination of both religions at one site to look at, first the church, then mosque and now museum. Moving on in 1517 A.D. Ottomans Conquer Egypt and much of North Africa and the big parts of the Middle East shortly after. In 1616 A.D. Sultan Ahmet builds Blue Mosque over Byzantine Grand Palace in just 7 years. One should definitely visit this mosque to look into architecture. In 1853 A.D. Sultan moves royal Palace from Topkapi Palace to Dolmabahçe Palace. Amazing to note that 1869 A.D. first tram in new town was introduced for better transport facilities and providing commuting services to citizen. Turkey is a delight, and I’m not talking about just the famous candy of similar name. Vibrant and historic at the same time modernizing its structure and cleaning up its act in every sense of the word. Turkey is even getting richer, as was evident when Forbes magazine released its list of billionaires recently. Turkey came in 8th in nations boasting such lucky people, with 21, in fact. The country has certainly improved in its tourism infrastructure over the years that I have been visiting, introducing new hotels & international chains. One can find StarBucks Coffee McDonald, Burger King etc but strangely despite being its metropolitan nature, English language on boards, banners are hard to find in Istanbul. This is a place at once exotic (think mosques, minarets and monthly dances of the Whirling Dervishes) and secure (as in a working democracy, an educated population and near self-sufficiency in food, among other values).
Certainly, Istanbul is safe, with police everywhere, and security procedures at important museums, even at hotel entrances. I flew to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, which was really nice – the food was not bad, and they handed out menus beforehand so you would know the options and sides with each. They had TVs in the seats with games and a flight cam! It was a long flight from Islamabad of six hours 20 minutes but then due to foggy and snowy weather, deity of nature didn’t allow us to land before seven hours.
The next four days we had meeting from 9am till 7pm leaving no time to go except for short walk and dining out. We were graced with half day off after a week-long consultation that provided us with an opportunity to go out and explore the beauty of this city that has so many secrets in its historical heart. I went to all top 10 places that once should visit while being in Istanbul including cruising on Bosphorus River that divides one heart into two pieces of Europe and Asia. I took the public transit ferry across the Bosphorus to Kadiköy! This is symbolically a ride from Europe to Asia, as the Bosphorus Strait divides the two continents at this point. Cold breeze makes one feel out of this world while being on cruise. Experiencing passing under the Bosphorus bridge is breath taking while looking at Maiden’s Tower. Simple wow is a word that can explain the entire air of being into it.
After that, it was a turn of Hagia Sophia. There was already no que so admission was quick. Fee is 30 Turkish lira, about 12 Euro, completely necessary for maintenance of old sites and nothing could hinder my appreciation of the Hagia Sophia. It was amazing. Any part that isn’t covered in painted patterns is covered in mosaics. Then I went to Blue Mosque and Sultan Ahment Palace Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, an incredible maze of shops. It was really fun to check out all the stuff and feel the atmosphere. I then visited Topkapi Museum and was amazed looking at Harems and palaces they had in those times. I was freezing after walking around the palace grounds and found all those sacred Islamic relics. Next evening, got a chance to visit Taskim Square through metro. It was really interesting experience of buying Istanbul Card, get it charged and then you can use it for bus, tram and metro. Rode it from Sisli Metro, an underground funicular rail, up to Taskim and walked toward the famous Taksim Square. I stopped at a börek joint just for tea and ended up getting börek too since everyone else was eating it and it looked (and was) really good. Then I ducked into an arcade and ended up buying some evil eyes and Istanbul magnets for friends and myself. Also bought famous Lukum, known as Turkish Delights. The word Taksim means “division” or “distribution”. The Taksim square was originally the point where the main water lines from the north of Istanbul were collected and branched off to other parts of the city (hence the name.) This use for the area was established by Sultan Mahmud I. The square takes its name from the Ottoman era stone reservoir which is located in this area.
Then I went to Galata Tower. The nine-story tower is 66.90 meters tall and was the city’s tallest structure when it was built. There is a restaurant and café on its upper floors which command a magnificent view of Istanbul and the Bosphorus. Also located on the upper floors is a night club which hosts a Turkish show. There are two operating elevators that carry visitors from the lower level to the upper levels. In 1875, during a storm, the conical roof on the top of the building was destroyed. The tower remained without this conical roof for the rest of the Ottoman period. Many years later, during the restoration works between 1965 and 1967, the conical roof was reconstructed. During this final restoration in the 1960s, the wooden interior of the tower was replaced by a concrete structure and it was commercialized and opened to the public.
was indeed memorable visit to Istanbul this time after seven years and much has been changed. People and young generation are much fast forward as compare to previous years when I visited. Turkey is progressing indeed. People on streets are so respectful as compare to those underdeveloped or developing countries. I also experienced that whenever they found that I am from Pakistan, they really treated me as being from their own country. I found people speaking more Turkish and Arabic which for me was amazing. Arabic is now been taught in universities and they are found fluent in it. One need much more time to unlock the spectacular history, art, culture of Harem and queens, old city vs. new city, food, behaviors of this amazing Istanbul. One can write several books and novels while explaining Istanbul. I wish I could Elif Shafaq who wrote “40 rules of Love” and “Bastards of Istanbul”. There is much to write but in nutshell, Istanbul is my dream city and I really would like to live my retirement life.