The first time I ever heard the Islamic call to prayer was in Istanbul on my first visit in 2016. The sun was starting to set as I was taking a break on a bench in the hippodrome area in front of the Blue Mosque. The tulips were in full bloom and the scent of hyacinths was wafting on the early evening breeze.
Not all of the mosques in Istanbul are open to non Muslim visitors. But fortunately, the most beautiful ones in and around the historic core of the Sultanahmet area can be visited by tourists during the non prayer times of the day.
You can’t visit Istanbul’s historic district without encountering a stray dog, or two or ten. They roam freely and apparently quite happily, and often become the star of the show, despite the iconic scenery around them. They lay down anywhere and everywhere and people will carefully walk around them. They appear well cared for and well fed. If a dog has an ear tag, then it is part of the Trap, Tag and Release program where the dogs are captured, vaccinated, fixed and then released back into their neighborhood. As with the cats of Istanbul, it takes a village to care for the dogs of Istanbul as well.
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Photo location – Tulip shaped tea glasses sit on a window ledge in Istanbul, Turkey.
There is no doubt that the city of Istanbul is steeped in thousands of years of history – history that can still be touched today. Sitting beneath modern city streets that are teeming with pedestrian, automobile and tram traffic, a walk through the underground space of the Basilica Cistern is an opportunity to physically experience a world that existed 1500 years ago.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or Blue Mosque as it is more commonly known, was completed in 1617. Legend tells that its architect misread the Sultan’s instructions and mistakenly interpreted “six minarets” instead of “gold minarets”. This was a problem because at that time, only the Great Mosque of Mecca had six minarets. To allay criticism, the Sultan then ordered that a seventh minaret be added to the Great Mosque in Mecca.
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Not far from the famous Chora Church Museum in Istanbul are the colorful Balat and Fener neighborhoods. With funds from UNESCO, the colorful houses in this historic district of Istanbul, where Greeks and Jews once called home, are being restored and the area revitalized.
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Photo Location: A cat in Istanbul naps on a sunny bench in the courtyard of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.