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A First Look at Istanbul

The Republic Monument in Taksim Square. The sculpture commemorates the foundation of Turkish Republic in 1923.

After spending a little over two weeks in Romania, in late November 2022, I flew to Istanbul. I was there for three days before flying to Greece on Friday, December 2nd. Over the next few weeks, I'll share photos from Istanbul. The pictures in this post are from the first evening I arrived.

I thought all mosques were old. I was wrong! The Taksim Mosque was built from 2017 to 2021 by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It dwarfs nearby Ottoman-era mosques and can hold 4,000 people.

A little background: I first decided I wanted to visit Istanbul years ago when I was living and teaching in Clear Water Bay, Hong Kong, in 2011-2012. Two of my fellow teachers had honeymooned in Istanbul and said it was incredible. And it certainly was. Its location on the Bosporus Straight, the fact that it sits in both Europe and Asia, its thousands of years of history, and its religion make it unlike anywhere else on Earth.

The Tophane Clock Tower in front of the Nusretiye Mosque, an ornate mosque located in Tophane District of Beyoğlu. The mosque was built in 1823–1826 by Sultan Mahmut II.

Looking at the Asian side of Istanbul from Karaköy, over the Bosporus Straight.

The first night I arrived, after getting to my Airbnb, I did some exploring. I walked ten minutes north to Taksim Square and then headed down towards the waterway in Beyoğlu. When I reached Istanbul Modern (a museum built in 2022, not pictured) and the Galataport Shopping Center (the shopping center is behind me in the above pic), I experienced my first call to prayer. The cries from mosques all over Istanbul rang out across the water. It was unearthly.

It was also windy!

Galataport Shopping Center in front of a mosque on the hill. (Istanbul is quite hilly in parts.)

Another picture of the Clock Tower in front of the Galataport Shopping Center.

In my next few posts, I'll share pictures of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, the Spice Market, the Grand Bazaar, and much more. I'll do my best to share some of the history from these places, though I myself am no expert. Hopefully we'll all learn a lot.

Stay tuned!


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