Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Istanbul Part 5: Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar is one place that everyone visits on their stay in Istanbul, bustling with people of different nationalities and turkish vendors trying to strike a deal with the tourist. This bazaar is a sensory overload, its amazing.
The main bazaar is lined by different shops, the street is pretty wide initially it becomes narrower and narrower as you go further in the market. There are around 4000 or so shops, this place is truly huge, a maze of narrow streets. The general feel of the bazaar is like 'Zainab Market' in Karachi, without the ugly stares of the shopkeepers and the general 'awam' (I'm sure Karachi waley know what I'm talking about).

The easiest way to reach the bazaar from Taksim is via funicular and tram.

From Taksim take a funicular to Kabatas, from there take the tram to Beyazit-Kapalicarsi (Grand Bazaar)

You will find anything and everything here, from clothing to gold to household stuff and all of this at a very reasonable price. So buy whatever your heart desires.

If you are looking for souveniers to take home, this place is where you will get the best price, make sure you bargain. The vendor will go down 70-80% of the price he originally quotes, so there is a huge margin for bargain here.
We did buy a lot of stuff here, my most favorite are the coasters, such unique and pretty designs. I bought 12 for 20 TL (2.300 OMR / 615 PKR)

We saw beautiful bedding, towel sets, table and bed runners, which can make very nice gifts for new brides. So unique. (done ave a picture of those though)

We had lunch at a small Turkish dhaba type somewhere in the bazaar, I dont even recall the name, the only thing I remember is the fragrance that hit us when we walked by, the fragrance of grilled meat and turkish tea. Stopping for lunch right than was the best decision we made that day.
We both ordered chicken shish touk platter, which was 22 TL (2.5 OMR / 680 PKR)
This was hands down the best shish touk I've ever had. The chicken was oh-so-tender, perfectly grilled served on a bed of spiced barley with a piece of bread and salsa in a tangy sauce on the side.
My mouth is watering just thinking about it right now. So yum!

For dessert we had vanilla ice cream topped with sweet semolina from a small vendor in the bazaar for 3 TL (0.350 OMR / 100 PKR). I love contrast in my food, sweet and salty, hot and cold, so this was right up my alley. The ice cream was cold and the semolina was warm, this was marriage made in heavens. So so good. Must try.

So much of my banter already, I'll let the pictures do the talking below.

Suleymaniye Mosque, near the grand bazaar

Outside the mosque
While I wait for Najia

Until next time!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Istanbul Part 4: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace

Visiting Sultan Ahmed Mosque a.k.a The Blue Mosque is one of the top touristy thing anyone would do when in Istanbul. This post is all about this mosque, neighboring Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.

Getting to the mosque is pretty straight forward. If you're not sure, literally anyone would help you with the directions. From Taksim take a funicular to Kabatas, than a tram from Kabatas to Sultan Ahmet stop.

The moment you get off the tram, you'll see people flocking towards the mosque (it's crowded most of the year). Just walk till you see the mosque.

We reached the mosque around 12. Decided to roam around for a while than offer 'zuhr' prayers.
Wear modest clothes and take a head scarf or you wont be allowed to enter the mosque.

Such a gorgeous sight.
Attention to detail.

The prayer area was HUGE!

Outside the mosque
We stopped for a snack and icecream before going to Hagia Sophia.

I have no idea whats this called but it was kind of a cinnamon roll but not very sweet. really delicious. 2 TL each (0.250 OMR/ 68 PKR)

you must've heard a lot about Turkish icecream, the one where the vendor makes you angry and literally makes you cry while the people around you laugh and joke before you can try this amazing sugary concoction. Yeah, that one.
You can choose any amount of flavors you like on one cone. I had vanilla, caramel, chocolate and strawberry. This was 7 TL each (0.900 OMR/ 238 PKR)

We had the icecream while walking towards Hagia Sophia which is right in front of the mosque.
The entry ticket per person is 40 TL (5 OMR/ 1360 PKR)
I wouldn't recommend going if you're with kids, they'd be bored and you wont be able to enjoy and take in all the history in this place.
To see everything in detail you need about 1 hour.

Hagia Sophia was built as a church in 537 AD but it was converted to an ottoman mosque in 1453 until 1931. It was converted to a museum in 1935 (AYASOFYA MUZESI)
Inside of the museum is filled with so much of both faiths. 
Its breathtaking inside, the ceiling is really high and the whole place has a feel of grandiose.
Roam around and take it all in, read about everything, you'll be amazed its so magnificent. 

The left side was undergoing restoration.

