Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Blue mosque, Istanbul

The Haghia Sophia, as seen from the Blue Mosque.

The Blue Mosque is just blue and very sterile. It was so crowded that we went in for a pictures and then quickly left. Frankly mosques are beginning to bore me. It's quite disconcerting that every church now has minarets sticking from off of it being converted into mosques. You take off your shoes before entering but because there were so many pairs of shoes, you had to carry your own shoes. Mosques are very sterile places. They're not like a church where one can see bible stories in mosaics or frescoes. I like Istanbul for its cheap and delicious food. I've been to more atmospheric Muslim cities so I wasn't very impressed. It is an obligatory visit, former Byzantium but one can't tell anymore. To really enjoy Turkey one needs to go further east to small villages where old Anatolian life is still present. Even the western coastal cities are very westernized and hosts a lot of visitors.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The spice bazaar

This could be anywhere in the Arab world. This is in Istanbul and is quite picturesque. I still find the souk in Fes, Morocco, more authentic and unusual and exciting. If I hadn' been to Morocco, I might be drooling over this. Anyway it is good to see the variation of markets and therefore of life in different pars of the world. There is always something to learn. Being curious has brought me to so many places in the world. Being curious is continuing to propel me forward to more places in the world.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Food is very cheap and good in Istanbul. You can just walk into any restaurant, order something and it's going to be excellent. We didn't care for the food in Cappadocia. Cappadocia is really ancient Anatolia and the food is really of peasant quality. We decided not to bring home any cookbooks which is a good thing. We've got cookbooks from Morocco, from Egypt.... we've not cooked a thing from these books.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ottoman houses

The area next to the church of St Savior in Chora is actually the Armenian and Greek quarter. The Ottoman houses here have been restored and are absolutely a marvel to behold. It's not cheap, Ottoman houses are all made of wood and we saw a lot of them in various dilapidated states. There is a very small Greek and Armenian population, mos have been either killed as in the Armenian Genocide or leaft during the Greek-Turkish population exchange, another tragedy. I'm writing a book and my head is exploding, I've been reading all about the Byzantine Empire, the Armenian Genocide, the Greek-Turkish population exchange, the Orthodox church- architecture and liturgy, the Bible and various Bible commentaries. Every day the postman brings me stacks and stacks of books that I ordered. I've read them all and a few times over. I'm a voracious reader. I'm tweedling my thumbs right now with nothing to read, waiting for the next wave of books to arrive.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A former church

As we were enjoying the beautiful blue tiles of Rustum Pasa mosque, a look outside revealed clearly this was a former Byzantine church, now converted to a mosque. In books like 'churches of Istanbul' it lists numerous churches but only when one examines it further that one realises that most of them have been converted to mosques or have been destroyed and sitting on top is a new mosque. Even with these converted mosque a lot of them are not in the best condition. It takes a lot of money to maintain these old former Byzantine buildings. During the Ottoman decades the religious mosaics have been whitewashed over like in the case of Haghia Sophia and the Kariye muzesi. Recently the whitewash has been removed and cleaned off to reveal the Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Iznik tiles, Rustum Pasa mosque

This was not the Blue mosque. It was an old Byzantine church but now converted to a mosque and is plastered with gorgeous blue tiles from Iznik, a city some distance away from Istanbul. This reminded me of the Blue mosque in Cairo which still had some surviving blue tiles that would old and beautiful. Like most places in Istanbul, this was difficult to locate which makes me think, I might have been better off if I had hired a local guide for Istanbul. These tiles makes for a good subject for painting. I've made a few paintings of them and they are so delightful, if I may say so. I'll show it one day.