Monday, August 29, 2005

İstanbul is Constantinople

Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, Grand Bazaar, Ottomans, Attatürk - these are the things most people associate with İstanbul. And all of that is there, vibrant historical reminder of a great empire.

What has struck me most, however, is the seamless blend of European and İslamic cultures. Women in hijabs and even burkas walk alongside trendy youth in tanktops and jeans. Even those in hijabs can be seen snuggling up to their boyfriends, holding hands and enjoying a day out.

The buildings are for the most part very European, but everywhere you turn there are minarets peeking out from behind buildings. This is probably naive of me, but İ didn't quite expect this. Attatürk tried to diminish the visible dress codes of İslam. İstanbul today is a flourishing mixture of a rennaisance of the traditional and the modern and trendy.

My only complaint is that there are myriads of tourists. Luckily, since it is so late in the season, most of them are older, more educated and more culturally sensitive than what is so often found in the mid-July height of travel around Europe. Except for the young Russian girls whose dress, demeanor, and apparently conversations, reflect a horrible blend of Lumpen-tourism and daddy's money that make the worst of American tourists look like charming examples of goodwill ambassadors.


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