I thought this was a good glimpse into the nighttime worshiping practices of some Muslims in Ramadan. These are optional prayers in which they recite through a chapter of the Quran each night. Sorry for the bad angle! I just put the camera on the floor while I prayed. Also funny to note the guy getting in trouble for standing in the middle and taking pictures lol.
This was on our last day in Istanbul, so much rain! Everyone in the bazaar was panicking haha.
So many people! This was taken from the 2nd floor balcony which is one of the women’s sections.
Before the fourth Jummah (Friday prayer) of Ramadan. Enjoy!
If you go to Turkey, one of the things that you will often see is the Turkish flags. They are almost in all the places you go, and they reflect to a big extent the significance of their symbolism. They are both a symbol of Islam as well as of the nation. At first, I did not realize the depth of their presence. However, it became clearer to me after taking a few lessons with one of my professors in this program. These flags’ manifestation is basically explained by the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Possibly these flags are to emphasize the republic’s existence and Turkey’s disconnect from the past that seems to be a long time ago when you look into Turkish modern politics and very close when you visit Turkey’s historical sites. Regardless, Turkey is a place where religion and democracy co-exist, and where the present embraces the past.
One of my favorite moments in Turkey was when we were visiting Ayah Sophia. It was Friday and it was around noon time. While the tour guide was talking, I suddenly heard the azans from the surrounding mosques. It felt like these sounds of the azans were shaking the city with dominating feeling of humbleness and inspired beauty. That feeling was followed by a sense of confusion as I stood on the entrance gate of the Ayah Sophia. I was confused for a second and instantly asked myself “where am I?” It was not easy to comprehend that I was in a church and in a mosque at once. It is not that I do not believe in the co-existence of the two, but rather seeing them in one embodied entity.
One of the most fascinating cultural experiences was seeing the Turkish-Armenian Youth Orchestra play at Boğaziçi University on August 1st. Formed in 2010, the orchestra has concerts together from time to time bringing Armenians and Turks into the same ensemble for rehearsals and performances performing a variety of music. The concert was excellent, especially considering the whole evening was under the umbrella of bridging Turkish and Armenian relations through music. As I walked out talking to another American student from Maryland, we were interrupted by a Canadian intern from Today’s Zaman, who, after overhearing us speaking English. We got to talking and learned she was Polish in origin, and I then introduced her to the lead cellist of the orchestra, whom I had met the day before during a rehearsal and was also Polish and Turkish. It was such an intriguing connection of similar and different cultures, and I was even quoted for the first and likely only time in Today’s Zaman. (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-288410-armenian-turkish-youth-orchestra-brings-harmony-to-divided-cultures.html)
It’s not everyday that you are able to wake up in Cappadocia and get the chance to hike Cavusin Valley. It had to be one of my most breathtaking experiences during my six weeks in Turkey. The scenery made the hot and unbearable sun worth every bit of sweat. The scene from the top was an unimaginable picturesque view that is unforgettable. Along the excursion we were able to venture inside early Christian cave churches. During one of our breaks, I decided to make a little 3-minute trek up to the Haçli Church (click to view video). This 11th century church, with a single nave and apsis, contained paintings that were immaculate and made you just look in awe as you walked around the room. If you ever get a chance to visit Cappadocia, the hike is worth every bit of the moment and leaves you with a refreshing memory!
As I ventured throughout Istanbul, on both the Asian and European sides, Ataturk was virtually omnipresent. From being on the currency to having his statue and face all around the city, and maybe even country (though I haven’t been everywhere and can’t make such a claim), Ataturk’s presence served as a constant reminder of the transformation that Turkey experienced from the 1920s through the 1930s during his leadership. Ataturk is not only a symbol of modernization, but of a vision for a new Turkish nation, breaking from its imperial past, looking towards a more prosperous future. We live in an interesting time, and being in Turkey during the extension of the Arab spring, as the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria battle (figuratively and literally) for their own futures, makes me wonder what could have happened to Turkey without such a transformative leader during a transition phase. Turkey could have easily relied upon its Ottoman past and attempted to regain an empire, sponsor Islamic fundamentalists, or lead the Middle East with yet another abusive dictator, but that is not what happened.