Istanbul had excited our imagination from the very first day of our trip. Here, Asia touches Europe, east meets west and tradition/ history lives alongside the world’s most modern cities. Istanbul always manages to Istanbul throw tourists out of their element – and we loved this too. As we watched the minarets passing by and the scents of a new land steeped our senses we wondered what the city had in store for us.
The streets of Istanbul breathe culture and history. As you walk down a meandering path in the old quarters, you pass lone columns that remind you of Roman times, admire the attractions of Hagia Sophia—a famous a Byzantine church which converted into a mosque, and yes, the Genosese-built Galata Tower too. You also end up wondering how all this and a lot more can get squeezed in the narrow strip of this peninsula.
After relishing the sightseeing delights of Istanbul, we were hopeful of catching a closer glimpse of some of its other cultural delights. Read on for our experiences and thrills of having savored the same.
Belly Dancers in Istanbul
Observing a belly dance was by far the easiest to accomplish. Here, you can find a number of cabaret-style venues where you can enjoy the seductive moves of dancers over dinner, which is followed by nice theatrical performances. As we were a little selective in our choosing, we ended up at Sultana’s—which is home to Didem, whose video had received over 20 million hits on YouTube.
Dervishes in Istanbul
In Istanbul, dervishes were a little harder to locate. Well, many of the places that boasted of belly-dancing shows also had dervishes—but then, we were not convinced. It will do you good to know that dervishes are different—they basically are the mystics of Islam and are beautiful to watch. However, at heart, a dervish is a truly spiritual experience which possesses no commercialized equivalent, whatsoever. At the end of our quest, a tour company by the name of Les Arts Turks guided us to a monastery in Fatih district, where we gazed upon a group of practicing dervishes and their rituals. The prayers, seven-step rituals, chanting, music and elaborate moves of the whirling dervishes were in a word “stunning!” (Image by world4photos)
Dunkings in Istanbul
Our ultimate bucket list item was quite corporal in nature—a traditional Turkish bath or massage in a hamam. You can find Hamams all over the city, but we wanted to go in for the most visually appealing which was the culturally historic Cagaloglu Hamam. After seating ourselves on a marble slab and getting dunked in hot and cold water by two huge looking, bare chested men, we went through quite a few steps of getting ourselves bathed—the ancient way. (Image by rsetia67)
After savoring these delights we were indeed happy with our trip to Istanbul It was steeped in fun, cultural extravaganza and the pleasures of great outdoor activities alike. We realized that turkey can really transcend to an ethereal world of worldly pleasures and heaps of good moments –in an affordable and fun-filled manner.
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Featured image courtesy by Rehakale.Com.TRMonkey