Although I work for an American company, in Saudi Arabia, our staff must still comply with the Saudi ways of business. Christmas in Saudi Arabia is forbidden as it is not an Islamic celebration. Luckily, the Saudis granted us the day off. Excited about the possibilities, I jumped at the opportunity to plan a trip to a nearby country. Any other weekend,
I would make a short bus trip to nearby Bahrain. Though, the novelty of making quick jaunts to Bahrain to indulge in booze and women wore on me and so I sought refuge in the cultural, historical, and spiritual sanctity that a trip to a region I have never been to would provide. I had my eye on Addis Ababa, Muscat, Colombo, and Istanbul because I can get to those cities in about five hours and airline fare is reasonable. I watched another travelers YouTube video entitled “Instanbul in Two Days“. The video helped me argue against the nagging idea that two days is too short. I knew little about Instanbul so I watched history related YouTube videos about the Ottoman Empire via YouTube to get a sense of the place.
Headlines such as: Istanbul Ataturk Attack: 41 Dead More Than 230 Hurt, and Russian Ambassador to Turkey Shot Dead by Police Officer in Ankara Gallery should have deterred me from ever traveling to Turkey. Though several months ago the attack at Ataturk airport took place, it was only that week that the Russian ambassador was assassinated. Although I was aware of these events I hadn’t read the articles or seen pictures of the scenes. The newspaper image taken of the attack at Ataturk airport looks exactly like the area where I picked up my rental car.
Irrespective of what had occurred in Turkey, I had my heart set on seeing Istanbul. I was not disappointed. Visiting the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and numerous museums, as well as shopping at the Arasta Bazaar was fantastic. The throngs of Korean travelers sightseeing in tour groups delighted me, though, I made it a point to avoid them. I was a lone traveler and I liked it. The Turkish were very hospitable to the point of annoyance however. I was alone so I was an easy target for a barrage of questions from random Turks whose path I crossed. Where are you from? Would you like to visit my shop? What do you think of Turkey? Which state are you from? Which city are you from? Are you from Pakistan? Are you from England?
Sadly, I can probably count on one hand the number of black people I saw in Turkey during my stay. On my next journey to Turkey I will be more knowledgeable about the country’s history and eager to find the Afro-Turks where ever they may be. Happily, I bought a Turkish rug, devoured Turkish delights, dined at the Cozy Pub & Restaurant, and spent my nights at the 200 year old Sultan Mansion. All in all it was a nice way to spend my Christmas.