Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 40: Mosquing, Walking, and Climbing

I followed up last night's Sufi experience today with a trip focusing on Islamic art and practices in Turkey.  The trip left mid-morning and after a drive around the Golden Horn we stopped at the Eyup Mosque and Cemetery located in the northern area of the city.  The first thing that makes this mosque unique is the attached cemetery.  According to our guide, conservative Muslims don't burry their dead in an elaborate fashion with a tombstone and whatnot but "Turks are different."  The mosque itself was fairly small but had some really interesting and elaborate tile work that, in my humble opinion, rivals that of the Blue Mosque because you can actually get up close and see it inside the Eyup.  There was also a nicely decorated attached tomb.  I think the highlight of the day was the "scene" our guide created in the mosque.  He told the girls that hair coverage was optional so a few didn't use a scarf.  A security guard quickly approached him and a rather heated exchange (in Turkish) ensued.  The next 10 minutes were spent listening to our guide rant about how the Quran says nothing about women covering their hair and how all religious rituals should "be up to the individual."  It made things a bit awkward but was interesting to see perspectives and watch it play out.

Following our excitement at the Eyup Mosque we drive back down the old city and got a more thorough tour of the Blue Mosque.  It was a little less busy today than when I was there on Wednesday so that was nice.  We then made our way to the Ibrahim Pasha Palace, which now hoses the Turkish Islamic Arts Museum.  There wasn't tons of time to look around but we did see some cool gold pieces, ceramics and an absurd amount of rugs from the sixteenth and seventeenth century (a few of which were rather enormous).  The tour was scheduled to return to the ship early afternoon but I signed out with a few others to do lunch at a place close by.  I needed one more decent Turkish meal and got a good one of meatballs and spices with an interesting couscous/rice side.  We walked around some shops a little more before embarking on an epic journey to climb the Galata Tower.  The tower was on the other side of the Golden Horn so the walk was rather intense (why take public transit when you walk?).  It took a couple hours moving at a brisk pace but we meandered through the large public park and some other new sites on the way.  I think the climb to the base of the tower was more intense than the actual tower climb itself but once at the observation deck it was well worth it.  Istanbul is a beautiful city and the panorama from the top was a great experience.  After making the journey back the the ship my time in Istanbul was officially complete (for the time being...).

Istanbul is definitely the most unique port we've visited so far.  I really enjoyed the time here but it's amazing how fast it flies by.  We pulled out of port a few hours ago and are on our way to Egypt.  As I type my parents are in New York awaiting their flight to Cairo tonight/tomorrow (gotta love time changes).  We have a longer and really neat trip planned for Egypt so I'm looking forward to seeing them and starting that journey.  On the ship we have two days of classes before arriving so it's time to get back into study mode.  That's all for now, I should probably attempt to start that whole homework thing.

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