Istanbul – Day 4 – Süleymaniye Mosque + Spice Market

I know, I know, what happened to Day 3?  I’ll get to that later.

Monday – Day 4 was a busy day for me –  a lot of walking. 5.5 miles of walking to be exact (thank you fitbit!!).  Because one of the grand mosques was closed (either Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia), I decided to wonder the Old City and soak in the energy, the people, the streets, the City as I moved towards Suleymaniye Mosque and the Spice Market via the University of Istanbul.

First and foremost, mosques are everywhere, and even the small ones are grand in my opinion.  Here is me, covered up and doing my best impression of Carrie from Homeland.  I was in the mosque for 5 minutes, soaking in everything… the people, the prayers, the space… I was in awe.. I had not expected such beauty and peace.

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The mosque is an unknown mosque – its in a small neighborhood where local people stop in and pray…. it’s not on a tourists map.. it’s just there, in plain site for everyone to use. Look at the beauty of the stones, the craftsmanship, the architecture.  These pictures do not do it justice either – you have to see it to believe it.

I left the mosque and meandered through the neighborhoods and finally reached the University. University of Istanbul was founded in 1453. That is 39 years BEFORE Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and stumbled upon America.  There is some history for you.

So my target mosque – Süleymaniye Mosque. Istanbul has 4 historical preservation sites, and Süleymaniye Mosque and its associated conservation area is one of them. Truly the site is something to behold – not just mosque, or the grounds, but the views and the story of the architect that pulled it all together.   Great story, beautiful place, and I’m glad that it will be protected for others to see and experience it for years to come.  Here are a few pictures that do not do it any justice but do give you an idea of what it’s like on the inside.  I also received quite a bit of literature from a volunteer at this mosque.  A lot of FAQ’s about Islam, Muslims, Allah, etc..  Once I read through the materials I will share what I learn.

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My next stop was the Spice Market.  The Spice Market is synonymous with the Spice Bazaar and Egyptian Bazaar.  They all mean the same thing..  I didn’t like the Spice Market. It was way too crowded.. and the stores that surround the spice market are cheap kid toy stores….  I just wandering around and I didn’t see anything appealing at all –  I was glad to wander out of the Spice Bazaar.  I went to storefront 55 – a recommendation from Turkish Carpet man – they are friends. He would give me a good deal.  I didn’t bother to negotiate – I handed him Turkish Carpet man’s card and purchased a few items.  The next day I saw what I purchased for 1/2 price somewhere else.   Specifically, I purchased some Rose Water for 30 TL… I saw it the next day at a pharmacy for 12 TL…   I did not negotiate with the owner of storefront 55 because he was good friends with my Carpet Man…  I definitely didn’t get a “friends and family discount”.  The lesson learned here – ALWAYS negotiate. Never settle for the first price they tell you.  Even if they come highly recommended and you have a “special” connection.

My last activity for the day was a cooking lesson from  Rocco, our host, and the chefs were amazing – I learned how to make some of the more popular and two of my favorite foods – Red Lentil Soup and Lamb and Beef Stuffed grape leaves. Yum!  The secret ingredients – red pepper paste and equal parts of mint, parsley, and dill.  I am going to bring home the red pepper paste and this Z knife to chop up my herbs (since I cannot find it on Amazon).  Here is a great site to see the Zihr in action.

I finally got  back to my room at 10pm.. I was exhausted.  I brushed my teeth, put on my pajamas, and went to bed.  It was a fabulous day…

There are 2 lessons today:

1 – Cover your blue eyes.   The day was not sunny but cloudy and warm. It was a perfect day. But I still had to wear my sunglasses. I found that I was not approached to purchase items or enter stores nearly as much when I had my sunglasses on vs. off.  I think that blue eyes are a bit of a rarity here in Istanbul (maybe all of Turkey I don’t know), so the hustlers see blue eyes and assume tourist.  Just a FYI for those of you blue-eyed folks traveling to Turkey… take your mirrored sunglasses and wear them. You will be glad you did.

2 – Always negotiate.  As with the rose water – even a friend of a friend will try to take as much money as possible. The Turks love to negotiate…  so give it to them.  Educate yourself on the cost of something then go for it.  If you are not a negotiator, well then, you will need lots of money.  🙂

O.k. I will do my best to catch up on Day 3 AND finish up Day 5 with a bang so there is something really fun to write about.  Day 5 is my day with Turkey Carpet Man…  all day…  I did also learn that he is Muslim.. so that is something. A very different culture, I’m surprised he is even interested in spending time with a Christian (although not all that Christian IMO) American…

Last but not least, I love the Call To Prayer.  LOVE IT.  I’ve recorded a few that I’ve heard.. I’ll try to share them. I don’t even know what they are saying, but it sounds great.  O.k. I have to go now…