Friday, June 29, 2012

Of Bells and Chants

On Sunday morning, Michael and I took the tram to the  Bosphorous and then grabbed a ferry to cross the Strait, placing us on the Asian side of Turkey….that’s right, one country, two continents!!!

We stepped on land, took a photo and said “Welcome to Asia”!!!


We were met there by a contact name Nick who is from the US but is studying in Istanbul and involved with the local Presbyterian Church.  We also met a group of students who were spending the summer in Bulgaria but had come for a visit as well.

Once we were all there, we walked about 15 minutes and arrived at  “All Saints Moda Kilisesi”DSC04632

This small church was built in 1878 ….DSC04613

and had beautiful stained glass windows in the front.DSC04616It was a small church, with just 11 rows of pews that would hold about 90 people.

We had wondered if the service would be entirely in Turkish and these two items were hints that we might not understand much…..DSC04617

However, the pastor (Turgay) worked hard to help us understand the gist of what was being sung and said.   As the hymns were sung, he would walk down the center aisle toward the back where the “American’s” were sitting and would begin singing the songs in English.  

The service began promptly at 11:00am with the chiming of the church bell and  chanting  by a young man with a wonderful voice. 

It continued with haunting singing, some of which had a “Gypsy” feel to it.  Several of the songs started out slowly but then got faster and faster as they repeated the verses.  There was a lot of swaying and holding up of hands.

The lyrics were shown in the Order of Worship and were actually easy to follow, but they sang too fast for us to really keep up.  Interestingly, we found that pronunciations’ basically followed the spelling so that it was easy to follow.

When Turgay preached, he would switch to English every so often to catch us up!!!  He also paced up and down the aisle as he spoke and made eye contact with everyone in the congregation….no sleeping allowed here!!!

At the end of the service, they did a special recognition of all of the Father’s in the congregation…..including Michael.  In this photo, Michael is receiving a red rose from a little girl (maybe 4 years old)……



After the service was over, we walked down the road and found a place to eat lunch.    The restaurant had an Western feel to it, but not in the same manner as the touristy joints closer to our hotel.  Instead, it seemed to have been westernized for the Turks to enjoy.   We both had Kabobs with some of the best French Fries that we have had in a long, long time…..DSC04622

We were supposed to be back at the church at 2:00 and had some extra time so we walked past the church and on down to the seaside and found just what we wanted…..a coffee/tea cafe.  And, even better, it was outdoors and we could enjoy the bay views……DSC04631

We returned to the church at the appointed time and listened while Turgay talked to the other group and told them about the history of the church and the ministries that they were involved with.DSC04651

While we were listening we were brought delicious cups of Turkish tea and sipped happily as we listened.   At one point, a big cat wandered in thru the side door and  slowly made his way around the pews.  I lost sight of him and was startled when he rubbed up against my foot!!!

Turgay wanted us to learn about the Muslim faith and understand the differences between it and Christianity so he organized a question and answer time with the Imam from the neighboring Mosque.

Once again, we entered a serene, beautifully adorned building….. DSC04655

We were told that the women did not have to wear head coverings, but I did anyway. 

The first thing that they did was to read two related passages from the Bible and from the Quran.  The Imam had to dress in his special attire  and retrieve the Quran from a special place before he could read the text to us…..


He told us that the Quran is written in a poetic style which makes it easier to memorize.  When it is read, it is in a sing-song chant format.

He also told us that he had attended an “Imam High School” where he received training as a Muslim leader.  He did not attend seminary, but the younger Imam’s were receiving additional education now.

It was obvious as they talked that the Imam and Turgay were good friends and each had a respect for the other one.DSC04660

I asked him a question about the “Call to Prayer”  and he told me that the same words are said each time…..

"Allahu Akbar"    (Allah is Most Great)  - recited FOUR times.
"Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill-Allah"  (I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshipped except Allah)  - recited TWO times.
"Ash-hadu Anna Muhammad-ar-Rasoolullah" (I bear witness that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah) - recited TWO times.
"Hayya 'alas-Salah"  (Come to prayer) - recited TWO times.
"Hayya 'alal-falah"  (Come to success)  - recited TWO times.
"Allahu Akbar"  (Allah is Most Great)  - recited TWO times.

In the Morning  Prayers the following phrase is added:
"As-salatu khairum minannaum" -  (Prayer is better than sleep)  recited Two times.

He also told us that the cadence  and tune is set, however you can hear that everyone has their own embellishments!!!    He told us that either the Imam or the Imam’s helper is the one to make the call to prayer.  He then demonstrated….


Sets of prayer beads were scattered around the mosque.  The Imam told us that there were 99 beads in the set, one for each name of Allah.  I had seen shorter sets that had 33 beads on them so I guess that you go around 3 times…..


I thought that this window was beautiful…..DSC04665 Before we left,   Turgay and the Imam called for a group photo…..DSC04670

We walked back to the bay and caught the ferry back to the European side of Istanbul.  As we were traveling we could hear the 5:30 call to prayer from the many mosques all over the city……DSC04678 

We returned to the hotel and did a little bit of “Terrace Time”.  Another wonderful day!!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It’s My Birthday and I’ll shop if I want to….

On Saturday we had two things to celebrate.  First, it was my birthday, and secondly,Michael was finished with all of his work in Turkey and could spend the last few days being a tourist.

As we talked about what we wanted to do, I suggested visiting the Suleyman the Magnificent Mosque and Michael suggested visiting the  Old Book Market.  Since you had to walk thru one to get to the other, we figured that our itinerary was set!!!

