Travel Notes – Istanbul Day 02

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

The kids woke up later than expected this morning so instead of leaving at 8.30 as planned, we ended up setting off at 9.30 after a hearty breakfast at our hotel.

We followed the tram line and walked to Topkapı Palace and by the time we got there, there were already busloads of tourists queuing up for tickets. With our Museum Passes, we headed straight to the Room of Holy Relics to see the precious items there.

I had prepared myself for an emotional experience here but I think I underestimated how much this place would actually affect me. I am in the midst of learning the Seerah so the stories about the Prophet SAW and his sahabahs and all the battles they fought are still quite fresh in my head. So when I stood in front of the swords belonging to Ammar ibn Yasir and Khalid ibn Walid, I couldn’t help but cry. I became so emotional, I had to calm myself down in a corner before moving on to see the Prophet SAW’s relics. I spent a good few minutes just staring at each relic and also the swords belonging to all of the 4 caliphs. I wasn’t prepared to be THAT emotional and from that point on, tears just continued to roll down my face until I exited the pavilion. I just hope I didn’t embarrass the kids too much!

We quickly explored the rest of the Palace and saved the Harem for last. It was surprisingly quiet so we had a lovely time wandering around and by the time we were done, 4 hours had passed by.

The kids had a big breakfast and I wasn’t hungry yet even though it was almost 2 by the time we left the palace. We didn’t have enough of an appetite for luch but stopped for some simits and pomegranate juice outside the palace gates before heading towards the Blue Mosque. I think I have officially become addicted to freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice and wouldn’t know what to do if I get a craving once we’re back in Singapore!

We performed our Zuhur prayer at the Blue Mosque and since Ashar was literally less than an hour away, we decided to stay and wait so we could pray Ashar before leaving.

I have to say, I was rather disappointed at how small the women’s pray area is in this mosque. Us sisters had to cram and squeeze into such a small space while the brothers had more than enough room to fit all the sisters combined in their empty section at the back. I knew the Blue Mosque was going to be gorgeous, but it didn’t blow me away as much as I had expected it would. Maybe it’s just me, but the busy stream of visitors also made it feel less sacred and it felt more like an art exhibition rather than an active place of worship.

Also, I noticed that everything that came after the rollercoaster of an emotion ride in the Holy Relics room was not going to affect me as much today. I suppose for me personally as a Muslim, the solemn awe of being in such close proximity to anything related to the Prophet SAW, his family and closest companions was going to be very difficult to top off.

Done with Ashar, we then made our way to the Hippodrome and took more pictures before walking to Hagia Sophia. By the time we arrived it was already around 4. Now, this place appeared bigger to me in real life compared to how it looks in pictures. Loooove the caligraphy with the name of Allah, Muhammad SAW and all his closest sahabahs and two grandchildren. We took our time here and went up to the upper level and from this angle the caligraphy seemed even more majestic even though there’s some renovation work going on inside.

After this we tried to go to Basilica Cistern but since the queue was so long and our Museum Pass was not valid here, we decided to skip it for another day. Our feet were now beginning to hurt so we took the tram from Sultanahmet to Eminonu to find the place we had dinner the night before.

Alhamdulillah we didn’t get lost and found the place opened for business. The name is Lezzet-i Sark and it’s on Hasircilar Caddesi. I’ll do a proper review about them later but their location is literally a 5-minute walk from the Eminonu tram stop. It is also on the same street and only a 2-minute walk from our next destinatuon for the day, Rustem Pasa Mosque.

This mosque sits quite high on my list of mosques to visit so I was glad we managed to find its tiny entrance without much difficulty. We climbed up the steps and a feeling of serene melancholy swept over me as I entered this mosque. What a lovely, pretty little gem! I saw 2 men inside performing their Isya prayer and I so badly wanted to pray too but alas, they didn’t have an ablution section for women. It is impossible for a hijabi like me to perform ablution in a mixed area so in the end I just sat down inside the mosque and gazed at the amazing interior. I managed to take close to 50 pictures before finally bidding the mosque farewell. I have a strong feeling that the Rustem Pasa is going to be my favourite mosque in Istanbul. Its humble facade and unassuming entrance are some of the things I love about it. The gorgeous blue, white and red interior with its lovely Iznik tiles are just too beautiful for words. The mosque has some free copies of the Holy Quran and religious literature made available to visitors and I took a copy of each as a souvenir.

Finally, we walked back to Sirkeci and reached our hotel a little over 7. Oh, I managed to get another glass of pomegranate juice on this walk back! Our feet are wobbly from all the walking around so we’ve taken a shower and will hit the sack early tonight. It’s been an amazing second day and my itinerary has now become redundant. I’m planning to head to the Grand Bazaar tomorrow and will see where else our feet will take us. So it’s good night for now, folks.

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