/Features

Istanbul, the Heart of Turkey
/ 20 February 2013

Istanbul has a lot of wonderful destinations, attracting millions of tourists every year to spend few days of time traveling through its historical sites. This Turkey’s largest city is considered as one of the most important tourism spots, not only in Turkey, but also in the eyes of the world as a whole. It overflows with a plethora of fascinating, internationally renowned landmarks such as museums, religious sites, and markets exemplified by majestic architectures. From a historical and religious perspective, Istanbul is truly in the heart of Turkey. It is also filled to the brim with restaurants, cafes, and clubs. Here is a list of what are considered to be Istanbul’s top highlights. May this list point you toward some of the possibilities for designing your own vacation.

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia, located in the heart of Istanbul, plays a prominent role in the historical life of the city. It was a Church for 1000 years, later became a Mosque for 500 years, and now a museum. The interior of this colossal building maintains an atmosphere of enchantment, the beauty is emphasized by some original Christian mosaics picturing angels/saints, Jesus, and Mother Mary, along with beautiful Arabic writings throughout the building – beautifully shows some unity between Christians and Muslims. Many people assume that Hagia Sophia named after Sophia which means “Divine Wisdom” in Greek. However, it was actually dedicated for Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity who is also called the God of Wisdom. The entrance fee is 25 Turkish Lira, equals to IDR 150.000.

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Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, represents a sacred gem within Istanbul. It is arguably the city’s most prominent since it features an impressive colorful works of art which emblazons the interior and exterior of the building. The mosque is located in one area and just across Hagia Sophia. Unlike Hagia Sophia, this tourist attraction still remains as an active Mosque with free entrance. However, visitors or worshipers must follow certain rules when entering the Mosque like they must cover their shoes with a special designed plastic bag.

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Grand Bazaar
Istanbul’s next gem is Grand Bazaar which is widely known as one of the largest markets in the world for it has 18 entry/exit gates. It is located in the city of Istanbul, close to Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. The size of the place and the manifolds of goods for sale are impressive. This enormous site serves as shopping heaven for many kind of jewelers; gold, silver, stone, gems, turquoise, diamond, etc. There are also various shops which sell carpets, leather, lantern and lamps, and all kinds of Turkish souvenirs. It opens every day from 9am-7pm, except Sunday. Last but not least, don’t forget to haggle for the best possible deal.

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Arabesque
Arabesque is an upscale Lebanese restaurant, café and club. This restaurant is notable for its great foods and fun and exciting place which maintains a concept of modern pop art with a touch of Middle-Eastern feeling, really adds up the uniqueness of the place. All diners can enjoy complimentary hot wine which is perfect for the current winter season. The set menu is around 70-85 Turkish Lira, equals to IDR 400.000 – IDR 600.000. For appetizers they serve 10 different meze/dip with fresh baked bread. While for the mains, they focus only on different kinds of meat. The desserts revolve around variety of delectable assorted cakes and fruits. At night, Arabesque offers Belly dancing performance throughout the dinner, followed by DJ performance after the show. Here you can see that the dancers are not only females, but also males. To conclude such a meal, set in Middle-Eastern aesthetic, a glass of wine, belly dancing and DJ performance will do more than just fine.

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A long story short, Istanbul is a well of wonders for tourist. Haiga Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and Arabesque are must-visit place for all visitors to Istanbul. Exploring those four places is an experience you should not pass up.

Words and photos by Marianne Adria Mahendra as told to Datu Beru.

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