A Travellerspoint blog

Isparta, City of Roses.

The Friendliest City in Turkey.

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Egirdir.

We worked in Istanbul for three years, then left and worked in Turkish Cyprus for three years. I loved Cyprus, but in our final year there our boss was driving us crazy, so we left and went to Poland. Poland was a beautiful country, but we were paid practically nothing and when our employers started messing us about, we voted with our feet and performed a disappearing act. That left us unemployed and living with my mother-in-law. Much as we loved her, we could not stay there for ever and so it was with a sense of great relief that we accepted a job in Isparta. Neither of us had ever even heard of Isparta. We were to be employed by an Istanbul based language school, but we were to live and work in Isparta teaching English to the employees of two companies owned by the brother of former Turkish President, Suleyman Demirel.

We flew out to Istanbul and were put up in a hotel there. Our new employer came to meet us next day and fly with us to Isparta. When our employer paid our hotel bill, the receptionist accused us of having drunk everything in our mini-bar. We had not touched a single item from the mini-bar, so we were outraged and would never have paid that bill. Our new employer, however, paid it for us and he must have thought: "Oh no, I've just recruited two alcoholics to fill a prestigious contract working for the President of Turkey's brother." Ahmetbey, if you are reading this, we were telling you the truth when we said we never touched that minibar. That hotel receptionist should have been taken out and shot.

Our contract was only for a few months and we were put up in the Hotel Artan in the centre of Isparta. Each day we were collected by staff minibus and taken to one of the two companies where we were to teach. One company made cement; the other made frozen foods. The people we worked for and taught were probably among the loveliest people we have ever met. They treated us with amazing kindness and hospitality. Every evening after work, we were invited to dinner in one of their houses. In fact, to be honest, we did not want to go out every evening or to put everyone to so much bother, but we would no doubt have caused offence if we had refused to go. After about a week of non-stop hospitality we were exhausted, as was everyone else. We then discovered these evenings went on so late as it was up to us as guests to say when we wanted to go home. We had assumed it was up to our hosts to tell us when they wanted us to go away. Once we had grasped that, life was a lot easier for everyone.

We arrived in Isparta at the end of winter, beginning of spring. There was still snow on the mountains and in the town when we arrived. As a destination Isparta does not have a huge number of sights, but the area around it is very beautiful and the people of Isparta are old style Turkish people. They are not sick of mass tourism or out to rip anyone off. They are honest, hardworking, proud and incredibly hospitable. I have nothing but good memories of them. Isparta is known as the City of Roses. It has a famous volcanic crater lake surrounded by roses. We did not see this. Wrong time of year anyway. Isparta makes rose cologne, rose jam, rose tea. It is also famous for making rugs.

Isparta has a small museum which we visited. All I remember about it is that one visitor's dog kept trying to mate with my husband's leg and this caused me to have a fit of the giggles. It also has several attractive mosques. It had a restaurant, where we could eat free, i.e. it went on the company's bill. That restaurant did the tastiest pide ever.

On our drive to one of the companies we taught in, we passed field after field of incredibly huge and beautiful flowers. Every day I looked at them wondering what they were. Finally I asked. They turned out to be opium poppies. They were being grown legally under license for use in the medical industry. They were an amazing sight, but there is tight security around them. Don't get too close. Also Isparta had amazing sights round about it. We visited the stunningly beautiful Egirdir Lake with its fantastic fish restaurants, mountainous Burdur, the deserted and extensive Ancient Greek city of Sagalossos, Antalya, Side, Kemer, the Ancient Greek remains of Phaselis and the religious sights of Konya. All done as day trips from Isparta.

Atatürk Monument With Roses.

Everywhere in Turkey has a monument to the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Isparta's had a rose theme as befits The City of Roses. I suppose it is also showing a Turkish carpet, too. Isparta's other claim to fame.

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Atatürk Monument With Roses.

Mosques.

There are several important mosques in Isparta. These include the pre-Ottoman Hizir Bey Mosque which dates from around 1325. These also include the Ulu or Grand Mosque which dates from around 1429 and the Haci Abdi Mosque which dates from 1569. Isparta even has a mosque designed by the Ottoman Royal Architect Mimar Sinan. This is known as the Firdevs Pasa mosque and it dates from the sixteenth century. Of course, being totally disorganized I don't know which one of these is in my photograph.

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Mosques.

Suleyman Bey's Exquisite Köfte.

As I said before in Isparta the people were very hospitable. We were often invited to dine in people's homes. One of the kindest people we encountered was Suleyman bey. This is a picture of him preparing delicious çig köfte. Çigmeans raw and çig köfte is a raw meat dish a bit like steak tartare. I was given a plate of steak tartare when I worked in Poland and really could not eat it, but as Suleyman bey explained in çig köfte, the spices cook the meat and it does not taste raw at all. According to legend çig köfte was invented in Urfa at the time of Abraham. At that time Nimrod, King of Shinar and a mighty hunter, collected all the firewood in Urfa to build a huge execution pyre. One hunter's wife, in the absence of firewood, had to prepare venison raw. She mixed the venison with bulgur, herbs and spices, then crushed the mixture till it was edible.

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Suleyman Bey's Exquisite Köfte.

To make çig köfte:

Knead bulgar with chopped onions and water until soft. Then add tomato and pepper paste, spices and very finely ground beef or lamb. The meat has to be without fat or gristle and to be of top quality. Lastly, mix in green onions, fresh mint and parsley. Çig köfte is eaten rolled in a lettuce leaf and should be served with a drink of delicious Turkish ayran. It is actually amazingly good, though it won't be as good as Suleyman bey's.

The Turkish Lake District: Egirdir.

One of the places we were fortunate enough to visit a lot while we stayed in Isparta was Egirdir. Egirdir is a fishing community on Lake Egirdir. This lake was surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains when we went there. The waters of the lake were a wonderful shade of light blue. If it had not been so cold, I would have loved to swim there. We would visit Yesil Ada which means Green Island. This is a small island connected to Egirdir by a short causeway. Yesil Ada had some absolutely wonderful fish restaurants with excellent food and drink.

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The Turkish Lake District: Egirdir.

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The Turkish Lake District: Egirdir.

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The Turkish Lake District: Egirdir.

Sagalassos.

While we were living in the middle of non-touristy Turkey in the Hotel Artan, Isparta, we happened to bump into an Englishman who was also living in our hotel. His name was Alan and he was an engineer, working on a project in Isparta. Alan had a car and he had spotted a sign for a historical site while he was out driving. Heasked us if we were interested in taking a look. We said sure why not and Alan added that there was probably not a lot there, but we could do no harm in looking. We all agreed. Well, we drove there. There was no entrance office, no other tourists. Not looking good, we thought, but we'll go in anyway. Imagine our astonishment - a whole Ancient Greek city with theatre and rock tombs and temples. We had the whole place to ourselves. Well, that's not entirely true, at one point a goat herd and his goats wandered past us giving us a friendly wave. Talk about spolit; once you have had an entire Ancient Greek city to yourself, how could you possibly enjoy another tourist choked site. Sagalassos is about 30 km from Isparta. People have lived in the area around this site since 8000 BC. In the days of the Roman Empire, Sagalassos was the first city of Pisidia. Pisidia was a region in the western Taurus mountains. Nowadays Pisidia is known as the Turkish Lakes Region. When Alexander the Great conquered Sagalassos in 333 BC on his way to Persia, it was one of the wealthiest cities in Pisidia. In 518 Sagalassos was devastated by an earthquake, then between 541 and 543 it suffered a terrible plague. Next it was attacked by Arab raiders in 640, then in the middle of the seventh century it was struck by an earthquake again. The ill-fated site was abandoned and left to fall apart. In 1985 an Anglo-Belgian team led by Stephen Mitchell conducted a major survey of the site. Then in 1990 a major excavation project was carried out at the site by Marc Waelkens of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. On August 9th 2007 a colossal statue of the Emperor Hadrian in military garb was found buried at Sagalassos.
Remains at Sagalassos include the great theatre with a seating capacity for 9,000 people, many tombs carved into the rocks, a library, temples, baths, a market place and monumental fountains.

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Sagalassos.

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Sagalassos.

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Sagalassos.

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Sagalassos.

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Sagalassos.

Burdur.

We went to Burdur by bus from Isparta, because it was nearby. Burdur is in the Turkish lake district. There is a lake Burdur. We went for a walk outside the town and enjoyed the mountain scenery. We stopped off in a kebab shop for a Döner kebab. When we explored the nearby mountain scenery, we encountered many sheep and goats. That reminds me that we were in Isparta during kurban bayram - the sacrifice holiday. During this holiday Muslims sacrifice a sheep, goat or cow to God and distribute the meat to the poor. During the holiday Isparta was full of shepherds trying to sell sheep or goats for sacrifice and for some reason they kept trying to persuade my husband to buy one. When we responded in English, though we did speak some Turkish, instead of leaving us alone, they mimed taking a sheep and cutting its throat. Considering that both Peter and I are wimpish hypocrites, who will happily eat meat provided it comes wrapped in plastic and bears no resemblance to a living creature they were not onto a sale there.

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Burdur.

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Burdur.

Konya.

We travelled to Konya for the day just once when we lived in Isparta. Konya was known as Iconium during the Roman and Byzantine eras. This name is believed to derive from the word for icon and comes from a legend that the city was founded by Perseus who used an icon of the Medusa's head to turn the earliest inhabitants of the area into stone. The Selçuks established a capital here on Alaeddin Hill. Parts of their crumbling palace and the Alaeddin Mosque, dating from 1221 still remain. Probably Konya's most famous site is the Mevlana Müzesi. This is the original tekke of the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes. It was built at the end of the fifteenth century. The tekke includes a hall where the ritual Whirling Dervish ceremonies take place. It also has a library, living quarters, and the mausoleum of Celaleddin-i Rumi, founder of the sect. He is also known as Mevlana. Legend states that Mevlana was walking through his local marketplace one day, when he heard the rhythmic hammering of the gold beaters. Their hammering sounded to him like the words: "There is no God but Allah". Mevlana was so filled with joy at this sound that he spontaneously stretched out his arms and started spinning in a circle - the Whirling Dervish was born. Whirling Dervishes wear a white gown to symbolize death, a black cloak to symbolize the grave and a tall brown hat to symbolize the gravestone. At one point in the ceremony they throw off their black cloaks and spin on their left foot with their right palm facing upwards towards Heaven and their left hand pointing downwards towards the Earth. The whole ceremony symbolizes man achieving a deep sense of happiness through submitting himself to the will of God. We saw this ceremony in the Atatürk Cultural Centre in Istanbul. It is also performed for the general public on December 17th each year in Konya. This date marks the death of Mevlana. The Whirling Dervish ceremony ends a two week Mevlana Festival. Our photo of the ceremony was bought, not taken by me and I cannot remember whether I bought it in Istanbul or Konya. What I do remember about Konya is that when we had lunch in a very friendly little restaurant my husband wanted a beer. As we were close to mosques - there are mosques everywhere in Konya - he had to drink the beer while keeping it covered with a brown paper bag to avoid offending anyone. When we tried to leave Konya in the early evening, all the buses back to Isparta were full, so we had to wait two or three hours for a bus. Once we bought our bus tickets, we went to the park and had a seat. It seemed that every child in Konya had been given a school assignment, find English speaking foreigners and ask them these questions. When we sat down, we were
approached by a very cute, very polite school child who asked us our names, where we were from and what we thought of Turkish people. Then another child approached and asked us the same things. Then another, then another. Soon we had a queue of cute, smiling, polite children, all waiting to ask us the same questions. We began to feel we were the star attraction of Konya. It was impossible to get annoyed with these children as they were so well mannered and friendly. After a few hours of this, we did finally escape to our bus.

