Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Propositioned


So much to see, and so little time to see it. First on the agenda was the Blue Mosque, a very serene place with red carpeted floors and stained glass windows. Visitors are required to remove their shoes and women must cover their heads. People who come to pray must wash at the faucets outside. Down the street is the Haghia Sophia, one of the world’s most magnificent architectural achievements. This Byzantine church was converted to a mosque in 15th century by the Ottomans. Here I was propositioned by a young security guard. I was taking photos and he attempted to engage me in conversation about my photos. He told me the mosque would be closing at 5, and asked if I had any plans. He then proceeded to invite me to have kebabs with him but I told him my husband was “over there”, to which he apologized. Don’t know what his intentions were, but I was flattered, just the same!

The Basilica cistern is a vast underground vault that held water for the great palace. The roof is held up by over 336 columns that run at angles to each other. This amazing structure is still intact. We walked along the walkways and Ray was in awe at the number of fish in the water.

Next stop was the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of streets all in one building, consisting of thousands of shops selling all sorts of goods-leather, clothing, ceramics and of course, carpets. This place was similar to Silk Alley in Beijing but on a much larger scale, and bargaining is essential. I was thinking of buying a set of 6 dessert plates but each stall had one sample of each design/color so in order to buy a set, I would have had to go to 6 stores and negotiate a price in each; this seemed like an awful lot of work and way too much trouble. The salespeople are friendly and entertaining, calling to you, saying “Ni hao” and “Konichiwa”, and “Where are you from?” We also walked through the spice market where we spent time talking to a young Turkish salesman who spoke excellent Chinese. He was a very likable guy, very proud of the fact that he is the only sales person in the Bazaar who can speak Chinese. He apparently does a booming business to Chinese tour groups! We bought a supply of spices and a variety of teas from him.

The hotel owner recommended an Ottoman Restaurant at the northwestern part of the city. It took a while to get there and was an upscale place with a few guests dining there. We especially enjoyed the appetizers-variations of dolmas and other Turkish delights. The main course, on the other head, was rather plain. What an interesting and busy day it had been.

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