Allah, Prophet Mohammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and virgin Mary with Jesus.

The 'Mirhab' pointing towards Makkah

Upstairs gallery.

Marble door

Deesis Mosaic.
I was fascinated with the mosaics, there were so many. They are made of the tiniest mosaic tiles. The bottom part is badly deteriorated.

After this we went to Topkapi Palace which is about 10 minutes walk from the Hagia Sophia. 
Topkapi Palace used to be a residence for Ottoman Sultans during their years of reign and converted into a museum in 1924.

The entry ticket is 40 TL. Visiting hours are from 9 am to 5 pm.
The palace has 4 courtyards and many small buildings. Be prepared to walk, as there is a lot of ground to cover.
The Imperial Gate

The Gate of Salutation. Entrance to the 2nd courtyard.


how gorgeous is this!
We saw a lot of Holy Relics in the palace, there are certain rooms dedicated to those. I dont really remember the names of the rooms but we saw swords of our Prophet Mohammad ( صلى الله عليه وسلم
companions, beard hair and piece from a tooth of our Prophet Mohammad ( صلى الله عليه وسلم), sword and bow used by out beloved  Prophet Mohammad ( صلى الله عليه وسلم), Seal and a letter written by  Prophet Mohammad ( صلى الله عليه وسلم).

In another room there is a key to Kaaba, casing of Hajre Aswad.  

They dont allow pictures inside though, if you try to sneakily capture some, a huge and dangerous looking turkish guy will start shouting and everybody would be looking at you with daggers in their eyes :D. We saw it happen to one poor guy. So just dont.

I cannot describe the feeling I had while looking at these sacred things, to see myself as a tiny part in a much much much bigger picture, it's a very humbling experience. 

The Palace is a must visit.

View of the Marmara sea from the palace.

Tired af.
We had a late lunch at a busy little restaurant right across the blue mosque. I had a doner platter, which was 22 TL (2.75 OMR/ 748 PKR) We were famished and the food was warm and hearty. Not spicy but packed full of flavor. Delicious!

All in a a good day spent well. 

Next up; Grand Bazaar and Princess Islands

Monday, 15 August 2016

Turkey Part 3: Sea Life Aquarium and Forum Mall

Not many people will visit an aquarium when they visit Istanbul. If not for 'N', I wouldn't have either because I've already been to an aquarium in Thailand. 
This was our 3rd day in Istanbul and the day we stepped on Istanbul's metro for the first time. 
We asked one of the guys at our hotel's reception for directions to the aquarium.

Get a metro card if you plan on exploring Istanbul, metro tickets are much cheaper that way. We had 2 metro cards, which i borrowed from my brother and cousin but we opted to use only one (you can charge the card as many times in one go) 

Image taken from Google

We left the hotel at 11 am. Walked till Taksim square (5 minutes away). 
Took a metro from taksim to Yenikapi, which is 3 stops away. I dont remember the exact amount for the ticket but it was around 2.5-3 TL (88-106 PKR / 0.3- 0.4 OMR). It took 15-20 minutes to reach Yenikapi. 

Waiting for a train at Taksim metro station

Follow the arrows (or ask someone) for the way to the Airport line. Don't to go all the way out, you'll find the way within the metro station.
From Yenikapi take the airport line to Kocatepe, which is 4-5 stops away. The mall is right outside the station. The aquarium is in the mall as well. 
So we spent some time at the aquarium, roamed the mall and had lunch at the food court.

Tickets for the aquarium are 48 TL per adult (6.200 OMR / 1700 PKR), Child (3-14 years) is 37 TL (4.900 OMR/ 1300 PKR)
Jellyfish, they are so mesmerizing to watch.

How gorgeous is his leopard print stingray!


As you can see we were quite fascinated with the sharks :D

We found nemo!

We had lunch at Otantik Kumpir in the food court.
Kumpir is the ultimate baked potato with butter, cheese and a whole range of toppings. Its delicious! 
Kumpir was 13 TL each (1.700 OMR/ 460 PKR)
I had it thrice during the course of our trip! :D

Outside the mall

Ikea is right across the street from the mall.

We were pretty excited to go to Ikea, ask me why! 
We do not have Ikea in Oman (yes, you heard that right). We have everything but no ikea, nada. 
We bought fruity candles, nothing else.

Anyway, we came back to the hotel around 6 pm. 
Dinner that day was a basic doner from Taksim Park Restaurant at Istiklal street.

Taksim Square

Well, this was day 3.
Stay tuned for Turkey Part 4: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace

See You!