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Konya.

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Konya.

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Konya.

Antalya.

Let me get this the right way round. If you wanted a holiday in Antalya, you would probably not stay in Isparta and commute, but if you happened to be in the Isparta area, it is very easy to get to Antalya and back by public bus on the same day. The journey was by comfortable coach and passengers were regularly given lemon cologne to freshen up with, so the buses even had a lovely smell, plus the scenery was beautiful. Antalya is touristy Turkey, so different from Isparta. Although it was beautiful, to be honest I was usually glad to get back to the more relaxed, less hassley world of Isparta. Antalya is a big modern city with a small old town. Old Antalya is known as Kaleiçi and it is very pretty. Kaleiçi was Antalya until recent times when the modern city sprang up round about it. Kaleiçi. dates from Roman times and is built around Antalya's old harbour. It has city walls, old gateways and narrow streets. Kaleiçi has sights dating from the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman and modern Turkish republican eras. The name Kaleiçi means inside the castle or city walls. One of my photos shows a simit seller standing in front of the harbour. Simit are delicious sesame seed rings. Anyway, I was taking a photo of the harbour one rainy day when this simit seller stood directly in front of me, so, a little taken aback by his rudeness, I moved and started taking the photo again. He moved in front of me again. I lowered my camera and told him none too politely to get out of my way. "No, no photograph me", he said, so I did. He then demanded money for me taking his photo. At that point I lost it and unleashed a whole torrent of abusive Turkish at him, liberally spattered with many shouts of "Cok ayip!" which means great shame on you. This took him completely by surprise and he scurried away thoroughly chastened. It's not even a particularly great simitci photo as his simits are covered with a blue plastic bag to protect them from the rain. This is the sort of thing I mean by touristy Turkey and how different it is from non touristy Turkey. Another example, was the day we took a boat trip from Antalya to see a famous waterfall. The guide on the boat, who seemed to be a bit drunk, sat next to me and my husband and started telling us about all the tourists he had slept with. Why he thought his sex life was of any interest to us remains a mystery to me. We were extremely glad when he moved away and started talking to someone else. Another enjoyable thing to do in Antalya was to go for a walk through Karaalioglu Park. This is not far from the old town and harbour and has lovely sea views.

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Antalya.

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Antalya.

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Antalya.

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Antalya.

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Antalya.

Side.

We visited Side for the day from Isparta. To get there we had to go to Antalya first and take a bus from there. Side is an Ancient Greek city on the Mediterranean coast about 78 km from Antalya. The ancient part of the city is located on a small peninsula which is about 1KM long and 400M wide. Side was founded by Greek settlers from Cyme, western Anatolia in the seventh century BC. The city was dedicated to the goddess Athena. The name Side is thought to mean pomegranate. In 333 BC Alexander the Great occupied Side. Greek culture flourished in Side from the fourth to the first century BC. In the first century BC, Cilician pirates established a centre for their slave-trade in Side. In 67 BC the Roman general Pompey defeated these pirates and brought Side under the control of Rome. Side began to grow wealthy from trading in olive oil. Over time earthquakes and Arab raids took their toll on Side. It was abandoned in the tenth century. Its citizens resettled in Antalya. Nowadays in Side you can see the remains of a theatre that could seat between 15,000 and 20,000 people. There are stretches of well-preserved city walls, a colonnaded street- with many of its columns toppled, a public baths which is now a museum, a market place, temples and parts of an aqueduct. We explored the remains and had a meal in a restaurant not far from the ancient site. Side also has beaches. We liked Side, but had been very spoilt by our visit to Sagallasos which we had to ourselves. Can you believe we had to share Side with other people !!!

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Side.

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Side.

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Side.

Kemer.

Again we got here by taking a bus to Antalya first then catching a bus from there. Kemer is a pretty resort town with beaches and we spent our time there swimming and wandering around the harbour and town. Kemer is one of those Turkish towns where you can swim in the warm Mediterranean sea while looking at the snow capped Taurus mountains behind you.

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Kemer.

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Kemer.

Phaselis

Phaselis is 16KM west of Kemer and I think we visited both places on the same day. Phaselis was originally built by people from Rhodes in 700 BC. The city was later captured by the Persians and remained under their control for around two hundred years. Later in 334 BC it was captured by Alexander the Great. Phaselis was under constant threat from pirates in the first century BC. The pirate Zekenites even took over the city for some time until he was defeated by the Romans. In 129 AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian visited Phaselis sparking off a bit of a building boom. Phaselis went into decline after a wave of Arab raids on the city in the seventh and eighth centuries AD. It was abandoned all together after a devastating earthquake in the thirteenth century AD. Phaselis was the site of an important temple to Athena. Phaselis had three harbours. A 24-metre-wide ancient street runs through the middle of the ancient remains at Phaselis. There are ruins of shops at the sides of this street. Nearby there are remains of a Roman baths, a market place and a theatre. Phaselis is a beautiful place surrounded by lovely scenery. There are plenty of places to swim right next to the remains.

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Phaselis.

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Phaselis.

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Phaselis.

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Phaselis.

Posted by irenevt 19:14 Archived in Turkey Tagged isparta. Comments (0)

Istanbul, of fish and islands and ruins.

My Former Home.

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Enjoying a meal at the monastery on Buyukada.

The Best Ferry Journey in the World.

We now live in Hong Kong and while I'm sure it's not a good idea to denigrate one place at the expense of another, in Hong Kong the tourist board bills the Star Ferry as the best ferry journey ever. We both laughed at this idea as in our minds, the best ferry journey ever is taking the public ferry from Beşiktaş to Kadıköy. First you pass Ortaköy Mosque and the fantastic Dolmabahçe Palace, then you pass Leander's Tower. At certain times of the day you can hear the call to prayer drifting across the water. If you are fortunate enough to be travelling at sunset, you will see Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque silhouetted against the night sky.This has to be one of the world's most stunning views. Add to all this the vitality of the ferry. First the tea man wanders round calling out, "Çay, Çay, Taze Çay." Then some random beggars start to sing a song and ask for a donation, or some random salesman starts to demonstrate his wares in a highly exaggerated and entertaining fashion. Then comes the sahlep man selling his thick milk coloured drink made from the roots of orchids. No matter where you are going, you are in no hurry to arrive. You are simply enjoying the best ferry trip in the world with its stunning scenery and constant entertainment.

Beşiktaş and Dolmabahçe Palace.

Beşiktaş; is pronounced Beshiktash. It is an area on the European shores of the Bosphorus. Its name literally means Beşik = cradle, taş = stone, so
Beşiktaş = cradle stone. This name comes from a legend that the stone on which the baby Jesus was placed in the stable at Bethlehem was brought here. A church was supposedly built to house the stone. Then later this stone was moved to Haghia Sophia, from where it was stolen during the fourth crusade. On my third year of living on the Asian side of Istanbul I passed through Beşiktaş on my commute to work every day. It was a place I quite liked. It is a transport hub with an important bus station and a ferry terminal. My football mad husband wanted to support a local team in Istanbul and became a firm Beşiktaş supporter. He chose them rather than either of the other two teams (Fenerbahçe or Galatasaray) because they had an English manager Gordon Milne and some English players such as Les Ferdinand. They even had one player, Alan Walsh, who used to play for Walsall my husband's team. Beşiktaş's colours are black and white. Their symbol is an eagle and their players chant En Büyük Beşiktaş which means Beşiktas are the biggest or greatest or best. I have no photos of the Beşiktaş area but the flat we lived in in our last year in Istanbul overlooked their training ground, so I will add this as the photo for this tip. Historically Beşiktaş was an isolated village on the shores of the Bosphorus outside the walls of Constantinople, as such it was vulnerable to attacks. During Ottoman Times, the Sultans established control over the Bosphorus and life became safer and more stable in Bosphorus villages. Beşiktaş became an established Bosphorus crossing area for trading caravans travelling to Anatolia or along the Silk Road. Beşiktaş has a monument to Barbarossa or Red Beard who supposedly once had a palace there. Zübeyde Hanım, the mother of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, once lived in Beşiktaş. Beşiktaş is also the home of Dolmabahçe Palace and the Naval Museum. I visited Dolmabahçe Palace a couple of times, but either did not take photos or do not know where they are. Actually, I don't think cameras were allowed
inside in those days. Dolmabahçe means filled in garden, as the palace and garden are built on reclaimed land. Dolmabahçe Palace was built between 1843 and 1856, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid I. Before that the Sultans had always lived in Topkapı; Palace, but that was getting uncomfortable and had not been modernized, so at great expense, Abdülmecid decided to build a new modern palace in Beşiktas. Hacı Said Ağa was responsible for the construction of the palace. Garabet Balyan, his son Nigoğ;ayos Balyan and Evanis Kalfa were the palace architects. The last royal to live in Dolmabahçe Palace was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi. In 1924 ownership of the palace was transferred to the new Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the new Turkish Republic, used the palace as his residence during the summers. He carried out some of his most important works here. He died here on November 10th, 1938. All the clocks in the palace were stopped at 9.05, the time of his death. Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey. It occupies an area of 11.2 acres. It has 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths and 68 toilets. The interior is decorated with gold leaf and crystal. In the Ceremonial Hall of the palace you can see the world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier which was a gift to the sultans from Queen Victoria. The palace has also got several fine paintings, a collection of bearskin rugs presented to the sultans by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and some splendid Turkish carpets. The palace has a harem where the sultan's mother, wives, concubines and children would have lived.

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Besiktas.

Kizkulesi or Maiden's Tower.

