8th July 2006
I had a good sleep and was picked up the next day at 8:30am for my tour of Istanbul. We were all herded onto small buses and taken straight to Agia Sophia, which means “Holy Wisdom”, it was originally and old Roman Church, which had then been converted into a mosque by the Ottomans and then converted to a museum by the much-loved Ataturk. It was a wonderful sight, I had seen it in books so many times, and even the fact that again, the middle of the great structure had a great pillar of scaffolding rising up from the middle, did not spoil it for me. The site is an ancient one and the old Roman church was built on the site of the temple of Venus, who ruins litter the grounds.
We then walked across the road to the Blue Mosque, this was also quite spectacular and very colourful inside. We all had to take off our shoes at the entrance and I covered myself up with one of my scarves. There were orange prayer mats all joined together on the floor and there were some men who were praying. The dome was magnificent, rivalling even some of the most beautiful churches I had seen in Italy. We were then taken to the Istanbul Museum of fine arts and I had my name written in Arabic calligraphy on a beautiful Turkish tile. We had lunch in the gardens and from the balcony, the whole of Istanbul could be seen, including the old Roman hippodrome with an Egyptian Obelisk rising from its centre. I got someone to take my picture with the scene in the background and when I saw the picture it was one of the most spectacular of the over a thousand shots I had taken.
Another mosque was on the cards next, the Suliyman mosque, the largest in Istanbul, it was on a high point in the city and was a spectacular site. Just behind Agia Sophia was Topkapi Palace, a place from which the Ottoman had ruled. We were taken straight to see the many jewels and my eyes lit up, (as would most any woman’s) at the sight of one of the largest diamonds I had ever seen. There was also an amazing emerald encrusted dagger, plated in yellow gold. I opted to take the optional tour of the giant harem, which cost me an extra fee, but it was well worth it. The tiled walls were spectacular, all-in turquoise, cobalt blue, soft purple and maroon red. The entertainment rooms were plush with a giant bed with red velvet spreads. In one there was even a grandfather clock, which had been a gift from Queen Victoria. We came out on a balcony and from this the whole of Istanbul could be seen. At this point I elected to leave the tour with some friends I had made and go and have a drink. We came out of Topkapi and had drinks at a small bazaar, one of the shops, quite humorously displayed the sign over the top of its door “Sorry, we’re open”.