Just 3 nights but when we fall in love, time is insignificant. It grows in us and we feel depressed leaving such a loving city and the people we just met, behind.
Cuisines are something Istanbul is famous for, but you got to know from where to eat. We have asked our hotel manager who suggested us to try a restaurant called Doy Doy, run by twin brothers. At our first late night, when we went there, the restaurant was closed so we had no other option but to try an unknown restaurant. And food of this unknown restaurant was kind of disappointing for the price we paid. The next day we returned to Doy doy for lunch and impression on Turkish food was restored. Kebap (Turkish for Kabab) is great, although I have had better experiences of kabab in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. This can either be because of my taste bud, developed that way for Desi style or probably I haven’t tried the best restaurants in Turkey. Turks eat a lot of black olives, yogurt, salty cheese, pulses and breads with main dishes. We usually ate the main dish and left side ons aside. Turkish tea is a must try, we enjoyed apple tea. And there’s more one can explore but you need time to go to the Taksim square area, traffic there can be bad since everyday almost 5 million people comes from Asian side of Istanbul to work at European side, and most of them own a car.
Leaving the city was emotional, the people were warm and welcoming. Even if someone doesn’t know good English, he’d still try to comfort you by talking or even praying for you, or giving you a bottle of water and so on. Apart from that, the weather was fabulous in Istanbul, even though it was as cold as 4 degrees at times, but since the sun was out all the time, it would make one feel really great. Both the water and the sky is violet blue. However, most of the buildings we have seen, doesn’t have lift, meaning you would have to climb stairs. We were on the 4th floor of our hotel and we burned our precious calories climbing them everyday. But overall, it was such a beautiful old city with many modern facilities and classic Ottoman architecture, just as my mom said, it was the best city we’ve been to as well. If you are interested in history, you’d love it even more. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s prophecies were that Muslims will rule this part of the world and Sultan Mehmed I (you may call Mahmud too) conquered from Constantinople of Byzantine Empire, and fulfilled the prophecy. Ever since this place was ruled by the Muslims, and who doesn’t know of the epic of mighty Ottoman Empire?
The new Istanbul airport is one of the most beautiful airports in the world, I’d rate it right after the Singapore airport. It takes around 40 minutes to come to the airport from Sultanahmet area. They won’t touch you at the airport for checking, if metal detector detects anything, you’d be asked to enter a machine that would give an X-ray like image. Quite advanced technology which should be used everywhere else too. I remember a guy touching me at the Dhaka airport was embarrassing. On the other hand, formalities at this airport was lightning fast. Your security check up will be performed once and thoroughly enough so that you don’t get to remove your belts over and over again. But the airport is so big, we had to walk so much. Just by walking, you’ll see so many colourful souls from around the world. That’s the solution of the global problems, people needs to merge and know each other, see each other, interact as much as possible. I made my first Iranian friend at the aircraft who was the other guy sitting on the 3 seats row. Shamsi is a couple of years younger than me, but he’s going to do his PhD at University of Calgary in Biological tissue engineering. Such an intellectual man with so much knowledge about so many things and it was him for whom my 11 hours flight seemed shorter. You always need to interact with people who are intellectually superior than us and that’s how we would learn more. We had a lot of common interest and our conversation would go on for hours. According to him, Iran is so rich in natural resources and wealth but the people doesn’t know where it’s going. Level of corruption, just like any other Muslim country is at extreme level in Iran as well. Besides, the rules are radicalised and people are being forced to do certain things that even one can not find anywhere in Islam. As a result, younger generations are straying away from Islam and over 6 million cream of the crops left the country for living a free life. I told him, the story is not very different from our country, just add a little bit more chaos and minus the religious things. He’s a Kurd who lost so many of his relatives during the Iraq-Iran war, it was a privilege learning his stories. We promised each other, that we’d be in touch.
YYZ- the Toronto Pearson airport seemed a little disappointing after coming from Istanbul airport. The evening was cloudy outside, and I had the worst landing of my life, I was dead tired as I couldn't sleep for a seconds while others could and I don’t know why this airport was not making me feel that good. On top of that, the old lady was shouting for no reason because we had to take our study and work permit from another room. One can simply ask politely that if you don’t have it yet, you have to get it from there. When we went to the study permit section, it was a line of 100+ students. Each taking 10+ minutes to interview and process and initially only 2 officers were processing. This reminded me of home. Shamsi also had to get his study permit so he was with us too. I introduced him to my wife Nabila before. Once 2 more officers came, the queue was getting shorter. Indians and Chinese students were probably 98% and rest of the world was 2%. Took us 2 hours to finish after such a long journey. My head was spinning at one point. Formalities seemed to be a never ending process, but I kept telling myself, that this is a one time affair, and hold on tight. And it passed eventually!
At the exit point of the airport, our guardian angel was Ahsan bhai, Nabila's university teacher, such a helpful and nice person who waited for us over 2 long hours. He bought us dinner from Tim Hortons and we couldn't realize how hungry we were, before taking the first bite. He took us to our Airbnb guest house which was 10 minutes from the airport at North York. We'd be forever grateful to him, that he even helped us with our 4 heavy suitcases which we barely had energy to lift. Besides, that 3 degree temperature caught us off guard, with chilling wind. We checked in, and the house was so cozy and comfortable, that we dropped on the bed, dead tired.
I'd share the first day experience of Toronto, sometime soon. Thanks for reading, and these long write ups might bore you, but I'm writing these as journals for myself, I want to freeze these days through these words. If you like to read, thank you so much for being with me in my journey. If you don't, that's okay too.
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