Kizkulesi means Maiden's Tower. It is a tower in the Bosphorus off the coast of Üsküdar. This tower dates back to the fifth century BC. It was built by the Athenian general Alcibiades as a watchtower. A chain could be pulled from the land to the tower to halt ships trying to pass by. Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenos built a stronger tower here in the twelfth century. During Ottoman times the tower was used as a lighthouse. In 1998 the tower was opened as a restaurant. You can get here by ferry from Kabataş; on the European side of the Bosphorus or from Salacak on the Asian side. I have never been in the tower as it was not a restaurant when I lived in Istanbul. The name of this tower comes from a legend.

The Byzantine emperor was told that his beloved daughter would die on her eighteenth birthday from a snakebite, so he decided to put her in a tower on a rock in the middle of the Bosphorus to keep her safe. However, you cannot cheat the fates, and on his daughter's eighteenth birthday as she was enjoying some fruit that her father had brought her, a snake hidden in a bunch of grapes suddenly bit her finger. Her heartbroken father cradled her in his arms as she died. This legend is also told about a castle in the sea off Turkey's south coast.

This tower is also known as Leander's Tower based on an Ancient Greek myth. Hero was a beautiful priestess of Aphrodite living in this tower. One day she left the tower to attend a ceremony. She met Leander and it was love at first sight. After that, every night Leander would swim out to the tower to be with his love. Hero would light his way by holding a flaming torch so he could find the tower. One stormy night the wind blew out the torch that Hero was holding. Leander could not find his way to the tower and was drowned. Hero was so distraught when she heard about the death of her lover that she leapt from the top of the tower into the water and drowned herself. This legend is also told about the Dardanelles. The tower was featured in the 1999 James Bond movie "The world is not enough".

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Kizkulesi .

Fresh Fish Straight off the Boat.

You could be forgiven for thinking Istanbul's attractions all centre around historical sights, but for me a lot of them centred around fish. We frequently went to Kadıköy which means Judges Village. This is an area on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and it has some excellent restaurants. We would walk along the front where rows of fishing boats would sell their wares to passers by. My favourite fish was palamut. This translates into English as bonito when I look it up. In my opinion it looks and tastes very much like mackerel. Once we had selected our fish the fishermen would top and tail it, gut it and cut it into fillets or pieces for us. I would bake my palamut in my little mini-oven with a little butter and black pepper. It was delicious.

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Fishing Boats.

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Fishing Boats.

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Fishing Boats.

Palamut Sandvic.

Another fishy favourite of mine was to buy a palamut sandwich straight from the boat. On our last year in Istanbul these palamut sandwich boats had been turned into a bit of a tourist attraction and the salesmen dressed up in traditional Turkish clothes and fezes. In our earlier years they wore much more sensible blue overalls. We normally bought our palamut sandwiches in Eminönü. The boats were near the ferry pier. The fishermen would deep fry the fish in boiling hot oil. Whenever a ferry left the pier, the boat would bob frantically up and down and the fishermen had to take care not to get scalded by the boiling oil. We would ask for bir tane yarim ekmek which means half a loaf sliced down the middle with the fried fish inside. Really, really tasty.

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Palamut Sandvic.

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Palamut Sandvic.

Fish Restaurants, Sariyer.

If you were feeling a bit more flush than having a fish sandwich, you might head up the European side of the Bosphorus to Sariyer which is famous for its fish restaurants. Be warned these restaurants are not cheap. We have eaten here, but we were fortunate enough to be taken as guests and therefore were not responsible for the bill. Even if you don't eat in the restaurants here, they are worth seeing for their wonderful fishy displays.

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Fish Restaurants, Sariyer.

Fishermen.

And where does all this fish come from? Well, Istanbul is surrounded by water the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara, the Black Sea. Here are some fishermen in Beşiktaş. Beşiktaş, which means cradle stone, is located on the European side of the Bosphorus. Dolmabahçe Palace is
located here. In the background you can see the Bosphorus Bridge which joins Asia and Europe together.

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Fishermen.

Midye Tava Fried Mussels.

Turkey is full of delicious street food. One of my favourites was midye tava fried mussels cooked on a skewer. This was normally served with tartar sauce and was very delicious. The photo with this is taken in Rumeli Kavaği. Rumeli Kavaği is the final stop on the European side on the Bosphorus cruise. When the ferry leaves here, it crosses to its final stop Anadoglu Kavaği on the Asian side.

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Midye Tava Fried Mussels.

Sunsets.

I don't have the photographic evidence to back up this claim, but if you have ever witnessed Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque rendered as silhouettes against the sunset , you have witnessed one of the wonders of the world. Personally, I was too busy enjoying it to photograph it. However, I do have some sunset photos of Istanbul that I like: such as Leander's Tower and some background mosques, I would guess located in Üsküdar, silhouetted against the sunset, sunset over the wonderful Princes Islands and sunset over The Sea of Marmara.

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Sunsets.

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Sunsets.

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Sunsets.

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Sunsets.

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Sunsets.

The Whirling Dervishes.

The Galata Mevlevihanesi, is off the beaten track despite the fact it is right in the heart of Istanbul. It is located in Beyoğlu not far from the Tunel. Actually, come to think of it, the Tunel itself is well worth visiting. The Tunel is one of the shortest underground rides in the world. It only has two stations: one in Karaköy at the bottom of Galata Hill, and one in Beyoğ;lu at the top of the hill near the Galata Tower. The Tunel line is 573 metres long and was opened on January the 17th, 1875. It is the second oldest underground line in the world. Only the London Underground, which dates from 1863, is older. The Tunel was created by French engineer, EugèneHenri Gavand, during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz. A ride on this line lasts about one and a half minutes! Anyway near the top station of the Tunel there is an old building with a small sign revealing that it is the Galata
Mevlevihanesi, a Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall and museum. We loved this museum because it was amazingly peaceful inside. Outside you are not far from the end of traffic congested Istiklal Caddesi with its blaring horns and exhaust fumes. Through the entrance of the museum, you are in a peaceful garden with beautiful ornate tombstones and roses. The museum has information about the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes and a hall where they still conduct their whirling ceremony. If you want to see them whirl, check their schedule and buy a ticket for the ceremony in the museum shop. I personally only saw a Whirling Dervish Ceremony once and that was in the Atatürk Cultural Centre. The Whirling Dervishes were founded by Mevlani. Legend states that he was walking through his local marketplace one day, when he heard the rhythmic hammering of the goldbeaters. Their hammering sounded to him like the words: "There is no God but Allah". Mevlani was so filled with joy at this sound that he spontaneously stretched out his arms and started spinning in a circle the Whirling Dervish was born. Whirling Dervishes wear a white gown to symbolize death, a black cloak to symbolize the grave and a tall brown hat to symbolize the gravestone. At one point in the ceremony they throw off their black cloaks and spin on their left foot with their right palm facing upwards towards Heaven and their left hand pointindownwards towards the Earth. The whole ceremony symbolizes man achieving a deep sense of happiness through submitting himself to the will of God. The Galata Mevlevihanesi was founded in 1491 by a nobleman from the palace of Sultan Beyazit II. The first leader of the Mevlevihanesi was Muhammed Semaî Sultan Divanî. He was a descendant of Mevlâna, the founder of the Whirling Dervish Sect. The original Mevlevihanesi was burnt down in 1765 and rebuilt in 1796. In the peaceful, rose filled garden there were several Ottoman style tombstones. One is the grave of Galip Dede, the leader of the Galata Mevlevihanesi in the seventeenth century. One is the grave of Kumbaracıbaşı; Ahmet Paşa, the Islamic name of Claude Alexandre, Comte de Bonneval, a French nobleman who converted to Islam and entered the service of the Ottoman sultan. Another tomb is that of İbrahim Müteferrika a Hungarian from Transylvania who converted to Islam and established the first Arabic moveable type printing press in the Ottoman Empire in the 1720s. I know I have photos of those tombstones somewhere, but they do not seem to be here in Hong Kong. For this tip I will add a photo of the Whirling Dervish Ceremony. I did not take this photo; I bought it probably in the shop of this museum. I cannot write the name of the real photographer as I do not know who it was. My own photos of the Whirling Dervish Ceremony were taken with a camera with no zoom and they are very poor quality.

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The Whirling Dervishes.

The Pera Palace Hotel.

The Pera Palace Hotel is a historic hotel located in Beyoglu. Beyoglu used to be known as Pera. Its main street, Istaklal Caddesi, used to be known as the Rue de Pera. The Pera Palace was built in 1892. It was designed by Alexander Vallaury, a FrenchTurkish architect, who also designed Istanbul's Archaeology Museum. Originally passengers who had travelled to Istanbul on the Orient Express used to stay in the Pera Palace. It is the oldest European style hotel in Turkey. It was, and indeed still is, a luxury hotel. When it opened, it was the first hotel in Turkey to have electricity and hot
running water. It had the first electric elevator in Istanbul. The hotel's first owners were the Armenian Esayan family. Famous people who have stayed in the Pera Palace include Agatha Christie, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Ernest Hemingway, Sarah Bernhardt, King Edward VIII, Greta Garbo, Graham Greene, Mata Hari, Pierre Loti, Josephine Baker, Tito, Jacqueline Kennedy, King Carol of Romania, Shah Riza Pehlevi of Persia, Alfred Hitchcock and Yehudi Menuhin. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey, stayed in the Pera Palace in 1917. He stayed in Room 101. This is now the Atatürk Museum Room. It is painted sunset pink Atatürk's favourite colour. It is filled with his possessions. In 1928 Agatha Christie stayed in the Pera Palace in Room 411. She had travelled to Istanbul on the Orient Express. An experience that no doubt inspired her famous novel, 'Murder on the Orient Express'. Agatha Christie was travelling with her archaeologist husband, Max Mallowan. They were on their way to Baghdad to visit excavations. The Pera Palace features in literature. In Ernest Hemingway's short story 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro', the main character, Harry, stays at the Pera Palace during World War I. In Graham Greene's 1969 novel, Travels With My Aunt, Henry Pulling and his Aunt Augusta Bertram, stay at the Pera Palace when they visit Istanbul. When I last saw the Pera Palace, it could be described as in a state of faded grandeur, but the hotel was closed in 2006 and underwent a major renovation until 2010. It now belongs to the Jumeriah Hotel Group and is once again luxurious. One of its restaurants is called Agatha in honour of Agatha Christie. It is famous for its luxurious afternoon teas. The area around the Pera Palace is home to many consulates including the British Consulate which we sometimes had to go to. I don't think I took any photos of the hotel, though I do remember visiting the Atatürk Room. I am putting a photo of the Golden Horn with this tip as the Pera Palace has great views over the Golden Horn. However, my photo is really taken from the Galata Tower and the view from the hotel would be further up the Golden Horn than in my picture.

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View from Pera Palace.

