The city of dreams

Tourist destination: Istanbul is the most rapidly growing travel destination in the world. While staying in the historical peninsula i.e, Sultanahmet district, one sees thousands of sightseers and backpackers trotting up and down the old streets. Sultanahmet square thrives in tourists as it is the area where most of the ancient structures and monuments are situated.

Seat Of Power: In its thousand years of history, Istanbul has served as the capital of three great empires-Roman,Byzantine and Ottoman. This is evident from the fact that there are several ottoman palaces and churches built by romans and Byzantines some of which stand till today. Istanbul was originally called Byzantium but after its re-foundation by Emperor Constantine, it was renamed Constantinople in his honor. After the Turkish war for independence, Ankara, on 13 October 1923 officially replaced Istanbul as the capital of the newly founded Republic of Turkey.

8Grand Bazaar: The Grand Bazaar or Kapalı Çarşı is in operation since 1461 is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It houses 5000 shops and sixty streets. The Grand Bazaar has shops which sell a very wide array of exotic items and accessories which include decoration bowls, Arabian nights style lamps, a hundred types of ‘tea’, jewelry, vases, bronze and copper tea sets, silver spoons etcetera. When walking through it, we discover that Grand Bazaar is no short of a labyrinth for it contains a umpteen number of shops and several streets which all look identical to laymen.

The Haggling Capital : Haggling or pazarı is a social tradition in Istanbul. You go to a shop in Grand Bazaar and they quote two hundred lira for a wallet, say ‘No, 50 liras’ trust me, after negotiations, they may agree for 60 liras. In Istanbul you cannot accept the price quoted first, you need to bring it to at least a half of it, otherwise you will be swindled. The best thing is to ask the shopkeeper to quote his last price, and if you are not content, ask for a lower price, if by chance, he does not agree, Walk away! Do it as most probably he will, in very injured tones, accept it. If he does not then you may find the same item in another shop as they all seem to have similar goods.

Princes Islands : are an archipelago of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara with the largest and most well-known of them being Buyukada. All motorized vehicles are banned here so the natives have bicycles and phaetons as means of conveyance. Their scenic beauty, serenity, pollution-free environment and sunny beaches make them a popular getaway from the hustle bustle of the city. Tourists can enjoy the tour of any island in phaetons or can rent bicycles to go off in its green and serene woods. Residents of here, live in Victorian-style cottages and seem a bit alienated from the world of modern metropolises.

Novels: Agatha Christie’s popular novel” Murder On The Orient Express” was written at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul. The Orient Express travelled from Paris to Constantinople from 1883 to 1977.

Medieval Sanitation & Hygiene: During the Ottoman era, Istanbul had 1400 public toilets while the rest of Europe had none! And the English say that we ‘civilized’ our colonies.

Palaces: The city of Istanbul has many palaces located in it which include Dolmahbaçe palace, Yıldız palace, Küçüksu palace and Çirağan palace but the most well-known and significant among them is the then-official residence of the Ottoman Sultans, The Topkapı palace. It is now turned into a museum and contains many essential relics of the past, both Islamic and aristocratic. It contains the portraits of the sultans, their utensils and cutlery, their gold and gems, the Islamic and christian relics such as the saucepan of Abraham, the cloak of Fatima, the staff of Moses, the turban of Joseph (Peace be upon them all). The palace also accomodates the Hamam of the wives and concubines of the sultan. The palace museum showcases the gifts sent to the sultan by foreign rulers.

Mosques & Churches: There are various mosques in the city, most of whom have been constructed by Ottoman sultans. These inculde the Sultanahmet Mosque, Yeni Camii, Suleymaniye Mosque etc. The churches of the city were built by the Roman emperors.

Transcontinental city: Istanbul lies on the confluence of Asia and Europe. A third of its population is settled in the asian part while the rest live in the european side. The Sea of Marmara forms the boundary that separates these two sides.

Istanbul city is a must-see for any traveller as it is a representation of civilizations existing over thousands of years.

Ahsan Firdaus Shiekh
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