We sailed into cloudy, hazy Istanbul in the morning, as the call to morning prayers were happening. It was quite something, hearing the broadcasts as our ship slowly sailed past the mosques into port. Istanbul is one of Turkey’s busiest ports, which was evident with the number of boats sailing around and crossing paths.
We took public transit to the main tourist area with the big mosques. First, we saw the Obelisk of Theodosius, and Egyptian obelisk that was transported to Istanbul. The Sultanahmet Camii, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque for its blue mosaic tiles, was our first destination. The mosque has six minarets (or towers) which broadcast the call to prayer throughout the day. Non-muslim visitors are only allowed in a portion of the mosque since it is still actively used by worshipers. The inside of the mosque is stunning, with sky high domed ceilings, huge columns supporting those ceilings, stained glass windows, chandeliers, and red carpets.
We visited the Underground Basilica Cisterns. Hundreds of marble columns support the ceiling of the cisterns, and some of them have carvings or engravings on them. A few stand out, in particular, like the Medusa Head column.
Lastly, we went to the Grand Bazaar, the shopping mall to end all shopping malls. Vendors everywhere shouting welcomes, brightly colored wares being sold, and tourists and locals alike are browsing and shopping. A lot of vendors are quite friendly-aggressive in their approach, “Welcome, brother! Come, come, look at these things! Try this!” It’s not a shopping experience that I am accustomed to, but it’s an experience nonetheless. My favorite part, by far, was the Turkish Delight sellers, who offer samples of anything you want to try. All delicious!!