I almost lost my turkish mittons at last night's party. It's a pair of red mittons that hang on my front door from Turkey. I keep them there because the restaurant owner who presented them to us smiled and said "they are for your good luck" never have I ever felt so at home and at peace as I did in Turkey.... The mittons hung on my door almost forgotten but Saturday evening as I saw them absent I felt a sense of loss, over a silly pair of mittens... the truth is, Turkey was the beginning of a change in the way I saw life. Lately I feel myself growing and changing spiritually and emotionally. Seeing things with new eyes as though for the first time. The evolution most markedly began from my trip to Turkey. Remembering the mittens and how much they mean to me... I began reflecting on my trip, trying to understand exactly what it was that moved me so deeply from that trip. As I browsed my old entries from a journal I kept on our trip, I found myself nostalgic for that magical city that touches two continents, and thought I'd share my entries... This is day one:
Turkey here we come! We got off the airport. Got our luggage and took a cab. Let’s rewind. We 1st get approached by a man saying he’ll take us to via their airport shuttle. How much? Mind you, he didn’t blink an eye-30 euros. Is he crazy or does he presume we are? I knew he was lying without shame and attempting to use us. Yet, at this point I found it amusing. Particularly when the price fell every ten steps we took away from him.
Taxi driver stops at a friend’s hotel enroute to Side hotel (pronounced Seeday otel). “Side no good!” he shakes his finger and grunts. I saw you taxi-man. Talking about us… fresh bait in your car, now you tell us where we should go. How much commission will your friend give you for redirecting us? Interesting.
Side hotel- not bad. Clean-bed-shower-toilet. Rug on the floor and even a sofa. Not so bad. Can’t complain.
Day one, I feel… Turkey is beautiful, well Old Istanbul what I have seen. But the people- not so nice. They’ll rip you off in a minute’s chance and call you their Muslim brother while they do it.
Walking through the crowded never-ending bazaars. Haggled by vendors again and again. They jump in front of you, and if you just glance at them- you’re history. They will start following you. Yelling, pleading, begging- come just look. Looking is free. I love India? Oh? I love Pakistan! I love Shah Rukh Khan! I can’t accurately describe this- you just have to be there.
Kashif is upset at the last Muslim Brother. Taxi-man who says “2 dollars” has no meter running, then demands liras.
Liras- all in the millions- makes no sense ….maybe that’s me- the dumb American.
American- “Hm” says the puzzled hotel owner. “Then why are you dark?”
Ok- Pakistani then?
Am I though? Really?
Am I neither to these people? Absolutely nothing at all?
We went into a musjid. Drab and gray with a rounded dome and heaven reaching minarets. But oh- they trick you outside. Inside- so beautiful it will take your breath away. I will never forget what it felt like to see this for the first time. Calligraphy praising the Almighty and intricate mosaic patterns, blue and white and yellow. If this was in America, it would be filled with visitors standing inside marveling in its awe. But it was empty. It was mine and Kashif’s to explore. No one else. Not a soul. We were able to reflect there in silence.
I prayed Maghrib at the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque stuns with its opulent grandeur. How can I describe what it is like to pray where thousands have prayed for centuries? To pray in a place that at one time was one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world.
Kashif says… based on history… It as built to rival the Haghia Sophia. Is that worthy of awe? A thing built simply to rival another. Good point. A musjid built by a man with 4 wives and a thousand concubines incase he got bored?
I agree. But you cannot deny the musjid inspires awe. You can’t- it’s a fact.
And I sit here and I see people. Scarfless women, scarved women, Muslims, Christians, etc. coming here to admire this musjid. See the former housing they had by the musjid for the poor and travelers? See the buildings that used to serve as food halls for the poor and elderly and provide medical help free of charge? Do they learn by seeing this…. That yes, Islam is not all we see in the media today. That looking at this musjid…. Islam undeniably is not without beauty?
It is the end of the day and its an interesting feeling I have. I feel at once foreign and in the quiet tranquility of the musjids so completely at home.