May 10 – Sultan Ahmed Mosque – The Blue Mosque

A welcome and random beginning of the trip started with a chance introduction to a young Muslim couple on holiday in Turkey. I met Shahid and Nawlaa at the Ataturk airport while waiting for a shuttle to Sultanahmet, the old town center of Istanbul. I’m not sure what drew them to me, but they expressed an interest in sticking together as we headed into the city – for “safety in numbers” as they said.  With hesitation I welcomed their company.

We spent the evening drinking Raki (actually I was drinking alone) and smoking Turkish tobacco from the narghile.  After too many puff’s from the water pipe and way too many glasses of the milkish white alcohol, I turned in for the night sometime around 3am.

I slept off as much of the evening as I could, and headed out with my new friends to explore some of the Mosques around the Old City. What a treat to walk about town with two devout Muslims who can both speak a Pakistani dialect as well as read/write Arabic script. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Blue Mosque. Not being of set religion, I had no idea the impact I would feel standing in the center of the Mosque – I must say, I’ve never been in a more peaceful, comforting place.  It was quite a spiritual experience that I can’t begin to describe. The history of the building, the background noise of chanting prayers – I was truly moved.

I wish I had a photo of the Mosque that would capture the significance of the building, but unfortunately I can’t believe one would exist .  Instead, look up “The Obelisk of Theodosius”, another great structure that gives some insight to the history of Istanbul and the Mosque.  The Obelisk is situated just outside the walls of the Mosque on the Hippodrome.

Istanbul is an amazing city with a surreal past – I look forward to a little more sightseeing during my brief stay here.  Tomorrow – I hope to get the KTM out of customs and finalize prep for the ensuing trip. If all goes well, I’ll be working my way up to Sinop and the Black Sea on Tuesday.

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