Moments From Turkey
I have been very lucky to visit some beautiful places. This is definitely one of the best I have seen. Turkey. I spent a week in this beautiful country where I was able to see some spectacular sights, met and photographed wonderful people. Here is a bit of my journey.
After a 10-hour flight from New York, I arrived in Istanbul, a city where East meets west. A melting pot of the the two worlds that is evident right on arrival at the airport. Due to a delay in my connecting flight to Konya was delayed, I spent an hour and half sleep walking through typical European coffee shops that also served tea in the famous tiny Turkish tea cups. that sold in the airport on this cloudy and
There it was. Konya; a beautiful concrete jungle rose out of a bare mountainous landscape one hour flight away from Istanbul. Konya is a pretty vast city with surface area even larger than the more famous Istanbul. I was suddenly excited to explore, meet whomever I could, and photograph right away. From the airport I was driven to the cultural center to attend an exhibition opening of photographers from over 30 different countries, mostly from Middle Eastern countries like Oman, United Arab Emirates, Europe, Africa and of course different parts of Turkey.
After the exhibition, it was time to visit the Mevlana museum, which is also home to Rumi's tomb. Rumi was a 15th century Persian poet whose work traversed cultures and still influences many today. You have probably heard some people use his poetry several times.
The Mevlana museum is a large structure built out of stone. On the inside though, a whole new world opens up. The inside is filled with low hanging lamps that illuminate the multicolor mosaic walls that reflects light in different a very stunning way. I slowly made my way through the packed room of people praying and reading some of Rumi’s writings, took a few pictures and just enjoyed the stillness of the museum.
On this day I had the chance to visit a butterfly center on the outskirts of the city for a few minutes before we drove to a village called Sille. The butterfly centre is a big, white dome under which butterflies flock freely among the tropical trees and flowers.
I watched families with mesmerized kids, friends taking pictures of each other, and a poor parrot that everyone wanted to take a selfie with.
After the butterfly center we got on the highway to Sille, home to Aya Elena, one of the the oldest Orthodox churches in the world. Though it has undergone numerous renovations, the church still retains some of its original wooden frames and art at the alter area.
Just 200 feet outside of the church is a potter who works in a small workshop on a hill overlooking the village. Pottery has been in his family for 300 years and he is now sadly the last to do it because the younger generation don't find it profitable enough. There will not be anyone after him. This workmanship will surely be a significant loss.
We left early in the morning on a two-hour drive to a lake town called Beyshihir. It is believed that this is where you can get to witness one of the best sunsets in the world. I can attest it is one of the best sunsets as well. The town is right at the shore of Turkey’s second largest lake and on the western side of the lake are mountains behind which the sun sets. The view is spectacular to say the least. It was beautiful to see the silhouettes of fishermen casting nets with rays of sunlight streaking through the clouds behind them.
Beyshihir is also where I got to see a 700-year old mosque with a beautiful, calming ambiance. My bare feet walked on a soft blue rug with red patterns asI gazed at the bright opening at the center of the ceiling that provided a kind of sacred light for people that came to pray at different intervals.
On this day I got to see the downtown public bazaar—think of it as a pedestrian street paved with a mixture of cobalt stone and concrete. The bazaar is so old that even in the 15th century Rumi went there frequently. It is common to see mothers with smartly dressed children walking to the shop for groceries, clothing, or simply making a trip to the tailor.
Walking through the narrow streets you come across multiple places where hot Turkish tea is served. There are boys that run the tea in the streets, delivering it to traders in shops and workers, needless to say, my friends and I made many stops.
On my second to last day, I attended the dervish festival. This is a dance where the performers make slow circular movements in a dim lit room with changing colors. It is believed that Rumi was once asked a question in the public bazaar in Konya and he simply got up and made slow circular movements. Since then, his followers have performed this dance. The dance is a sacred ritual of love. It is a physical meditation where one abandons oneself and focuses on God. I took a few photos, and then just enjoyed the calming music and slow movements.
I flew back to Istanbul in the morning. I got picked up by a good friend I now call my brother, Mustafa. We drove through the traffic-filled city that felt busier than Konya. We headed to Galata, where Mustafa’s studio and home is. This is a higher end part of town with narrow cobalt streets, souvenir shops and lots of cafes—I mean lots of cafes.
Mustafa had to go to a meeting so I walked through the main pedestrian street under a light rain, where I got to observe couples and friends under umbrellas. I if you are out there looking to make a body of work on lovers, Istanbul is the place for you. With just 24 hours in Istanbul, we tried to see as much as we could.
We took a train from the Galata bridge to the Blue Mosque that is hundreds of years old, took a ferry to another side of the city, walked to the magical Nevizade Sokak (Nevizade street). This is a street with both outdoor and indoor cafes and bars that is lit with a whole spectrum of lights. It is a place where you can eat original Turkish food and drink coffee, tea, wine, or beer. There is a place for everyone on this street.
I was back in rush hour New York traffic
On this trip I got to meet some truly wonderful people that went out of their way to make sure I felt at home and generously gave their time and guidance. Reha, Aysu, Rabia, Beyza, Meltem, Seven, I am very grateful to you all.
I welcome you to see more photos from Turkey and other places on my instagram below.