Istanbul diary: Day 2-
Praying at the Blue mosque was a fascinating feeling. I won’t lecture you the history which you can Google and find out but what you would notice is that, people of all races, nationalities and religions are open to enter this architectural wonder. Moreover, they’re showing appropriate respect by wearing a scarf and men aren’t wearing half pants. Muslims are praying and there’s a separate area for women to pray. People are welcome to take pictures inside and this openness of a mosque has impressed me. In Bangladesh, we’re not allowed to do most of these, cause it disturbs the holiness of our mosques but not here. Which is why non-muslims are going inside the Islamic information centre inside the mosque to learn more. That is why they are learning the history of the mighty Ottoman Empire and their relics. Praying at this mosque was a special feeling of peace and tranquillity. I felt privileged being a Muslim in front of the people from other races and religions. Although, most of the places require you an entry fee, you don’t pay to enter a mosque, that has also attracted many tourists.
No, I haven’t suddenly become any handsome that people would keep staring at me like that. Adults checked us out subtly but kids doesn’t have such reservations, they’re checking us out like they’ve seen someone interesting. Then I realised that, I haven’t become a hero overnight, the parks of being different- a brown minority. The way our rickshaw pullers would look at a Bideshi (foreigner) in Dhaka, it might be similar. However, when it comes to checking out, we the sub-continentals are unbeatable, we know how to look back in style! Like Nabila was telling me, she’s not getting tired of looking at all those beautiful girls around us, if I said that same thing, I’m afraid this trip might have ended right there.
The beautiful day started from the breakfast when we met an aged Russian couple who smiled at us and asked if we’re from India. We smiled back and replied, we are from Bangladesh. He said, India, Bangladesh or Pakistan, you guys are the same. It’s the British who divided you guys so that you can never become a force like Russia. They’ve broken Soviet Union for the same reason! We then had a nice history lesson on the breakfast table. Anyway, they’re a middle class family that owns acres of lands and a small 6500 square feet house in Russia, travels 8-9 countries a year. Lived in West Bengal’s Durgapur for 8 years and he said Bengali people are some of the nicest he met. I wish I have met enough Russians to say the same but they’ve certainly broken our ideas of rough, unfriendly Russians. Both husband and his wife were so nice to us. After our breakfast we went to the terrace to take some pictures as the view from up there was breathtaking!
We walked our way to Blue mosque and followed a loud Korean group. It was only 5 minutes away from our hotel. But the roads are going up and down and takes effort walking. We stood on a long line first then I figured a fast track door. Asked Nabila to stay on the queue I went to check out who is it for. It’s written prayer area! And I’m here to pray. So, I called Nabila and we both took our shoes off and there are free bags for shoes. We entered directly and was mesmerised by the design inside. It was the first time Nabila went inside a mosque as prayer areas for women aren’t common in Bangladesh. We saw people of all races and religions willingly putting proper attire to respect the religious sentiments. I’ve seen many Jecinda Ardern inside blue mosque today. We both prayed in separate areas and felt tranquility. It was the openness of a secular Muslim culture that impressed us the most.
You can see Aya Sofia from Blue mosque, very close. But the queue was so long! You have to pay 60 Turkish Lira to enter so we went around to exchange USD to Lira and joined the line back for another hour. There are people who’d ask for a fast track for 200 Lira. Hardly anybody asks us though, benefit of being brown! They’ve asked a white couple at least 15 times if they would need guide and skip the line. I was asked only once.
It’s very beautiful inside Aya Sofia which was a church once, then converted into a mosque under the Muslim rulers and now it’s a museum. I wouldn’t stand on a queue this long if I knew it before! My back was hurting.
We were so hungry after we came out but we didn’t know what to eat. Finally thought, let’s not experiment on Turkish cuisines, we went to McDonalds instead. Returned hotel walking by Google map, took a shower and took a nap. In my dream I saw mosquitos biting me. Then I woke up and realised there’s no mosquitoes here! Is this even real? Sun sets here at 8pm.
And we read the news from Sri Lanka and felt so devastated! Couldn’t write any longer. This is all for today.
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