Istanbul: Ramadan 2013, part I

WE ARE BACK! Our honeymoon is over and we are back to -surprisingly sunny- Delft. We have millions of photos to share with you as well as some quite useful travel tips. Istanbul was the last stop of our honeymoon and a great one as well. We had no idea what Ramadan is all about for Muslims. Wikipedia explains it pretty clearly here, if you are curious.

I have been to Istanbul twice before. The first time was about 10 years ago and the second about 5 years ago. Both times it was December and quite cold. Being a Greek and an architect, I was brainwashed about the beauty of Agia Sofia for many years. And it is indeed beautiful. But I was even more impressed by the Blue Mosque and the natural beauty of Bosporus. The Galata Bridge, the shores of the Golden Horn, the amazing food and sweets, the voices of the prayers coming from every mosque, the smell of coffee and the colorful crowd have put a spell on me. This is why I proposed to my husband to fly back to the Netherlands from Istanbul, instead of Thessaloniki. The fact that the tickets were cheaper helped to make up our minds as well.

This time Istanbul was even more enchanting. The first evening that we realized the Sultanahmet area has become a huge picnic, we knew that something was going on: Ramadan. The day-long fast that breaks at night. Thousands and thousands of people with blankets, huge amounts of food and bottles full of beverages were laying on every inch of grass on the parks. Eating and even cooking on small gas stoves, the families were bonding with their neighbors. I found it overwhelmingly beautiful. And even though I am one of those who believe that religion is way to entangled with fanaticism to be a good thing, I can not close my eyes to the beautiful parts of it. Rituals such as the ones of Ramadan (or Ramazan) and the smiles that they put on peoples faces are the reason why I would not eliminate religion, even if I could.

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Offering food to those who cannot afford it is also part of Ramadan. Charity is promoted this month.

Offering food to those who cannot afford it is also part of Ramadan. Charity is promoted this month.

As N. has not visited Istanbul before, we visited Agia Sofia and the Blue Mosque once again, as well as the Basilica Cistern. No matter how good (or bad) my photos are, you NEED to go there in order to understand the feeling of the space and pay attention to all the little details yourself. It is worth every minute.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque, prayer area.

Blue Mosque, prayer area.

Blue Mosque, detail

Blue Mosque, detail

Blue Mosque, Dome

Blue Mosque, Dome

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Medusa, Basilica Cistern

Medusa, Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Agia Sofia

Agia Sofia

Agia Sofia Interior

Agia Sofia Interior

Agia Sofia

Agia Sofia

And the best part is that you can actually visit Istanbul and remain vegan! Many of the traditional sweets are vegan, our hotel offered a wide variety of fruit for breakfast and we also discovered an amazing vegan cafe/ restaurant, which needs to become famous!

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BALYA, vegan cafe

BALYA, vegan cafe

Trying to choose what to eat

Trying to choose what to eat

Enjoying my lentil salad

Enjoying my lentil salad

Salad close-up

Salad close-up

I hate long posts. So there will be a part II including Taksim square, a Bosporus tour, a city bus tour and Galata tower, among other stuff. Stay tuned!

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9 responses to “Istanbul: Ramadan 2013, part I

  1. @Jackson Twosheds: There is this cat that has been living in Agia Sophia for years. I think he is a male, because he has quite a thick neck. He used to hang out right in the middle, under the dome, but as he is getting older, he is now withdrawn to a smaller space at the side, where tourists won’t pet him all the time.

  2. I really enjoyed your post, Alexia!!! While reading it, it was like having a “5-minute-holiday”!

  3. Pingback: Istanbul: Ramadan 2013, part II | The non-hip hippies·

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