Kilyos.

Kilyos is a little village on the Black Sea. You can get here by taking a bus from Sariyer on the European side of the Bosphorus. On our last year in Istanbul we both had Fridays off and we very frequently spent our Fridays in Kilyos having a swim. There is a beach next to the village, but we used to walk to a slightly further beach which we invariably had to ourselves. When I told my students, that we went swimming in Kilyos every week, they thought I was crazy and told me it was famous for deadly rip tides. I did not listen to them and we swam every week without any problems. Then one week we were swimming at our usual spot. We swam out quite a long way and began to swim back towards our clothes. We started to notice that rather than swimming straight back we were being carried off to one side by the water. Neither of us could swim against the pull of the water, but what we did manage to do with considerable effort, was to get far enough in towards the shore to be able to stand up and walk back. We were both exhausted when we got out. We were very lucky not to have drowned. The water that day was so different from all our other experiences of it. We did swim there again, but a lot more cautiously, not going too far and paying attention to how the water was behaving. Kilyos is beautiful, but if you swim there be very careful. If you do get caught up in a rip tide, swim parallel to the shore to escape the current, then swim toward the shore. We did that, mainly because my husband stayed calm and shouted to me what to do; without him I would probably just have panicked and drowned.

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Kilyos.

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Kilyos.

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Kilyos.

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Kilyos.

Şile.

As well as being able to get to the Black Sea on the European side of the Bosphorus at Kilyos, you can also get to the Black Sea on the Asian side of the Bosphorus at Şile. Şile is pronounced Shelay You get to Şile by taking a bus from Üsküdar. On the way, as well as passing parts of the Asian side of the Bosphorus, you also pass lots of barbeque sites where it is common to see people roasting a whole lamb on a spit. Lamb is the meat of choice in Turkey, whereas in Hong Kong, where I live now, it is almost the least popular meat. Here in Hong Kong it is overpriced, not of great quality and invariably imported. I practically lived on it in Turkey and it was delicious; here I almost never eat it. Şile has a beautiful silver sand beach. It is a great place to come in the summer to cool down, but be careful like Kilyos it has dangerous rip tides. Şile has lots of restaurants and you have to be careful, some of them are very happy to rip off tourists. We were very lucky. Once we were strolling down the main street in Şile when a waiter rushed at us from one of the restaurants. Nothing unusual there, Turkey can be very hassley, but it turned out this waiter knew us. He had worked in a restaurant we frequented all the time in Kadiköy and he knew we were not tourists. This restaurant became our regular haunt in Şile and we were always undercharged. Regular customers are often undercharged to make them come back and to encourage them to be generous with their tip and probably also just from a sense of Turkish hospitality. There has been a fishing village in Şile since 700 BC and a lighthouse since Ottoman times.

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Şile.

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Şile.

Çamlica.

Çamlica means Pine Tree Hill. It is actually two hills: Küçük Çamlica which means Little Pine Tree Hill and Büyük Çamlica which means Big Pine Tree Hill. There is a large TV tower on the top of Büyük Çamlica. At 267m above sea level Büyük Çamlica is the highest point in Istanbul. We used to walk up here for the views. I remember once climbing up here after a period of heavy rain and having to wade through mud. Some locals were calling out to us in German, "Gute Strasser, wir haben." As many Turks have lived and worked in Germany, they often address foreigners in German as it is a language they can speak fluently. From the top of Büyük Çamlica you have an excellent view over the Bosphorus and the Bosphorus Bridge, There are cafes and tea shops at the top of Büyük Çamlica, so we could sit and enjoy a refreshing glass of Çay or knock back a nice cold Efes Pilsen after our climb. Çamlica is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus not too far from Üsküdar. It is a popular place for a picnic.

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Çamlica.

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Çamlica.

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Çamlica.

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Çamlica.

Chora Church.

Chora Church was originally a Byzantine church, later it became a mosque and wasknown as the Kariye Camii, then it became a museum. Chora Church is well worth visiting as its walls are covered with the most beautiful frescoes and mosaics. It is the best preserved church in Istanbul and is located in the Edirnekapi district. Chora Church was originally part of a monastery. The Church was located outside Constantinople's city walls, so the church's full name was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country. You can still see sections of Byzantine city wall near Chora Church nowadays. The first church at this site was built in the early fifth century. The current building dates mainly from 1077 to 1081. At that time Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, rebuilt Chora Church. Then in the early twelfth century Chora Church was damaged in an earthquake and was rebuilt by Isaac Comnenus, Alexius's third son. Theodore Metochites, a powerful Byzantine statesman, commissioned many of the church's fine mosaics and frescoes between 1315 and 1321. Later he was exiled, then he was pardoned and allowed to return to Constantinople. He spent the last two years of his life as a monk in Chora Church. Atık Ali Paşa, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Bayezid II, ordered Chora Church to be converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Conquest of the city and it became known as Kariye Camii. The mosaics and frescoes on the walls were covered with a layer of plaster, as Muslims believe it is wrong to depict the human form in art. In 1948 restoration work began at Chora Church. In 1958 Chora Church became a museum. Chora Church has three main areas: the entrance hall, the main body of the church and the side chapel. The building has six domes. My photos show a fresco in the side chapel depicting the Resurrection. Christ has just broken down the gates of hell and is pulling Adam and Eve out of their tombs. another shows Christ Pantocrator in the south dome of the church
entrance. Another shows part of the Patriarchs and Bishops Fresco which is under the Resurrection Fresco.

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Chora Church.

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Chora Church.

Yedikule means seven towers. It is a large fortress on the European side of Istanbul. Yedikule is located in an area also called Yedikule. The fortress was built in 1458 by Mehmet the Conqueror. Building it involved adding three new towers to a section of the Walls of Constantinople. This section of the walls included Altınkapi, the Golden Gate. With the construction of the fortress, the Golden Gate was no longer a gate and became a treasury, then an archive, and then a state prison. Among its most famous prisoners was the young Sultan Osman II. He was executed there by the Janissaries in 1622. A small mosque and a fountain used to stand in the middle of Yedikule's inner courtyard. Yedikule became a museum in 1895.

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Yedikule .

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Yedikule .

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Yedikule .

The Princes Islands - Kinaliada.

We used to love taking a ferry out to the Princes Islands. There are five of them that you can reach by public ferry. The ferry calls first at Kinaliada, then Burgazada, then Heybeliada, then Büyükada. In summer ferries also call at the island of Sedefada which has a concrete slab beach.

Kınalıada means Henna Island. It is called this due to its reddish soil. The soil here is very rich in iron and copper. In the days of the Byzantine Empire nobles who had fallen out of favour were often exiled here. The most notable exile was Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes. He spent his exile in the Monastery of the Transfiguration. We enjoyed walking across Kinaliada to the little beach and bar on the far side of the island. We even came here and sat outside drinking beer in the snow once.

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Kinaliada.

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Kinaliada.

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Kinaliada.

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Kinaliada.

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Kinaliada.

Burgazada.

Burgazada was our favourite island and we used to come here a lot. We would bring a picnic with us, climb up the island's hill and in summer swim in the sea off an area of rocks here. The Greek Orthodox Church of St John towers above Burgazada town.Short story writer Sait Faik Abasıyanık lived here from 1939 to1954 and used the island as a setting for some of his stories. Nowadays his former residence is a museum. Sadly in 2003 Burgazada was very badly damaged in a terrible forest fire. Hopefully most of its vegetation will have grown back.

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Burgazada.

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Burgazada.

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Burgazada.

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Burgazada.

Heybeliada.

Heybeliada is the second biggest of the Princes islands. Its name means Saddlebag Island due to its shape. Half of it is under the control of the Turkish navy and not open to the public. We had a Turkish friend who was a former naval officer who took us on a tour of that bit once. The large Naval Cadet School near the pier has two interesting pieces of architecture on its grounds: Kamariotissa, the only remaining Byzantine church on the island and the grave of Edward Barton, the second English Ambassador to be sent to Constantinople by Queen Elizabeth I. Heybeliada Town has some lovely old wooden houses. At the top of Heybeliada's hill is an 11th century Greek Orthodox monastery. There are pleasant walks through the islands pine forests. Heybeliada is a beautiful island, but we did not come here a lot as all the naval parts were closed to the general public.

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Heybeliada.

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Heybeliada.

Büyükada.

Büyükada means Big Island. It is the largest of the Princes Islands and the one that tourists are most likely to visit. Büyükada has some beautiful old wooden houses, hotels, restaurants and shops. Restaurants here often rip tourists off so be careful.There is an old wooden clock tower in the centre of town. Many rich residents of Istanbul have summer houses here. You can go round the island by phaeton, but we always walked. It is a pleasant walk past old wooden houses with beautiful gardens and, although it is hot, there is some shade from the many pine trees. You will pass picnic sites and barbecue sites on your walk. We normally headed for the hilltop monastery and church of St George. An old Greek priest still performed services here. Next to the monastery there was a wonderful outdoor restaurant which we frequently ate in. Once we were there with a
guest on St George's Day. A large crowd was there celebrating. They had ordered food and drink and they were dancing. Suddenly someone danced with someone else's woman and a huge fight broke out. When the poor waiter arrived with their food, there was not an intact piece of furniture left to put the food on. In fact the only intact furniture was our table at which we were sitting open mouthed. Meanwhile everyone who had been fighting had made up with each other and they all strode away with their arms around each other leaving chaos behind them. To get to the monastery involved climbing the island's highest hill. Phaetons cannot get up it. Some people went up by donkey. We always walked. The trees on the way up had white ribbons or tissue or bits of plastic bag tied on them for making wishes. Leon Trotsky lived on Büyükada for four years from 1929 to 1933 after he was deported from the Soviet Union in February 1929.

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Büyükada.

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Büyükada.

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Büyükada.

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Büyükada.

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Büyükada.

Sedefada.

Ferries only called at Sedefada in the summer. It had a big concrete slab of a beach from which you could swim . I think I only went here once. Our photos make us look like mafiosa, I think. It must be the dark glasses. Sedefada is mostly private property. Its owner Şehsuvar Menemencioğlu,
purchased the island in 1956. This island's Greek name was Terebinthos which apparently means turpentine. This name came from a type of tree that used to grow here. As with other Princes Islands, Sedefada was a favourite place to send someone into exile in Byzantine times. In 857 Patriarch Ignatios was sent into exile here and remained here for ten years.

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Sedefada.

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Sedefada.

Money! Money! Money!

