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Istanbul: day1

I stand corrected….having suggested in previous posts that Turkey is an Islamic state, Yunus (the Turkish Kurd I met in Bursa) put me right: Turkey is a secular state, and has been such for nearly 100 years, ever since Ataturk swept out the Ottoman dynasties, and ushered in a new period of Turkish history. This included separating church and state, adopting the Latin alphabet and converting to the Gregorian calendar. These changes were radical, almost seismic, but the country weathered the storm.
Symbolic of this radical shift is the once religious temple (but now museum) Hagia Sophia.

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Founded under Constantine the Great, for a thousand years it was the seat of eastern Christendom, but was converted into a mosque with the advent of the Ottomans in the 15th century. In recognition of its mixed history and dual ownership, Ataturk ordered it to be decommissioned as a religious building, and had it converted into a museum, thus restoring some of the ancient mosaics destroyed by the Ottomans.

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That restoration process will be ongoing for several more years, so the interior scaffolding looks set to stay for a while.
If you look at a plan of Istanbul, you will see there is a mosque on almost every street corner. They form part of the fabric of life in Turkey, and not just religious life. They are social meeting points and resting places

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and children play while their parents are attending to their prayer rituals. Today I sat on the comfortably carpeted floor of a mosque just to observe, and what I saw was a constant stream of men

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coming in to perform their own private prayer ritual, or joining up with others in a straight line to pray in unison, or sit quietly in a wing to read and study the Koran

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In other words, the serious business of prayer and study was woven into the very fabric of day to day living.

Although getting to Istanbul meant cycling across an entire continent and two time zones, today I simply hopped on a regular ferry, paid just over £1, and went to Asia…..and it only took 15 minutes!

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Of course, the Bosphorus is the dividing line between Europe and Asia, so not only is Turkey a country of two continents, so is Istanbul itself.
Does that happen with any other city/country in the world?
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