Turkey is definitely a very different country, unlike any I have visited up until this point. Although it is a predominately Islamic country, it has a very defined separation between church and state, as stated in their constitution; as opposed to other Islamic countries. In fact is is much more liberal. Walking around the streets you can readily buy alcohol, where as in most other countries it is very difficult to come by. Traditionally in many Islamic countries, woman must wear some form of headdress, either in the form of a hijab (head scarf) or the burqa (full head dress). This is not entirely the case in Turkey, though many women do wear some form of a hijab, most do not. Men as such, do not traditionally have any form of dress required, though in traditional islamic states it is said that men should wear some form of dress which covers them from the navel thru the knees. As it is an islamic nation, you still experience the call-to-prayer throughout the day, which can be very loud if you are staying in a hotel right next to a mosque!!! The adhan, or Islamic call to prayer, is called out by the muezzin in the mosque, typically from a minaret, five times a day summoning Muslims for mandatory prayers. The reasoning behind these loud pronouncements of adhan five times a day, in every mosque, is to make available to everyone an easily intelligible summary of Islamic belief. It is intended to bring to the mind of every believer and non-believer the substance of Islamic beliefs, or its spiritual ideology. In older times, the muezzin would climb the minaret and perform the adhan. Today, they have loudspeakers set to the highest notch of volume!!!!!
As an Islamic country, Turkey does not celebrate Easter. So, with this I send you many happy easter greetings.
My last days in Istanbul were filled with great exploration of the city. I spent some time visiting the Hagia Sophia; a former Orthodox basilica, turned mosque, turned museum. The Hagia Sophia served as the cathedral of Constantinople from about 360 until 1453. In the sacking of Constantinople, when the Ottoman Turks overthrew the Romans in 1453, the cathedral was converted into an Islamic mosque. During this process of conversion all of the mosaics within were plastered over and the bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed. It opened as a museum in 1935. The building itself is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have been the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of a cathedral in Seville. The building is quite imposing and must have been even more incredible during its time. It is currently undergoing some restorations.
Zoom Burst within the Hagia Sophia
Mosaic in the Hagia Sophia
Right across the plaza from the Hagia Sophia stands one of the most incredible mosques I have seen to date. Though there are more impressive ones I am sure, and I”m holding out for the Sher-Dor Madrasa in Uzbekistan, the Blue Mosque is definitely top of the list. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is known as the Blue Mosque due to the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also has a tomb for the founder, a madrasah (any form of educational institution) and a hospice.
After spending several hours wandering around the city, I managed to find myself heading back to the Grand Bazaar. For those of you who are not shoppers, you would not even begin to understand. The last night I found myself viewing the very interesting whirling dervishes. Unlike it is sung in the Sound of Music, “She can throw a whirling dervish out of whirl,” I was not able to throw the dervish out of whirl. It was an interesting experience.
Inside the Basillica Cistern
Medusa Head inside the Basilica Cistern
From Istanbul I boarded a 12-hour bus ride (which wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated) and found myself the next morning in the “city” of Selçuk. Selçuk is located on the western coast of Turkey along the Aegean Sea. Its main draw card is Ephesus, which is coined “The best-preserved Classical city in the eastern Mediterranean”, and it is. Ephesus began its life as an ancient Greek city. It was one of the twelve cities of Ionian League during the classical greek era. In Roman times, it was for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire, ranking behind Rome. At one point the city had a population of more than 250,000, which at the time made it the second largest city in the world. Although the site itself is incredible and breathtaking to behold, the best preserved building on the site and arguably the icon of Ephesus is the Library of Celsus. It is estimated that at one point, the walls of the building, which was built around 125 by Gaius Julius Aquila in memory of his father, held over 12,000 scrolls.
Library of Celsus in Abstract
Library of Celsus @ Ephesus
Poppy before a temple
Not far from my hotel lies the Basilica of St. John, which was constructed by Justinian I in the 6th Century. It stands over the believed burial site of John the Apostle and is said to have been modeled after the now lost, Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. It takes just a tad bit of immagination to begin to believe what it looked like, as it mostly lies in complete ruin. Just outside of town lie the ruins of the ancient site of the Temple of Artemis, which is one of the original Ancient Wonders of the World. The temple was completed around 550BC. The temple was, regretably, destroyed. It was described by Antipater of Sidon (who compiled the list of the ancient seven wonders): I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and teh vast tomb of Mauslous; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand”. Of the original seven wonders, only the Pyramids remain visible in their entirety.
This got a good laugh…. Genuine Fake Watches
Tomorrow will be my last day in Selçuk before heading on. The time is going way too fast.