We lived in Turkey at a time when it was experiencing a period of hyperinflation. Pay day involved cash. No-one at that time trusted banks. An armoured car would pull up at the school and staff would be given a heap of cash, which sadly was not really worth very much. As soon as we got paid, we always converted our money to sterling as it devalued so fast. We would take most of our great mound of money to an officially tolerated but illegal money changer and be given a very small amount of foreign notes back in return. In the 1990s we got into conversation with a lovely old Turkish man in the beautiful village of Iznik. We were all lamenting the fall in the value of money. He told us how in his youth his wages had been around 40 kuruş. We all had a laugh at that as kuruş were worth less than nothing at that time. In the photo my husband is celebrating being a millionaire. A million Turkish lira at the time of the photo was worth about 350 pounds. Later there were around two million lira to one pound, so a million was worth about 50p. The government had to take action. After all if it is a million for a loaf of bread, how much is a house? The lira was revalued in 2005 and six zeros were chopped off the end. I guess we are not millionaires any more.

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Lira Millionaire.

Weddings.

The first year I worked in Istanbul I was taken to work in the staff school minibus. Our driver looked about twelve years old. He was incredibly friendly, but drove like an absolute maniac. He operated on the principle: if they don't get out of the way, they deserve to be mown down. Sometimes when we finally reached school, I had difficulty detaching my hands from the seat in front of me; I had gripped on so hard. But nothing, nothing compared to when our driver saw a wedding car. Wedding cars are decorated, thus advertising the fact that the poor souls inside have to get to the marriage registry office on time or they will lose their slot. This leads every insane driver in Istanbul to chase them and try to cut them off. The happy couple to be has to pay them to go away. Young couples carry cash in their wedding car to hand out to these mad drivers. On a day when our driver took off after a wedding car, we were all late for work. I'm cheating a bit on the photo as the beautiful bride in it was one of our students in Isparta.

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Turkish Bride.

Flowers.

Turkish people love flowers. We sometimes strolled through the beautiful flower market in Kadıköy or bought flowers from the gypsy girls who intercepted passengers leaving the ferries. Flower tributes are sent by well wishers to newly opened businesses. They are kept around the doorway for a few days so everyone can see when a new business has opened. One of my favourite Istanbul plants was holly. They don't actually have holly in Istanbul, but they do know that people like to decorate their house with it in winter, especially around Christmas, so the gypsies create a bouquet formed from a spiky green but berryless plant. They then tie red berries from a different plant onto it with rubber bands. We always decorated our home with this makeshift plant in winter. We loved it.

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Floral Tribute.

Posted by irenevt 04:48 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)

Istanbul. Along the Bosphorus.

City on Water.

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One of Istanbul's Ferries Topkapi Palace.

I am trying to put together some pages about places I have spent a long time in, even if it was quite long ago. I lived in Istanbul for three years from 1988 to 1991, then for another one year from 1995 to 1996. Of course, lots of things will have changed since I lived there, so this page will not have a lot of practical getting around type information, but I can use it to describe some of the places we really enjoyed visiting and experiencing. Another problem I am facing with this page is my photos of Istanbul are scattered around several places or lost, plus in those days I did not take photos at the insane rate I do now, so maybe not all tips will have photos or tips will have few photos, but I'll try my best to see what I can find.

I met my husband in Finland. I was an au pair. He was a teacher. We moved back to the UK after a year in Finland, so that I could complete my degree. My husband was unemployed for that year and did not want two consecutive years of unemployment, so while I finished my studies, he spent 1987 to 1988 in Istanbul and I came to visit him three times during that period. When I finished my degree, I joined him in Istanbul. I must admit at first I went through a period of culture shock. Istanbul was different from anywhere I had ever been the crowds, the heat, the noise, the sights, the smells they were all a little overwhelming. I was also incredibly homesick, so whenever we had a longish holiday I dragged my husband back to the UK. Nowadays he has to drag me there as I seldom want to go.

As a result of my homesickness, we did not travel as much in Turkey as we should have, though we did still travel a fair bit. We visited nearby towns, villages and cities such as Yalova, Termal, Iznik, Bursa. Further afield we visited Troy, Beramkale, Izmir, Pamukkale, Kusadasi, Ephesus and Selcuk. We spent half a year living and working in Isparta. From there we visited Antalya, Side, Sagalossos, Egirdir, Burdur, Phaselis, Kemer and Konya. We also made it to the magical landscapes of Cappadocia and spent a weekend in Adana.

Istanbul is a wonderful city with one of the best natural settings of any city in the world. Part of it is in Asia and part of it is in Europe. The two continents are divided by the Bosphorus Straits. Istanbul's harbour is called the Golden Horn. Parts of Istanbul are bordered by the Sea of Marmara and parts by the Black Sea. Istanbul is built on hills and there are plenty of places with spectacular views. Istanbul has had a very long and rich history. It was Byzantium, then it became Constantinople, then Istanbul. Many different peoples, cultures and religions have settled there and each has left fascinating traces of their passing.

Things I grew to love about Turkey were:

1/ The call to prayer. I could never hear it without feeling I was somewhere very different and exotic. At first it used to wake me up in the night, later I could sleep through the night time calls without even hearing them. During Ramazan a drummer would wander around the streets and wake everyone up in the morning so they could eat before sunrise. I also adapted sufficiently to sleep through him. I never managed to sleep through a coal delivery though. Slabs of coal like slices of a mountain were poured off the back of a lorry into the coal cellar of our building. Our whole building used to shake. Later the kapici or doormen used to hack it into manageable lumps.

2/ The food Turkish food is wonderful with its wide selection of mezes or starters, its lamb, chicken, steak or fish main courses normally served with rice, chips, salad and wonderful fresh bread. I loved both the normal year round loaves and the flat crispy Ramazan pide. I was not quite as fond of the desserts, though most people love them. One of our favourite things was to buy palamut( it tastes like (mackerel) straight off the fishing boats in Kadıköy or a delicious palamut sandwich again straight from the boats. I also loved midye tavi, mussels cooked on a skewer as a snack food. There was lots of other great snack food. The simit man would wander around crying out for buyers for his delicious seseme seed covered rings. The lamachun man would roll you a delicious lamachun wrap.

3/ The people - most people there are kind and friendly and hospitable. I remember sheltering from a sudden unexpected downpour in Anadolu Kavaği on the Bosphorus. We took cover on the porch of someone's house. The house
owner opened the door of his home and we thought he was going to tell us off for trespassing, instead he invited us into his house and served us tea until the storm passed. I also remember travelling back from the Princes Islands and being entertained by groups of happy day trippers who would suddenly spontaneously start dancing. Turks are such joyful, extrovert people.

4/ Culture - As teachers, we could attend cultural performances such as ballets, operas, classical concerts of top quality for as little as around 50p. As members of the general public, we would also have paid very little. Not only did we see some fantastic performances in the Atatürk Cultural Centre, but also the audience participation had to be seen to be believed - clapping, stamping, cheering, encore after encore. Performers from overseas were amazed by the reception they got. One Flamenco dancer from Spain had to be physically carried off stage by his backing musicians as he tried again and again to satisfy the audience's demand for encores to the point of collapse. The only country I have ever visited with a similar
intense love of the performing arts was Russia.

5/ History - We spent four years in Istanbul and never ran out of things to do or see or visit. There are palaces, mosques, churches, fortresses, markets, museums, towers, bridges to name but a few.

6/ The vitality - The streets of Istanbul were always vibrant and filled with life. People selling their wares, families on outings, people coming and going from work, a madness of congested traffic, the most colourful and freshest markets I have ever seen. When you think everything is finally settled down for the evening, round comes the boza man calling out, "Bozaaaa, bozaaaa", as he sells his bedtime drink.

7/ Nature - Set on the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, The Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul is a water city. It is also said to be perched on seven hills. There are wonderful islands, beautiful beaches, pleasant parks. A truly magical natural setting. For our first three years in Istanbul we lived on the Asian side of Istanbul in Kozyatağı; near Bostanci. For our fourth year we lived on the European side in Nişantaşı;. Istanbul made a deep and lasting impression on us. It is a truly special place.

Topkapi Palace.

Any visitor to Istanbul with even the slightest interest in history is bound to find themselves in the Sultanahmet area which has a wealth of historical sights. One of these is Topkapi Palace. Topkapi Palace was home to the Ottoman Sultans for around four hundred years from 1465 to 1856. Topkapi Palace is located on Seraglio Point and looks out over the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the Ancient Greek City of Byzantium was located here. When Mehmet the Conqueror seized control of the city in 1453, he needed a suitable place to build his palace and selected this site. Construction of the palace began in 1459. During the reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent from 1520 to 1560, Topkapi Palace was expanded. The main person involved in this expansion was Alaüddin a Persian
architect. In 1574 after a terrible fire destroyed the palace's kitchens, Sultan Selim II employed the famous architect Mimar Sinan to rebuild the burnt down parts and expand the Harem, the baths, the Privy Chamber and several shoreline pavilions. Topkapi Palace was at one time surrounded by thick, high defensive walls. Topkapi Palace does not look like a palace in the European sense. It is a large complex of rooms built around courtyards. Topkapi Palace consists of four main courtyards and a harem. At one time it was home to as many as 4,000 people. The Palace's original name was Yeni Saray or New Palace. The name Topkapı; means Cannon Gate. This was one of many gateways into the palace. The First Courtyard was the largest courtyard of the palace. This courtyard was also known as the Court of the Janissaries the Sultan's armed bodyguards. Palace buildings that survive in this courtyard nowadays are the former Imperial Mint which dates from 1727 and the church of Hagia Irene. Hagia Irene, the Church of the Divine Peace, was built by the Byzantines. The Ottomans used it as an armoury.

When we lived in Istanbul, Haghia Irene was seldom open to the public, but when I found out it was being used to stage a concert, I insisted on going to it. I wanted to see inside a church that had the same name as me. We heard Mozart's Requiem here. It was an excellent performance, but a pigeon got into this former church in the middle of it and its calls and the flapping of its wings could be heard whenever there was a lull in the music. The Second Courtyard, Divan Meydanı, was entered through the Gate of Salutation. This courtyard was at one time full of peacocks and gazelles. It was completed around 1465 and was surrounded by the palace hospital, the bakery, the Janissary quarters, the stables, the imperial harem and the Divan, which was the Imperial Council. These are all to the north of the courtyard and the palace kitchens are to the south. Underneath the Second Courtyard there is a cistern dating from Byzantine times. The Second Courtyard was mainly used by the sultan for holding audiences and for dispensing justice.