The book market was an interesting place, but there wasn’t a lot for us Non-Turkish speaking patrons.  DSC04501

…but it was still fun to look……DSC04505

Once again, I was enamored with the fountains and wash basins that appear when least expected.DSC04506

The most interesting thing is that all of these basins are fully functional and are used by one and all…..DSC04507

After leaving the book market, we kept walking past Istanbul University and ended up in an area of town where tourists are not abundant (ie….our favorite type of sightseeing).

We passed a  store that sported shelves of bags of bling….snaps, mirrors, beads, etc and also had these industrial quality “Be-Dazzlers” out front…….DSC04512

When I looked inside, I could see hundreds of drawers, each showing a different type of button, bead, closure or bling. DSC04514

I was in heaven as I open the drawers and took a few here and a few there.  Each of the bins had a different price on them and I felt that I should keep them all separate, but the shopkeeper motioned for us to keep them together and gave us a bowl to put them in.  I thought that he was just going to weigh them all and charge me one price for everything.

However, when I had finished, he poured them in a bag, sealed it tight so that nothing could escape and then motioned that there was no cost.   When we protested he said “just a little money” and smiled.

DSC04513  It is once again an example of the kindnesses that we have been shown from the Turkish people!!!!

We now found ourselves in an area that held kitchen supply stores and happily made our way into one to purchase tea cups (well, actually glasses).  The shopkeeper was very helpful although he spoke only broken English.  He was confused when we kept saying that we were looking for saucers to go with the tea cups, but once he figured out what we wanted, he kept saying the word “saucers” over and over again.  Unfortunately, we had taught him to pronounce the word with a good Georgia accent!!!! DSC04516

He showed us the book that he is using to learn English and we enjoyed our few minutes with him.

We continued down the road and ended up in a shop that sold kitchen equipment.  This time we were in the market for a Turkish teapot.  I found one that I liked here but we didn’t want to carry it with us for the rest of the journey so asked if we could come back and pick it up later.

We continued down the street and entered the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent…….DSC04550

It is a beautiful Mosque, with lots of bright pastel colors.  Most of Mosque’s are decorated with blues and this was so refreshing……DSC04527DSC04532

I loved this photo showing this woman sitting and reading the Quran.  The fencing separated the worshipers from the tourists…..DSC04529

Most of the Mosque carpets have subtle lines in them but this one leaves no doubt as to where you should sit and which way you should face!!!DSC04540

Once again, I am enamored with the arches, windows and light…..


As we were leaving we passed the Men’s station for cleansing…..DSC04521         

We found a great place to view the Bosphorus and I loved the juxtaposition of the blue sea and the domed buildings…..DSC04549  

We returned to our “teapot” store and this time met, not only the proprietorDSC04566 but also his cousin who was currently living in New York.  We were offered tea and immediately a boy came in bearing tea cups for all of us.   We had a great time talking to the two cousins and were pleased with our purchase of a two-tier teapot.

As we were getting ready to leave, I asked them where they would go to eat in the area (ie….somewhere that would not have a lot of people like us) and we were immediately sent to a small cafe located about a block away.DSC04563

As we walked up to the front door, we were welcomed in with big smiles.  We selected our four dishes from the “buffet” table and then went outside to find a place to sit.  Before our food was delivered, a waiter came out and brought us cups of ice cold water…..DSC04561

….and then moved the umbrella over so that we were completely in the shade.  I wonder if they are as kind to all of the patrons as they were to us!!!!

The bread was already on the table, served in a big plastic box…..


My first thought was that it would be really stale, but it was extremely fresh and soft!!

Our food arrived and we happily munched on Meatballs with potatoes, Eggplant casserole with meat, Green Beans and Chick Peas…..DSC04558   Everything was wonderful and we left with our bellies full and our wallet only $12 smaller!!!!

Walking back, we spent a few minutes looking into the various stores that lined the street.  Most of these stores specialized in one particular item.  This store specialized in light bulbs……DSC04565  while this one sold rolls of clothing labels.  These were mostly fabric care labels, size labels and other things that we couldn’t read…..DSC04567

We returned to the hotel for a rest time and then decided to take the tram to the harbor area and then walk across the bridge to the Asian side of Istanbul  (the Bosphorus Strait splits Turkey into a European and an Asian side).

There were hundreds of people fishing off of the bridge DSC04578and I loved the innovation that led to this creation….DSC04573 

After we crossed the bridge, we walked a bit along the sea side and observed the birds, people and vendors.  This guy was selling “Simit” which is like a bagel except that the dough has been dipped in Grape Molasses and then rolled in sesame seeds.   It is slightly sweet and I have enjoyed part of one each and every morning at breakfast…..DSC04583

As we were walking along one street, we heard yelling and looked up to see these boxes being hauled up to a third floor window…..DSC04585

The “receiver” of these goods started to unload them but the entire load began to shift...DSC04586 There was much yelling, but the result was inevitable….DSC04587 Fortunately it looked as if they were filled with Styrofoam cups so hopefully the damage wasn’t too bad.


In order to get to and from the tram stop, you had to use an underground tunnel.  I was surprised to find that this was just another mini market with stores carrying an amazing array of goods…….DSC04592 DSC04595

It seemed that most of the people buying here were locals and not tourists.

As we returned to our hotel, we decided to stop at a nearby cafe for dessert….Baklava, tea and coffee.  Who needs Birthday Cake……DSC04596

And finally, as we rounded one last corner, I succumbed to a store that I had been eyeing off for several days.  Thus came the purchase of my birthday present…. DSC04600

We ended the evening with a few more hours on our terrace…..DSC04601

It was EXACTLY what I wanted for my birthday….a fun day spent with my best friend!!!!

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