Emad's Blog (Under Renovation)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mega Part 2

As promised (although I am pretty slow at blogging for someone that claims to be having a lot of free time right now!), second of the trilogy of catching up to my life is here! For those that might still have survived Mega Post 1, I will try and be a little more succinct this time!

Summer07_Vacation: Turkiye

Summer07_Vacation is the name of the folder of my desktop detailing the documentation and plans for, well... the summer vacation this year! :) Fine! I confess I’m a bit of a neat freak, but that’s not what this post’s about.

Now, under that folder there are two other folders, Turkey and Jordan. For some reason every time I mentioned to someone that I was planning a holiday at these two destinations, I was seldom – actually never – asked why Turkey was on the list. The most common remark was ‘Why Jordan?’. So much so that I had an automated response ‘Why Not!’. More rhetorical than interrogative as you might imagine!

Well, turns out there is an answer to Why Not Jordan.. It’s because I can’t!

So goes the story…

As much as I complain and squirm about visa issues, I always get one/ensure the person I am sorting it out for does – whatever it takes. Unfortunately, this time around I couldn’t be doing it myself since the amazing Jordanian embassy in Pakistan doesn’t issue visas – too few Pakis going there. Unfortunately, with the eventual outcome for my permission to enter, I now realize why there are so few of us that ever make it there! That’s all there is to that story.

Of course when you find out that events are shaping up in this manner the day before you’re due to travel, it’s a bit tricky, to say the least! But then no one else is to blame but myself for purchasing a plane ticket that’s stamped with the words, ‘Non-Refundable’ on it!

So, after some mad running around, making phone calls, reservations, cancellations, and with some help from my sweet travel-buddy and her generous offer to change her flights as well, I gear up for a vacation in one of the most surprising countries I have ever been to – Turkey.

I guess this is also a bit of a moment of pride since I’ve now been to some of the most populous cities in the world: Bombay, Delhi, Karachi, Cairo, and now Istanbul. With 17 million people to it’s credit, what’s amazing about Istanbul is not the population, but the stark contrasts that mark it’s existence. The Rich History and The Intense Modernization. The religious and the very liberal. The rich and the poor. Asia and Europe.

So with all of that, I was certainly lucky to get a chance to go to virtually all the things that are worth a visit in Istanbul – some of them, twice! :P Immediately after conference, I got a chance to hang out more with Jo and her team. Also got to get it crackin' with Khamba – him and I made best friends with the last Starbucks on the busiest street in the city. The Istaklal street is really the hub of all activity, including protests. So naturally there’s a lot of security there at all times – Lonely Planet strongly advises that one doesn’t photograph the cops – but I was only told after this one was clicked point blank.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s actually pretty safe and a great place to hang out until late. Fortunately I was living on it, so it was all the more fun. Anyway, back to Khamba, the South Asian in us finally gave it to all the foreign food one night and we went hunting for an Indian/Pakistani restaurant. Oh, and we found one of the only two in the city. Unfortunately for us, he knew his competition was limited so we ended up emptying our pockets for a meal that wasn’t much to speak of though. So, we took a pic, instead! :P

Anyway, after Khamba, Sohaib and Taha left, armed with the sheet full of Turkish translations for a shopping trip (compiled by the ominous Paki men!), I picked up Pascale and the vacation was off to an awesome start! (This is the part where I see all of Istanbul all over again!). Fortunately for me, Pascale had a guidebook. Unfortunately it was in German. Fortunately, she knows German. Unfortunately, I don’t. Fortunately, she knows English too. Fortunately, so do I. Fortunately, the translations became a highlight of the trip! Haha!

As this point, I have the mentioned the two coolest places in the city – the Blue Mosque and the Cisterns! Legend goes that the ruler of the time, after whom the mosque has its real name – Sultanahmet, originally wanted this grand mosque to have pillars of gold. When the architect realized that it was unfeasible to do so, he used the slight similarity between Turkish for the word Gold, and that for the word Six, to make six minarets instead of four golden ones. Sultanahmet was bedazzled. Apparently, Makkah wasn’t so – since the Holy Mosque there had six minarets too. Ultimately Sultanahmet gifted a seventh pillar to Mekkah to make it all right. Cool!

The Cisterns are an underwater palace. Words fail me in describing it’s magnificence. Even today there is a constant flow of incoming water from the ceiling!

We were also lucky to catch the crown jewels being displayed at the great Topkapi palace – My God, that was moving. I haven’t seen anything like this outside of the movies! (Sorry, pictures were not allowed!). Now, I can’t wait to see the one’s that the Queen of England has – especially since a lot of them came from our part of the world!

Having exhausted Istanbul, we headed to Kusadasi, a summer resort in South-West Turkey. But that’s all that was Turkish about it. This patch of gorgeous beaches was ‘discovered’ by British tourists about ninety years ago. Ever since over 1800 luxury cruise ships from Britain set anchor here – Which explained why all menus quoted prices in Turkish Lira and British Pounds! Also kind of sheds some light on why I could see more British faces here than in London!

Speaking of tourists, I was moved by the amount of them a few miles off Kusadasi, at one of the oldest cities in the world – Ephesus.

So an extremely relaxing and energizing week was spent here, eating English meals, and watching football at an Irish pub! Consequently, I learnt the hard way that the logic ‘I am brown.. I can’t get sunburn!t’ isn’t quite so accurate when you’re lying in a beach chair without sunscreen! (The infamous ‘Sunscreen’ video comes to mind!)

Greatest Discoveries of Turkey: Kumpir (the All-great stuffed potato), Apple Tea, and Bakhlava (I love sugar – Ref: My first blogpost)… And the MC of AIESEC Turkey that were real kind to let us use their office as a luggage locker and the MCP, Candost, who was uberly helpful!

In conclusion, I’m totally in love with this country and wouldn’t mind living there at some point in time. Lots to come back for!

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  • Damn visas!But in the end it proved to be an awesome holidays ...so as i said before ...everything happens for a reason :)

    i have to admit i am a little jealous of you ...i so much want to visit Turkey .....aaahhh one day, one day! :)

    i'm a little bit tired after so much reading but thank God you are very good at writing (if everything else fails you can always consider making money out of this ;)

    seems like you had a really cool holiday!


    By Anonymous delia, At 9/10/07 20:29  

  • Delia, Thanks! You sure surely consider going there. It's pretty close to you man!

    By Blogger eMad, At 13/10/07 01:16  

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