The Gate of Felicity is the entrance to the Third Courtyard. This courtyard was the Inner Palace. It is surrounded by the Hall of the Privy Chamber, the treasury, the Harem and some pavilions. The library of Ahmed III stands in its centre. The Imperial Treasury is worth seeing. Some of the gem stones on display here were so huge, it was hard to believe they were real. I remember massive emeralds and diamonds. There is also a famous be-jewelled dagger which featured in a film called Topkapi. This film dates from 1964 and involves an attempt to steal the Topkapi dagger. The third courtyard also has a display of some beautiful miniature paintings. I have framed posters based on some of these in my home. The Harem was the living area for the Sultan's wives, concubines and female relatives. It contained more than 400 rooms. I remember there was a part of the harem where the women could secretly look down on important visitors arriving for an audience with the sultan. The harem was guarded by the sultan's eunuchs.

The fourth courtyard was the innermost private sanctuary of the sultan and his family. It was made up of several pavilions, kiosks, gardens and terraces. In 1856, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move his court to Dolmabahçe Palace. This had just been built on the Bosphorus. It was the first Europeanstyle palace in Istanbul.

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Topkapi Palace.

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Topkapi Palace.

Hagia Sophia.

I remember my first visit to this building. I was visiting my boyfriend, later husband, and he was at work, so I went sightseeing on my own. The area around Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya as the Turks call it, is very hassley, because it is filled with carpet salesmen who keep trying to drag you off to their shops. One of these salesmen attached himself to me and I could not get rid of him. Part of the reason for going inside Hagia Sophia was simply to get away from him and even then he kept calling to me: "I'll wait for you just outside. Don't worry, I'll wait for you. " I spent much of my visit working out how to get out of the building without encountering him again.

Hagia Sophia means Church of the Divine Wisdom. It is located in the Sultan Ahmet area of Istanbul between Topkapi Palace and Sultan Ahmet Mosque. Hagia Sophia was built in the year 537. From that date until 1453, it was mainly used as the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral and as the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The only exception to this was between 1204 and 1261 during the fourth crusade when the cathedral was ransacked and converted into a Catholic Church by Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice. Many of the cathedral's relics were stolen and dispersed to churches in other parts of Europe at this time. After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453 Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and remained a mosque until 1931. In 1935 it was secularized and opened as a museum. Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. Hagia Sophia was originally built as a church between 532 and 537 during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It was located on the site of two earlier Christian churches. It was designed by two Greek scientists. One of these was Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and the other was Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician. The building is an impressive piece of engineering with its massive dome. This dome has, however, collapsed several times during major earthquakes and has frequently had to be rebuilt. The original church contained a collection of important holy relics and a 15 metre high silver iconostasis. In 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror seized the city, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. The cathedral's bells, altar, iconostasis, sacrificial vessels and other relics were taken away. The mosaics depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Christian saints and angels were removed or plastered over. Islamic features, for example, the mihrab which shows the direction of Mecca, minbar pulpit, and four minarets, were added. Until 1616 when the construction of the nearby Sultan Ahmed Mosque was complete Hagia Sophia was the most important mosque in Istanbul.

Due to the plastering over of the inside of the church when it was converted into a mosque, the inside of Hagia Sophia is plainer than you might expect. There are, however, still some frescoes on display. There are also several gigantic circular disks on display. These are inscribed with the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the first four caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed: Hassan and Hussain. They were created by the calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa İzzed Effendi who lived from 1801 to 1877.

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Hagia Sophia.

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Hagia Sophia.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque is hardly surprisingly located in the Sultanahmed area of Istanbul. This mosque is also known as the blue mosque because its walls are covered with more than 20,000 beautiful blue iznik tiles. This mosque was built between 1609 and 1616, during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I. It was built on the site of the former palace of the Byzantine emperors next to the hippodrome and facing Hagia Sophia. Sultan Ahmed Mosque has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. It was designed by the architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, who was a pupil of Mimar Sinan. Sultan Ahmet was criticized for adding six minarets to his mosque. At that time only the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca had six
minarets. The sultan went ahead with his plans but paid for a seventh minaret to be added to the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca. As I said above the walls of the mosque are covered with beautiful blue tiles, the floors are covered with beautiful Turkish carpets. Several ornate chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Female visitors to the mosque must cover their heads. Scarves can be borrowed for this purpose. All visitors must remove their shoes. The mosque is closed to non-Muslims during prayer times.

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Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque.

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Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque.

Yerebatan Saray - The Underground Cistern.

This sight is also in the Sultan Ahmet area. For some reason many tourists don't visit the Yerebatan Saray. Perhaps they have not heard of it, don't notice it or think it won't be all that interesting. Personally I rather liked it. It's certainly something different. Yerebatan Saray means underground palace. It is a huge underground cistern. It was built in the sixth century by around 7000 slaves during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. This was the largest underground water cistern in Byzantium and provided water for the Great Palace, which stood on the site of the present day Sultan Ahmet Mosque. After the Ottoman conquest in 1453, the cistern provided water to Topkapi Palace. The cistern continued to be used up to even quite modern times. This underground cistern is approximately 453 feet by 212 feet, making it about 105,000 square feet in area. It is capable of holding 2,800,000 cubic feet of water. The ceiling of the cistern is supported by 336 marble columns, arranged in twelve rows of twenty-eight columns. Some of these columns are carved with tears. This is said to be in memory of the slaves who died building the cistern. Two of the most famous columns in the cistern are carved with the head of the Medusa. One is placed sideways, one upside down, perhaps in the hope she does not turn any visitors brave enough to look at her into stone. The water that used to fill the cistern came from the Belgrade Forest. This is about twelve miles north of Istanbul. The water travelled to the cistern through the Valens Aqueduct, and the Mağ;lova Aqueduct, which were built by the Emperor Justinian. Parts of these aqueducts can still be seen today. This cistern was used to film a scene from the 1963 James Bond film 'From Russia with Love'.

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Careful you don't turn to stone in Yerebatan Sarayi.

The Archaeology Museum.

The Archaeology Museum in Istanbul is also in the Sultanahmet area. It is an amazing place to visit as Turkey is so rich in archaeological remains from Ancient Greek times. In fact the museum holds so many remains, many things that would be given prime location in any other museum are, or were, outside in the museum grounds as there is simply no room for them inside. The Archaeology Museum is really three museums located on what used to be part of Topkapı; Palace's outer gardens. Construction of the museum's main building began in 1881 and the museum first opened ten years later in 1891. The architect for this project was Alexander Vallaury who also designed the Pera Palas Hotel. The first curator and founder of the museum was Osman Hamdi Bey. He also commissioned the museum's second building The Museum of the Ancient Orient in 1883. The museum's third building is actually its oldest. It was originally built as The Tiled Kiosk by Mehmed the Conqueror in 1472 and was once part of Topkapi Palace. In 1953 it became The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, and later became part of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. In 1991, on its one hundredth birthday, The Archaeology Museum received the European Council Museum Award. Exhibits in the museum include: The Alexander Sarcophagus this dates from the fourth century BC and was found in Sidon, Lebanon in 1887. The Sarcophagus of the Crying Women which was also found in Sidon. This is a beautiful museum with many fantastic exhibits and is well worth visiting.

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The Archaeology Museum.

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The Archaeology Museum.

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The Archaeology Museum.

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The Archaeology Museum.

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The Archaeology Museum.

The Grand Bazaar - Kapali Çarsi.

I remember going here with my husband. It is the sort of place he loves and I hate. We were trying to look around when a belt seller attached himself to us. He quoted a price for his belt. We said no. He then offered us five belts for the price he had said. We said no. He then offered us 10 belts for the price he had said and so on. In the end when he was offering us a ridiculous twenty-five belts for his starting price, Peter said, "They are probably plastic anyway." At which point the belt seller lost his temper, produced a cigarette lighter from his pocket and placed its flame against each of the belts to show they would not melt. We still did not buy them; we really did not want any belts. My husband finds high pressure sales tactics funny and gets into conversation with the salesmen. I just find them annoying and operate on the principle, hassle me and I won't buy from you even if I want what you are selling. I would have liked just to have a peaceful look around the Grand Bazaar, but that never seemed to happen.
One thing I did quite like about the salesmen was they pride themselves on their linguistic ability and try to sell their wares to you in the language they think you speak, so they will approach people in Turkish, English, French, German, Arabic etc.

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It is made up of 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops. Construction of the Grand Bazaar started in 1455, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror. Originally what is now the Grand Bazaar was several unconnected markets, but by the beginning of the 17th century these had joined together to form the Grand Bazaar. At several points throughout its history the Grand Bazaar has had to be restored or rebuilt following fires and earthquakes.

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The Grand Bazaar - Kapali Çarsi.

The Spice Bazaar.

The Spice Bazaar is also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. It is located in Eminönü behind the Yeni Camii which means the New Mosque. In fact its buildings are part of the New Mosque complex and the stallholders' rents help pay for the upkeep of the mosque. Personally I found this bazaar much more interesting than the Grand Bazaar. It was also much less hassley. One of the things I would go here to buy was ilhamur Çay which means linden tree tea. This tea consisted of dried leaves and twigs which would be stored in huge hessian sacks and weighed out when anyone came to buy it. It was delicious and I still miss it even now. This bazaar, as its name suggests, was famous for its spices. Stalls with huge mounds of colourful, powdered spice would render the air of the bazaar rich with the scent of a hundred different spices. It was amazing. I often bought spices here, too. For tourists, they would sell pre-weighed and bottled collections of different spices. These made a lovely gift. The spice bazaar also sold dried fruits, nuts, lokum -Turkish delight, other sweets, coffees, teas, dried herbs and even cheese. Another thing you could see here was an assortment of different types of natural sea sponges. It was always an interesting place for a stroll. The building of the Spice Bazaar was commissioned by Sultana Turhan Hatice, the Queen Mother of Sultan Mehmed IV in 1660.

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The Spice Bazaar.

The Galata Bridge.

The old Galata Bridge stretched across the Golden Horn, linking Eminonu with Karakoy. It was destroyed by a fire in 1992 and was replaced with a new bridge in 1994. You had a choice about how you wanted to cross the old bridge. You could cross at the top level where the traffic also went across. There were pavements on each side. Or you could cross at a lower level where the bridge was lined with restaurants. In the middle you still had to come up to the top level of the bridge. When we were new to Istanbul, it would take us forever to cross this bridge, as we would be dragged into restaurant after restaurant each trying to out-vie each other with their special offers. As you get more used to life in Istanbul, you walk with a greater sense of purpose and you are subjected to a lot less hassle. I remember the first time we crossed this bridge without being stopped and hassled by anyone. We finally felt that we had been accepted into Istanbul; we were no longer tourists, but locals. Once I took one of our visitors across this bridge. I told him I would teach him how to get across like a local with no hassle. I advised him, " Walk straight ahead; don't look at anyone; go fast as if you have an appointment. If anyone speaks to you, keep going as if you have not heard". I then walked across the bridge with no problem and turned around to say to my friend; "See that's how its done." Only to find he had been dragged into the first restaurant and was being fought over by a variety of restaurant owners. I went back and rescued him and he told me they had started with an offer of cheap food, then
free drink, then a totally free meal. Somehow I kind of doubt that would have actually happened. People used to fish on the top level of the bridge. We often went for a beer in one of the bars on the lower level of the bridge where the owner recognized us and knew we lived there.

