Look back: Istanbul in Photos
Our last stop before reaching India was Istanbul, Turkey. We really wanted to visit Turkey because of its grandiose mosques, colorful bazaars, and mouth-watering Turkish delights. We flew to Istanbul via Pegasus airline via Athens. After we landed at the airport we took a bus to Taksim Square where we had booked our hotel. Taksim Square is a major tourist district full of shops and restaurants and also close to major sightseeing destinations.
Yeni Cami Mosque
As we started exploring the city the first mosque we saw was Yeni Cami/New Mosque. It's a beautiful Ottoman imperial mosque located in Eminönü quarter of Istanbul. Unfortunately, we had to see it from outside as it was closed for the day.
Next, we visited the beautiful Topkapi Palace, which was a residence of the Ottoman Sultans. This royal residence is now a major touritst attraction and houses many relics of the Prophet including Mohammad's cloak and sword.
The Palace had some amazing architecture and beautiful Turkish tiles.
We went to see whirling dervishes show at Hodjapasha dance theatre. It's a customary worship ceremony where the dervish/darvesh spin in repetitive circles imitating planets of the solar system. They aim at reaching a source of perfection by abandoning all egos and desires and focusing on god. Later we saw "Rhythm of the dance" show showcasing variety of oriental dances from Turkey.
After the show, Saurabh and I decided to savor some Turkish delights for which we headed back to Taksim Square. This place had some amazing kebabs, Gozlem (flatbread filled with potato or meat) as well as their signature Turkish tea called çay. The dinner is not complete without having some amazing baklavas from the nearby shops.
Next day we visited Süleymaniye Mosque. It is an Ottoman imperial mosque built on the order of Sultan Süleyman. It has a combination of Byzantine and Islamic architectural elements. Before we entered the mosque, I had to cover my head with a scarf because it is a custom for a woman to cover her head. If you are not carrying a scarf they provide it to you at the entrance.
After Süleymaniye we went to Hagia Sophia mosque. It was a former Christian basilica that later became a mosque and is now a museum. The wall, ceiling and the mosaic inside the mosque gives an idea about how the older relics were removed and the new ones added.
Inside Hagia Sophia Inside Hagia Sophia Older Mosaics depicting Jesus and mother Mary Mosaic depicting Mother Mary, Emperor John Comnenus and his wife Eirene Inside Hagia Sophia Mosaic of Emperor Monomachos and his wife Augusta Zoe with Christ PantoKrator
Istanbul is known for its amazing markets like Spice bazaar, Çarsamba market, Grand Bazaar, etc. We bought different types of teas from Spice Bazaar and also some Turkish olive soap in tin boxes adorned with beautiful motifs. You can find these all over Istanbul and they smell really good.
Overall, Istanbul was a very lively place to visit. It also had some amazing cafes where you can have some great coffee while listening to traditional Turkish music.
Saurabh and I highly recommend this place and wish to visit it again.