Words and images by – Maha Al-Jallal.
If one had but one glance at the world, one should gaze on Istanbul Alphonse de Lamartine said that quote, and he was telling the truth. Oh, but where should I begin. Should I start with the breathtaking Sultan mansions turned museums, or the shocking and mind blowing artifacts that have been so delicately preserved. I could just start with the exquisite scenery and picture perfect backdrop. Hmm… I'm just going to dive head first into describing how fabulous it is. Yes, it's really that amazing.
Everywhere you walk you'd see a little bit of history waiting to be uncovered. I was leaning against a wall waiting for a taxi, when I realized that wall was the wall that was used as defense against the Ottomans and their advanced military equipment; canons. Canons that left marks and holes right where I was standing! If you closed your eyes you could feel the Earth tremor just a little bit, imagine the first attack, and the world turned just a bit chillier. History I tell you.
Mountain upon mountain of beautiful natural environment, rivers and seas, little villages cocooned by falling leaves. Living in Kuwait is a blessing that I will never take advantage of, but you seem to forget that there are actually four seasons in the year, and let me just tell you, fall is magical.
This is a city that reminds us GCC spenders that when traveling, 95% of your budget should be allocated towards actual sites, museums, and tourist attractions, not shopping. It's refreshing to feel like a real tourist in a city where everything available, that you have the option to do so much more than the usual shop and eat. Don't get me wrong, shopping in Istanbul is just as glorious, but it pales in comparison to the rest of the activities available. For my friends and I, lists upon lists were compiled, and we soon realized we wanted to see it all. Unfortunately time was not on our side, a week in Istanbul left us wanting more.
Friendlier than most city folk, the beautiful people make you feel special, as if they still were the rulers of most of Asia. Them the Sultans, and you the visitor in awe of their pride, brilliance, and remarkable history. That in mind, it's ironic that almost no one speaks English, but almost everyone tries, creating some hilarious memories.
When we first arrived at the Grand Bazaar, the first shop owner spoke out loud I don't cheat as much of the rest of them. Visiting every must see place is an adventure, and you will not want to miss any of it. That list includes Topkapi Palace & Museum, Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque, Bosphorous River, Baghdad Street, Egyptian and Grand Bazaar, Dolma Bacha, Galata Tower, Taqseem Street, Ortokoy the region, and so much more.
To give a bit of a preview for all of the places mentioned above, I'll reveal some of the notable things we saw and did in each. That way you can pick and choose what works with your preference and taste.
Topkapi Palace and Museum have the honor of preserving Prophet Mohammad's PBUH swords, and tooth. They also had thee most amazing jewelry preservation I've ever seen. This was a place where I got to see the 82 carat diamond ring that was found in a garbage can! The sparkles and glitter of the vast amount of diamonds, gold, and emeralds literally leaves you stunned.
The Hagia Sophia, the church turned mosque turned museum, left trails of history that were amazing. The main door used only for the emperor opened up to marble flooring, and you looked to the left and right of the door you could see the indented marble right where the soldiers that protected that door stood! Thousands of hours really left a mark.
The Dolma Bacha, palace turned museum, is huuuge! Party room after party room's , hundreds of rooms and bathrooms, gold plated ceilings, elephant tusks and Russian bear rugs, this place had it all. Just like your own group's tour guide told us. Prepare yourselves for this last room, it's breathtaking. Cue the groups sudden intake of breath.
Visiting Istanbul in fall was really great timing. You forget that what people paint is based off of real views. Real scenery I got to see. Every blink was a camera shot. Every glance was breathtaking. In short, Istanbul rocked. They will definitely see us again.