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The Galata Bridge.

The Golden Horn.

The Golden Horn is Istanbul's Harbour. I used to love taking the little boat trip that went around it. On route you would pass some stunning buildings such as churches and mosques. One area the boat called at was Fener which once had the most important lighthouse on the Golden Horn. This area is an important centre for the Greek Orthodox Church as the Patriarchate is located here. Another area the boat calls at is Balat which was once home for Istanbul's Jewish community. There are still synagogues here. We normally got off the boat at Eyüp at the far end of the Golden Horn. There is a mosque here which is an extremely important sacred site for Muslims worldwide. The Eyüp Sultan Mosque, built in 1458, was the first mosque built by the Ottoman Turks following the Conquest of Constantinople. It is located next to the place where Eyüp Sultan, the standard bearer of the prophet Muhammad, was buried during the First Arab Siege of Constantinople in the 670s. This mosque was also the traditional site of the coronation ceremonies of the Ottoman Sultans. You could also climb the hill behind Eyüp as it wended its way past lots of cemeteries with Ottoman style tombs. By this I mean many of the tall thin cylindrical gravestones had different styles of stone turbans on the top to show the rank of the person buried there. At the top of the hill you could visit the Pierre Loti Cafe and admire the wonderful views over the Golden Horn. Pierre Loti was the pseudonym of Julien Viaud, a French novelist and naval officer, who was born in 1850 and died in 1923. Loti spent a lot of time in Istanbul and was very fond of it. He lived in Eyüp for some time and often visited a cafe on the site of the present day Pierre Loti Cafe. You can sit on the cafe's terrace and drink Çay or smoke a narghile water pipe. Apparently there is now a cable car from Eyüp to the top of Pierre Loti Hill. You had to walk when we lived there. I remember buying a little souvenir porcelain lamp which was really a whistle with Eyüp written on it. The waters of the Golden Horn were very polluted and smelly back then. Hopefully, they have now improved. When we lived here Bedrettin Dalan became mayor of Istanbul and one of his election promises was he would make the Golden Horn as blue as his eyes.

The Galata Tower.

The Galata Tower is the cylindrical tower with the pointed roof that juts out of the Galata skyline on the Karaköy side of the Golden Horn. Historically the Galata area was populated by the Venetians and then by the Genoese. Therefore, it was a Catholic area surrounded by an Eastern Orthodox city, and later a Catholic area surrounded by a Muslim City. The Genoese built strong defensive walls around the Galata area. They also built the Galata Tower as an observation tower in 1348. The tower's original name was Christea Turris or the Tower of Christ. At 66.9 metres high it was at one time the highest building in the city. The Galata Tower replaced an earlier tower located closer to the waterfront. This was known as the Great Tower. The Great Tower controlled one end of a chain that could be pulled across the Golden Horn to stop enemy ships from entering the harbour The Great Tower was destroyed in 1203 during the fourth crusade. After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the Galata Tower was used first as a prison and later as a fire watch tower. As many of Istanbul's buildings were made of wood, fire was always a grave danger. There is a legend associated with the Galata Tower. In 1348 Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi created a pair of artificial wings. Wearing these, he leapt off the Galata Tower and flew all the way to Üsküdar on the Asian Side of the Bosphorus, more than three kilometres away. This flight terrified the ruling sultan, Sultan Murad IV, who thought Çelebi was using some form of black magic so he had him exiled to Algeria. Nowadays the Galata Tower is a great place to enjoy scenic views over the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Istanbul rooftops which can be teeming with life. You will see women gossiping, preparing food together, washing and drying clothes. You can also enjoy the Istanbul skyline with the domes and minarets of many famous buildings displayed against the horizon. The Galata Tower is nine floors high. If you want to see the view, take the lift to the seventh floor, then walk up two flights of stairs. Be careful when you step out onto the observation deck there is a sort of ditch around the outside of the tower down which you can easily turn your ankle. I know, I did once.

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The Galata Tower.

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The Galata Tower.

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The Galata Tower.

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The Galata Tower.

The Bosphorus European Side.

Rumeli Hisari.

The Bosphorus is one of the most beautiful parts of Istanbul. You can visit it on a cruise, or you can take a bus up the European side, for example the Besiktas to Sariyer bus. Or you can take a bus up the Asian side, maybe starting in Uskudar and going to Anadolu Hisari, Beykoz, or Anadolu Kavağı. On the European side of the Bosphorus one of the sights that is well worth visiting is the magnificent fortress of Rumeli Hisari with its thick walls and tall towers. From this fortress you can enjoy spectacular views over the Bosphorus, too. Rumeli Hisari was constructed by Mehmet the Conqueror between 1451 and 1452, just before he conquered Constantinople. At that time the area he built the fortress on was outside the city. Mehmet the Conqueror wanted a fortress on the narrowest part of the Bosphorus in order to control all ships travelling on the Bosphorus. He was getting ready to lay siege to the city of Constantinople. By controlling the Bosphorus, he could cut off any food supply or weapons supply being brought to Constantinople from the north. Opposite the site of Rumeli Hisari, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, stood the fortress of Anadoluhisarı; which was built between 1393 and 1394 by Sultan Bayezid I, The Thunderbolt. Mehmet the Conqueror also had control of this fortress, so he controlled both sides of the Bosphorus. Mehmet the Conqueror made each of his three generals complete a tower of the fortress and spurred them on to see who could finish first. As a result the huge fortress was completed in only four months. The fortress's three main towers were named after the generals who built them: Sadrazam Çandarlı Halil Pasha built the big tower next to the main gate, Zağanos Pasha built the south tower, and Sarıca Pasha built the north tower. Mehmet's armies conquered Constantinople several months after the fortress's completion. After the fall of Constantinople, Rumeli Hisari became a customs checkpoint. However, when fortresses were built at Rumeli Kavağı; and Anadoglu Kavağı; further up the Bosphorus and closer to the Black Sea, Rumeli Hisari lost that role. In the seventeenth century, it was used as a prison for foreign prisoners of war. Since 1960 Rumeli Hisari has been a museum. Rumeli Hisari has three main towers, thirteen small watch towers and three main gates next to the bigger towers. Inside the fortress there used to be wooden houses for Mehmet's soldiers and a small mosque. Only the minaret of the mosque remains. The fortress's water supply came from a large cistern underneath the mosque. Visitors to the fortress can climb up onto the fortresses walls. Be careful however, unless things have improved a great deal since I was there, safety standards in old Turkish buildings are minimal with no protective rails in sight.

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Rumeli Hisari.

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Rumeli Hisari.

Emirgan Park.

Istanbul has several parks: Gülhane, Yildiz and Emirgan are the better known ones. Gülhane means Hall of Roses. It used to be part of the grounds of Topkapi Palace. It used to have a very depressing zoo in which the animals were kept in very cramped conditions. Fortunately, this no longer exists. Yildiz Park is located in Beşiktaş;. Its name means Star Park. It was originally the grounds of Yildiz Palace. Yıldız Palace was built in 1880. It was occupied by Sultan Abdülhamid II in the late nineteenth century. Before that he had lived in Dolmabahçe Palace, but he became terrified of a seaside attack on the palace and so wanted to move further inland. Yildiz Palace is now a museum. A bridge connects Yıldız Palace with Çırağan Palace on the Bosporus. Çırağan Palace was a burnt out shell when we lived in Istanbul, but nowadays it is a luxury hotel owned by the Kempinski Group.

Emirgan Park is in Emirgan on the European side of the Bosphorus. In my opinion it is the prettiest of these three parks. It is famous for its tulips in spring time. Emirgan Park is located on a hillside. It covers an area of 117 acres and is surrounded by high walls. Emirgan Park has two ponds, jogging tracks, a grotto, fountains and picnic tables. It also has three historic pavilions: the Yellow Pavilion, the Pink Pavilion and the White Pavilion. These three pavillions were all built by Khedive Ismail Pasha between 1871 and 1878. The Yellow Pavilion, Sarı; Köşk, was once a hunting lodge and guest house. Part of it is now a cafe. The Pink Pavilion, Pembe Köşk, is a typical Ottoman style two storey house. Nowadays it is also a cafe and can be hired for weddings. The White Pavilion, Beyaz Köşk, is a two storey wooden building. Emirgan Park is famous for tulips. These flowers were once symbols of the Ottoman Empire. Since 2005, an international tulip festival is held in Emirgan Park every year.

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Emirgan Park.

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Emirgan Park.

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Emirgan Park.

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Emirgan Park.

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Emirgan Park.

Tarabya.

Tarabya is a district on the European side of the Bosphorus. It has a marina, riverside walkway and a big posh hotel called The Grand Tarabya. This hotel used to be very popular with Arab tourists and you would normally see lots of Arabs strolling around the Tarabya waterfront. It's quite a nice area for a stroll beside the Bosphorus. Tarabya has always been a popular place for the wealthy citizens of Istanbul to escape the heat of summer and the crowded city streets. Foreign diplomats and rich Turks built luxurious villas here. Tarabya has many expensive waterfront restaurants.

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Tarabya.

Bebek.

In our last year in Istanbul I was sent out to various parts of Istanbul to teach different individuals or in different companies. Once a week I had to teach in Bebek. Bebek is a pretty village on the European side of the Bosphorus. I had to teach a little girl who lived in a restored old wooden house here. Bebek has a lovely walkway along the waterfront. It is perfect for a stroll or for a seat on a park bench enjoying watching the boats sailing to and fro on the Bosphorus. In the 19th century, just like in nearby Tarabya, Ottoman aristocrats built their summer houses here because it was cooler, and less crowded than the centre of Istanbul. Bebek has shops, restaurants and cafes and is a pleasant place to visit.

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Bebek.

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Bebek.

The Bosphorus Asian Side.

There are lots of sights on the Asian side of the Bosphorus such as Beylerbeyi Palace, Küçüksu Palace, Anadolu Hisari, Anadolu Kavağı. I visited all of these but no longer have any photos of all of them. Beylerbeyi Palace is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus near the Bosphorus Bridge. Beylerbeyi Palace was an Ottoman summer residence built in the 1860s. It was commissioned by Sultan Abdülaziz. He used it as his summer residence and for entertaining important visitors. Empress Eugénie of France visited Beylerbeyi on route to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Legend states that when Empress Eugénie entered the palace she had linked arms with Sultan Abdülaziz, and his mother Pertevniyal Sultan, was so outraged by her over-familiarity that she slapped her right across the face. Other important visitors included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The deposed Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II lived in captivity in Beylerbeyi Palace from 1912 until his death in 1918. He was deposed after the 1908 Young Turk Revolution.This revolution was brought about due to unhappiness at Sultan Abdulhamid II's dissolution of the Ottoman parliament and constitution. His actions had given him absolute control for 30 years.

