Garuda Indonesia Colours Magazine March 2019 - Page 112

110 Travel | Istanbul Massive dome of Suleymaniye Mosque with Bosphorus strait at the back. The strait straddles between the two continents, Asia and Europe. 1 Few cities offer such a wealth of Islamic architecture and culture as Istanbul, the fabulous Ottoman city on the Bosphorus. From mosques to markets and palaces to priceless museum exhibits, Brian Johnston guides us around the best of Islamic Istanbul. One minute you’re eyeing the mud and potholes in the street, the next minute you glance up and see an exquisite mosque whose minarets overlook a sea of concrete apartment blocks. The sound of the call to prayer rises above the noise of the street vendors selling olives or postcards. Grandmothers swathed head-to-toe in black bustle past businesswomen in the latest fashions, clutching mobile phones. The sound of the call to prayer is a reminder that bustling, modern Istanbul is a place rich in Islamic history and culture, which boasts some of the most marvellous achievements in Islamic architecture in the world. Follow the Islamic trail around the city and you’re in for a treat. Mosques of staggering beauty, huge covered markets, shuttered palace harem quarters and much more attest to a wealth of culture and art from the time when Istanbul was the centre of the mighty Ottoman Empire. Start your exploration in the district of Fatih, one of the most conservative and deeply Muslim parts of modern Istanbul. In Ottoman times this was a prominent city district, and many monuments crumble in its side streets. Fatih Mosque was built by Sultan Mehmet II over the ruins of a former church. It was Mehmet II who conquered the failing Constantinople in 1453 and made it the capital of his empire, earning him the sobriquet Fatih, or Conqueror. Mehmet’s tomb lies behind the mosque, but the sultan is better noted for erecting the Eyüp Sultan Mosque over another, more important tomb: that of Halid bin Zeyd Ebu Eyyûb, standard-bearer to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Although the current mosque was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1800, it remains the most important religious site in the city, and one of the most significant in the Islamic world. Many consider it an honour to be buried in the surrounding cemetery, while the tomb inside draws a line of meditating pilgrims. The aura of peace and religious devotion is palpable. Stay for a while in the shady courtyard, where pigeons flutter and families parade with their well-dressed children. Mehmet II was also responsible for Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Founded in 1453, the market, with its vaulted ceilings, old-time teahouses and marble fountains, crams 4,000 shops into 65 covered streets. You can buy almost anything here, but those on the trail of Islamic Istanbul should seek out Ottoman jewellery, old textiles, calligraphy and perhaps an elegant brass coffee pot or hubble-bubble. Another legacy of the busy sultan is Topkapi Palace, which Mehmet started and which was later to develop into a sprawling complex that was part pleasure palace, part political centre of the Ottoman Empire. The