Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Istanbul experience

I had always wanted to go to Turkey.  And finally I did, together with 20 others, though it was just to Istanbul.  Five families constituted the party; Hj. Asery & wife (Sabah), Datuk Ibrahim & Datin (Sabah), Hj. Shamuri (7 family members), Datuk Arfundi (6), and us (4).  We all signed up with Poto Travel & Tours to have Hj. Sharom as tour leader.  We grouped up and got to know each other for the first time at KLIA when we were set to fly EgyptAir at 10 pm, 10 March.

My niece was in Turkey some years back schooled to be a hafizah.  She came back with tales of wonders of the place.  This I have to experience.  The opportunity came recently and we took it as part of our ziarah/umrah itinerary.  Unknowing to us and even the travel agent (?), EqyptAir detoured us to Bangkok making the trip to Cairo a tiring 12 hr journey.  After a two hr transit at Cairo we made it to Istanbul Kamal Atartuk International at 11:30 am.  We were received by Mr. Z. Erkan Kayiran, our Istanbul tour guide (I had been calling him Arqam!!!).  We checked into Grand Anka Hotel and were taken for lunch and a tour of Ayasofya Museum after our Zohor/Asr jama' prayers.  Erkan was there narrating us the historical significance of the place.  It was a former church, turned mosque during the Byzantine Islamic era turned museum, thus a potpourri of displays within.

We were in the midst of Turkey winter though told to expect a 11 - 16C by our travel agent.  A google check showed that we'll be in the midst of 2 - 5C (will believe Google the next time around) and were ill prepared for the freeze.  To top it, it was raining most of the time we were there.  The wind from the Bosphorus Sea was no help at all.  Freeze we did.  The adventurous few among us who went out in the nite did enjoy some snow fall.

We had a brief simple itinerary of the Turkey visit, making most of us clamouring for more and promising of a repeat visit to be planned in the spring or late fall.  We have yet to determine the year of return.  The cost sure burn some holes in the pocket.

Our simple enjoyable Istanbul itinerary:
Visits to places of interest
11 Mar,Sunday: Cairo/Istanbul

Ayasofya Museum
Leather shop
12 Mar, Monday: Istanbul

Tokapi Palace,
Roman Hippodrome,
Blue Mosque (Had our Zohor/Asar jama’ prayers here)
Grand Covered Bazaar
Spice Market
13 Mar, Tuesday: Istanbul/Cairo/Jeddah/Madinah
Bosphorus Cruise

I'll let the pictures do the talking from here on.

Adam was at KLIA to bade us goodbye.

Vacation starts right when we leave home. 
Nazim and Aiman enjoying the KLIA Jungle Walk,
accessible to locals only when we go on international flights.

The over 14 hr ardours flight we have to endure after the KL-Bangkok transit.
Us foursome set for the trip.
The airport welcome.
Turks are very proud of their country.
The country flags are forever flying, everywhere.
The hotel where we lodged for the duration of our stay in Istanbul.

Getting ready for the Istanbul tour.

Old Istanbul was fortified by forts such as these
 that ran plenty along the Bosphorus Straits.

The Bosphorus Sea dissecting Turkey into European Turkey and Asian Turkey.

Istanbul common landscape.

Grilled chestnuts along the tourist sidewalks are common sights.
Do not be duped into buying any. 
They paled compared to our berangan goreng dalam biji kopi found back home.

Giant sized promoganates were crying to be haved.

The start of our museum trip.

One will need a ticket to gain entry.

The Sofya ruins retained for historical impact.

Nazim posing by the Ayasofya grandeur.

Aiman in the corridor of Ayasofya leading to the main hall.

The hubby by the imperial door.
Then only emperors were allowed to pass through.

The depression in the marble floor where the guards stood
to honour the emperor! What a task.

Relics of the Christian era. 
Notice the angels painted at the corners of the dome.

The Islamic influence came in full strength.

The visitors in the then prayer hall.  What a shame.

Viewed from the first floor down.

Apart from aesthetics, the cracking panes would serve
as early earthquake warnings for people of the past.

Sign of a caring society.  One of the many water spouts found in public places.
Ice used to be carried from the mountains in the summer months to chill the water.

This is a building that houses such public amenities.

Models parading the leather wares at an exclusive leather shop availed to us.
Yet at the price offered, they were only good to look at but not to pay for.

The giftshop apologies for remaining opened.  Cute.

The shop displays are forever enticing.

At the main fairway of the Tokapi Palace grounds.

O...yes, the tickets as always.

The main gateway with the shahadah greeting us.

Most of the displays of Tokapi Palace are to be viewed off-camera. 
We do have Erkan for details of matters.

The walk in rain at the Roman Hippodrome.

There was much makeover of the Roman Hippodrome
and what remains of the originals are these towering obelisks.

Finally the Blue Mosque.

 The spacious calm interior housing the praying hall. 
To accommodate the ummah arriving non-stop,
solat was continuously held led by different imams.

The incessant rain never let up day long.
It was indeed chilly wet Istanbul.

More pictures yet to come with the next entry, InsyaAllah.