Hagia Sofia and The Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque

Istanbul makes UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – list for most culturally significant places that provide Outstanding Universal Value.  The city has been culturally and historically significant for more than 2000 years.  One of the most amazing sites within the UNESCO recognized heritage site of Old City is the Hagia Sophia – from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, “Holy Wisdom“; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish: Ayasofya (Wikiepdia).   The name is apt – the structure was a church – originally an Orthodox and then Catholic – from 360 to 1453.  From that date until 1931 it was a mosque.  It was closed, secularized and opened as a museum in 1935.  For more on the site, visit Wikipedia.  It’s appeal is a lot like the khamsa, it’s a polygot sacred site. Continue reading “Hagia Sofia and The Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque”

Istanbul Not Constantinople

The name change – from Constantinople to Istanbul – didn’t happen until the 20th century. But the city itself has been inhabited since the 13-11th centuries BCE. Since then it has been Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul, which translate to The City.   Today,  the city – which is a megacity and an alpha world city as it is in both Europe and Asia – has a population of over 13 million and is larger than Moscow (the largest city solely in Europe).

Below are some of the pictures from Istanbul – one of the coolest things about the city is that the history is reflected so evidently in its cityscape and architecture.  The styles range from Byzantine, Greek, Roman, Ottoman and even Genoese.  The city is booming – the economy is spread across many industries including the traditional textiles but also manufacturing, agriculture and industrial and service sectors.  There is a strong middle class entrepreneurial movement and just as strong arts vibe in the city.  I pretty much want to move back there.

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One of the interesting things to see was that in a city as well groomed as Istanbul, that like Egypt, it is really hard to get the right permits to renovate buildings, so there are lots of decrepit buildings whose owners are just letting them fall apart because it  is cheaper to rebuild from scratch rather than renovate.

Leaving Cairo

The next stop – Istanbul.  But first I had to get out of Cairo.  I chose a late flight because I hadn’t seen very much of Cairo at night.  The airport looks out on some of the city, and the drive to the airport from Maadi was through most of the city.  And what a drive it was.  A cab was hailed in Maadi, and the man assured me he knew how to get to the airport.  What he forgot to mention, in between trying to convince me that I should stay in Cairo and marry him, and that heavy metal was the best music around (right, thank you, but just because I’m American, it doesn’t mean that I am a HUGE fan of metal.  Really.) was that he would have to make a couple of stops along the way. Continue reading “Leaving Cairo”