The Art of the Self Date

Most of the time, company can be a good thing, but occasionally it is just as nice to be by oneself.  Some signs you might need a self-date are: an incredible need to decompress, have the time to finish just one crossword, ideally with a glass of wine by your hand, or you may just happen to be in a completely new country where you know no one else.  Provided, in the latter that it is safe to go out, do so.  It is the best way to experience a country and get to know people.

I had narrowed my Istanbul self-date down to two choices. Dukkan, a steakhouse I covered in 2008 and which was started by Defne Koryürek and Emre Mermer, two Istanbulites who are local food advocates.  Their premise for a restaurant multiple reviewers have called  “Carnivore Heaven” was to instill pride in a national cuisine.  Until 2007, the top two cuisines represented in Istanbul were Chinese and Italian, catering to the many businessmen who came through the city. Continue reading “The Art of the Self Date”

Call Me Laura

Stopping at Istanbul seemed like a good transition from Egypt back to the US. It is a country in which more than 90 percent of the population is Muslim, but unlike Egypt which is definitely an African/Asian mashup of Middle Eastern culture, Turkey is mostly Western, for all that it lies in both Asia and Europe.

Blue Mosque Entry Way
The Arch leading into the Blue Mosque of Istanbul

The median age of the almost 50/50 male/female population is young – only 28. Male literacy is around 95 percent, while female literacy is almost 20 percentage points below that. This fact reflects a lot of my experience in Turkey. In Egypt, I lived a harlem-like experience- my exposure was mostly to women, children and older married men. As a family, we didn’t go out that much at night – the only times I was out after dark involved carrying a 5 year old home.

In Istanbul, you don’t have to wait for the night to see signs of life, and you can sit out on the Bosporus and have a cup of coffee or a beer. But like Egypt, almost all public–facing positions – shopkeepers, waiters, bus drivers to bankers – are filled by males. It is a male dominated society, with over 60 percent of the economy driven by the service and industry sectors. So basically, anything you want to do, you have to interact with a male. And some of them can get quite pushy. Continue reading “Call Me Laura”

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.