Blackout in Istanbul

Posted on January 14th, 2012 by

Today it started out drizzling lightly as we walked to Little Hagia Sophia (not to be confused with Hagia Sophia). However upon arriving there, we realized that the mosque was closed. On the way there we had heard what we thought  was a call to prayer, but it was actually an announcement of a death in the community. The body was being brought to the mosque and hence we postponed our visit. This was a great reminder that the mosques we visit are not just tourist sites, but actually serve a purpose in the community.

We then skipped to the Basilica Cistern which was the ancient water source for Istanbul drawn from a forest 19km away. It is a large cavern with 336 Greek pillars and we were able to follow a walk-way to explore the dimly lite area. The water level was fairly low so one could easily see fish of all sizes as well as coins thrown in in exchange for a wish. Right above the Cistern is “the center of the world,” a stone pillar, which was used as the starting point to measure all distances in the ancient world.

We then continued on to the Turkish Islamic Art Museum located in an ancient palace across from the Hippodrome. Here we saw various bronze work, carvings, huge prayer rugs, Koran bindings,  as well as an exhibit on nomadic Turkish life. I was surprised to see a couple of figures of animals or people since Islam forbids such depictions, however Asli explained that this art had stemmed from nomadic Turkish tradition.

Then for a change of pace we went to Istanbul Modern Museum. Here we took an hour to look around. Much of the artwork one could have found in the United States which points to the westernization of Turkey. However, some art did touch on Turkey as a Muslim nation. For example, a video in which the artist slowly uncovered herself by peeling off layer after layer of headscarves.

After the Modern Museum, we then returned to Little Hagia Sophia and were able to enter. When we enter mosques we are asked to remove our shoes and for girls to cover their heads. A side note, we have seen a surprising number of female tourists who enter the mosques with out covering their heads. The mosque which was once a church is built with the same red stones as Hagia Sophia and hence the name. The mosque has collapsed due to earthquakes and the nearby rail system (in more modern times)  four times.

Upon arriving back at the hotel it had started snowing and the power went out city wide. Imagine 13 million people without electricity! Even the trams did not work. This made it more difficult to find lunch, but the grocery stores were still open. Fortunately, the power came back on before sundown and I could write this blog!

Until next time!


One Comment

  1. Mary L. McDaniels says:

    Thank you for the wonderful description of your day! It is a shame that all the tourist were not respectful of the religious customs of others.