Thursday, September 25, 2008

We're in Turkey!

We flew from Munich to Istanbul last night and arrived in Asia at 2:55am. We were picked up by a shuttle and driven to Europe where our hostel is. (The city of Istanbul encompasses both Europe and Asia.) When we were finally getting into our bunk beds at 5:15am in an otherwise empty dormitory room (due to an Austrailian named Trina Davis who checked in at midnight)...we heard the most unique, haunting, beautiful noise.

It is Ramadan (Ramazan here) which is the month of fasting practiced by Muslims. Before it is light, this singing/chanting/drumming is used to awaken people to eat. Devout followers don't let anything touch their lips (food, drink, cigarettes, etc.) during daylight hours. They eat before the day starts and then again after it is dark. We saw huge crowds of locals at restaurants and food tents (free to all during the month of Ramazan) after dark.

We awoke at 11am to be switched to the other Trina Davis' room (which included just one larger bed, a toilet and a shower) and went back to sleep until 2pm. Later today we visited the Grand Bazaar and purchased a large shawl/scarf for me to use to cover my head when visiting mosques or whenever it makes me more comfortable in public. There are tons of Western tourists in Istanbul, but it is the end of the tourist season (things pretty much shut down completely by mid-October) and being blond is a bit of a spectacle.

This place is really amazing and truly unlike any other I have ever been. There are moments when I want to compare it to Mexico because it is the place I've traveled most frequently out of the US, has less than glistening infrastructure, it is kind of desert-like, the bartering in the markets feels similar and the coloring of buildings tends to be sand-ish, but the coloring of everything else is really bright and colorful. But, it is markedly different than Latin American cultures in several noticeable ways. Most obviously, the culture is not nearly as emotional or demonstrably warm as my experience with Latin American culture. They are religiously devout, but the population is majority (98%) Muslim, not Catholic. Headscarves abound and mosques dot the landscape in place of churches.

I am enjoying myself and eager to learn about a place that I have so little prior knowledge or context about. I am also eager to get a full night's sleep in one bed instead of two =).

1 comment:

Boswell said...

Miss you Ron.

Think you're great Trina. :)

What an epic trip...what a special experience to share together.

Cool pics from Vienna a few posts down...I think I stood in some of those spots in May 07!

Enjoying the few excerpts I've read from your political blog too...great idea to start that!