A quick stop in Istanbul

ISTANBUL — After a long flight from Washington, I have arrived safely in Istanbul. I got here around 4:00 PM local time and I am leaving for Erbil at 11:00 AM. This is my first time visiting Turkey and it is unfortunate I have to leave so soon after arriving. Fortunately though, I will be here for two days at the end of my trip. I might have an interview or two, but for the most part, I will have time to enjoy Istanbul. Today is fairly cold, windy, and cloudy, but it is a beautiful city. For the full hour I was here before it got dark, I was stuck in traffic in a taxi on the way from the airport to my friend’s apartment in the center of the city. But at least I got to see a decent amount of Istanbul from the taxi ride.

It was also very simple to get a Turkish visa at the airport in Istanbul, as opposed to getting it at the Turkish Embassy in Washington. It took no longer than the time it took to exchange a $20 bill for a Turkish postage stamp for my passport. It was amusing hearing some people complain in line that the visa for their nationality cost higher than others. They all varied within the range of $10 to $50 and were posted on a giant sign for all to see.

As I was writing this post, I heard my first call to prayer since Syria last June. It quickly reminded me of how good it feels to be back in the Muslim world. From my first few hours in Istanbul, besides the countless number of mosques, I nearly forgot that I was in a Muslim country. It’s very secular and it’s difficult for me to tell if most people are Turkish or foreigners. It seems like a fascinating place and I look forward to spending some more time here, especially for a longer period of time. The city seems to have a lot of soul to it, which isn’t found everywhere. For example, Damascus has it, but Beirut and Dubai do not.

Off to Erbil tomorrow morning.

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One Response to “A quick stop in Istanbul”

  1. Suellen Herwehe Says:

    Enjoyed your posts again TJ. My husband and I spent a week in Turkey Feb. 09 while he was on R&R from Iraq. Great country to explore. Esp. loved Cappadochia. Watch out for the rug salesmen in Istanbul–most annoying!!!

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