I trekked on foot back to Sultanahmet from the Eminönü district so that I could visit the illustrious Hagia Sophia, the historic church/masjid/museum – but not before praying jummah in one of the many grand masjids in Istanbul. The khutba (sermon, homily), as one could imagine, was delivered entirely in Turkish, save for the traditional Arabic supplications and Qur’anic recitations; the experience, nevertheless, was one worth having. When the khutba was over, I took the streets and followed the tram line to Sultanahmet.
One thing I’ve noticed while walking and while at the Hagia Sophia – and this is the case with most of Istanbul really – is that most of Byzantine Christian artifacts, buildings, etc remain intact: you can still see old churches adorned with Greek scripts. For all the short comings of the Ottomans, and for Muslims in general, they managed to avoid the annihilation of the Byzantine Christian influence, a testament, I believe, to the pluralistic ethos of Islam and of the Turkish people as a whole.
Afterwards, I went to Kapalı Çarşı, the Cover Bazaar. To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with it, perhaps because I’m not one for shopping, and as such, I didn’t take any pictures. Again though, the experience was worthwhile: it had the similitude of a covered, upscale flee market.
Lastly, I ventured to Topkapı Sarayı to see the Sacred Trust, the Holy Relics: I saw the swords of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, and Ali ibn Abi-Tallib, and all I could say was, “Damn!” Masha’Allah, those men must have been strong because their swords were pretty big!
The museum didn’t allow cameras as most of the relics were sensitive to light degradation, so I didn’t take to any pictures.
Now, I don’t feel like a tourist anymore. 🙂