Küçüksu means small stream. Küçüksu Palace is a summer palace in Küçüksu on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. This little European style palace was used by Ottoman sultans as a hunting lodge. It was commissioned by Sultan Abdul Mejid I and designed by architect Garabet Amira Balyan. The palace was completed in 1857. The palace appeared in the James Bond film "The World Is Not Enough".

Anadolu Hisari is a fortress on the Asian side of the Bosporus. It was built between 1393 and 1394 by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I. He was nicknamed The Thunderbolt. He wanted this fortress as a base from which to organize the Second Ottoman Siege of Constantinople. Another fortress, Rumelihisarı, was built between 1451 and 1452 by Mehmet the Conqueror opposite Anadoluhisarı; on the European side of the Bosphorus in order to obtain absolute control over ships sailing on the Bosphorus Strait. One place I do have photos of is Anadolu Kavağı. This is the last stop on the Bosphorus cruise, but you can also get here by bus. It is a small fishing village with fish restaurants and a ruined castle. The castle is called Yoros Castle. There was also a castle on the opposite side of the Bosphorus in Rumeli Kavağı;. A massive chain could be stretched across the Bosphorus between these two castles to prevent enemy warships from entering the Bosphorus. Yoros Castle was in a very strategic location and the Byzantines, Genoese, and Ottomans fought over it for many years. In 1305 it was conquered by Ottoman forces, then recaptured by the Byzantines. Sultan Bayezid I, the thunderbolt, seized control of the castle in 1391 while he was preparing for his siege of Constantinople. In 1399 the Byzantines tried and failed to recapture Yoros Castle. The Ottomans retained control of the fortress from 1391 until 1414 when they lost it to the Genoese. The Genoese retained control of the castle for the next forty years. When Mehmed the Conqueror took control of Constantinople in 1453, he drove the Genoese out. There are also lovely beaches on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Friends took us to one by car, but I have forgotten the beach's name.

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Anadolu Kavagi.

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Anadolu Kavagi.

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Beach on Asian Side of Bosphorus.

Posted by irenevt 04:26 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)

Dubai.

Frequent Stop-over Destination.

sunny

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Detail of a mosque, Dubai.

Dubai Visit One.

Our first visit to Dubai a couple of years ago turned into a bit of a travel disaster. The problem with visit one was lack of research and planning on my part. We went there for a 14 hour stopover while travelling from Birmingham to Hong Kong via Emirates. We stayed at the Downtown Holiday Inn Hotel for our first visit. We got an early check in and planned to check out around 1am to fly to Hong Kong. Problem one was not taking into account how hot it was. I dragged my very reluctant husband out to explore Dubai on foot. We set out to walk to the creek. Further than it looked on the map, and with the way made more complex due to construction. We were soon struggling. As we walked, we kept nipping into convenience stores to cool down and buy much needed water. Soon I found myself shivering outside in plus 40 degrees heat. I suspect it was the beginning of heatstroke. Anyway we reached the creek and managed a boat ride before returning home to collapse. The boat ride was the highlight of that visit.
Problem Two: we set out to visit Bastika and the Dubai Museum in the slightly cooler evening time. We had problems getting a taxi to take us and had to enlist the help of the very pleasant and helpful Holiday Inn staff. Tired after exploring that side of the creek and with not a lot of time remaining before our onward flight, we jumped in a taxi to go back to the hotel. We had the hotel address card and a map with the hotel clearly marked on it, the taxi driver spoke good English, but none of the above deterred him from chucking us out in the middle of nowhere and claiming he did not know where we wanted to go. We were lost, waterless, hot, tired and already feeling ill and ended up having to spend over an hour walking home across a bridge that was pretty much a motorway. Problem three we arrived home exhausted, bad-tempered and incredibly pissed off. Having eaten nothing all day, we had a lovely meal in the hotel to cheer ourselves up before trying to get at least an hour's sleep prior to going to the airport. Neither of us could keep the food down. There was nothing wrong with the food; the heat of the day had just rendered us both extremely ill. After plenty of vomiting and no sleep we made it onto the plane to Hong Kong. An eight hour journey. I passed out before take off and had to be woken up on arrival. Awful!!!!!

Dubai Visit Two.

This time we were better prepared. We went with two clear rules: 1/ Do not spend too much time in the sun. 2/ Absolutely no taxis. Public transport only. To avoid too much time in the sun, we put lots of indoor places on our itinerary. To avoid taxis we used the new metro and the local buses. I found out information about the buses by going to Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) site and consulting the wojhati a kind of journey planner. You just key in your starting and finishing points and the wojhati tells you how to do the journey. Result an enjoyable holiday with no major mishaps.

Dubai Re-Re Visited.

Just completed our third stopover visit to Dubai in July 2011. Why do we keep going there? I guess because it is a very convenient stopover point on route from Hong Kong to the UK and Emirates Air flies to Glasgow and Birmingham both places we want to be when we come home. For our third visit we continued our policy of only using public transport. This is getting easier and easier and will be easier still when the new green metro line opens. At the moment it is being tested and it should, inshallah, be open for business from September 2011. This was a problem free trip and its highlights were a visit to the beach, a visit to Jumeriah Madinat Souq and the Dubai fountain show at the Dubai Mall.

Trips four - December 2011, five - Easter 2012, six - December 2012.

What a difference a season makes. Winter in Dubai; you can actually walk in the streets without keeling over from heat exhaustion. Fantastic. This trip we revisited many places we had struggled with in the summer heat and did a day trip to Sharjah. Trip five was a very short one last Easter. Also OK temperature wise at that time of year. Just finished trip six Christmas 2012. Just 2 days long. Our original intention had been to include a day trip to Abu Dhabi but it would have been too rushed. This visit we re-explored the Wafi in the light; visited Jumeriah Mosque and public beach; had a visit to the Mercato Mall and Festival City, tried some new bars/restaurants and had another look around the
creek, because it is the best bit of Dubai.

Visit Seven.

Just spent three full days in December 2013 and one half of a day in January 2014 in Dubai on our way to and from Northern Italy. We no longer feel any pressure to see Dubai; we have seen most of it. We revisited the creek, had a look at Deira City Centre Shopping Mall, tried a new restaurant, visited Creek Park and Safa Park and the highlight of the visit took ourselves off to Abu Dhabi for the day.

Visit Eight December 2014.

Visited Al Ain for a day, tried out the new tram and the monorail, visited the Atlantis Hotel, revisited the beautiful creek by night.

Hotels in Dubai.

Premier Inn Dubai International Airport: A Peaceful And Relaxing Stay.

You can see the Premier Inn Hotel as soon as you exit the airport, but you cannot walk to it as it is on the other side of a motorway. To get there you can use the hotels complementary 24 hours a day shuttle which is a white and purple minivan. We arrived at terminal Three, exited the airport building and crossed the road to a waiting area marked buses only. Hotel shuttles picked up and dropped off here. The shuttle ran at half hourly intervals, leaving the hotel on the hour and at half past the hour and picking up at approximately quarter past and quarter to. The reception staff were pleasant. We paid extra to get an early check in to recover from the flight and to get rid of our luggage. Our room was the same as Premier Inn's everywhere. It was spotlessly clean and very comfortable. We had an in room safe, tea/coffee making facilities, a fridge and two complementary water bottles. The hotel had a pool on its roof which during our stay we had largely to ourselves. There was a good view from the roof both by day and night. The pool was open from 7am to 10pm, which was pretty good. The hotel had a costa coffee shop in the foyer. There was also a restaurant and a bar. As well as the 24 hour airport shuttle there was a free shuttle to Al Mamzar Beach. This went just once a day at 9am and returned around 5pm. We did not use it this time. There was also a shuttle to Dubai Festval City Shopping Centre several times a day. We did not use this either.The only downside of the hotel is it is far from everything except the airport. However, by taking the free shuttle to the airport you can get straight on the metro and being far from everything does mean it is nice and quiet. On a more recent stay this hotel had started doing a free shuttle once a day to Jumeriah Beach and the Atlantis Palm monorail. we did not have time to use it, sadly.

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View from pool deck of the Premier Inn Dubai International Airport.

Le Meridien Fairways: Pleasant Stay.

We recently stayed in the Meridien Fairway Hotel for three nights. The hotel is easy to reach by metro; just take the train to GIGICO Station. Exit on the right hand side, walk past Starters Kindergarten and you should see the hotel sign. The main entrance is on the other side of the building on the main road. As with every visit we ever make to Dubai, we arrived at some unearthly hour of the morning. Check in was not until 2pm, but we decided to go to the hotel and see if they would let us in, or at least take our bags. I have read some reviews where people got annoyed at not being let in, but if the hotel's check in is 2pm it is a bit cheeky to turn up at 9am which is what we did. The receptionist pointed out we were very early; we just smiled and asked if they could store our bags. They agreed to this immediately and told us to come back at 12 which we accepted. We talked more re something else and were told we could get our room at 11am; a bit more chat and it was 10am. I was extremely pleased with that, it was only an hour away. We walked to the Irish Village, which was closed at that time in the morning, and sat at one of their tables with some friendly felines before returning to our hotel for some much needed sleep. The moral of this story is if you demand an early check in, they will get angry; if you are pleasant you just might get one. I noticed when we visited the Sherlock Holmes Bar in the Arabian Courtyard Hotel later that they do special
arrangements for people who turn up early: early check in for a fee, massage package, day at the beach on their transport. This is a good idea as so many people do turn up early and exhausted due to flight times. Anyway our room was very clean and very nice. It was long and narrow. The bed was one of the most comfortable I have ever slept in. It was quiet at night, except for the occasional late home or early leaving guest. There was a coffee machine in the room, so you could enjoy real coffee. The machine also provided hot water. Two bottles of cold water were provided free daily. The hotel had a lovely pool not so large but we were the only people using it during our stay. I think it was open until 9.30pm. We did not have breakfast at the hotel. We ate dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. Service was pleasant and the food was good. As we were leaving very early on our last day before the metro even started running we paid 25 AED to use the hotel's transfer service. I thought that was reasonable and the transfer arrived in good time. There was a room safe in our room. We had a fridge, minibar, TV. Toiletries provided included shampoo, conditioner, soap, razors, toothbrush, cotton wool, cotton buds. All staff at the hotel were very pleasant. The convenience of being so close to the metro was great. There were many restaurants, some convenience stores and a supermarket near the hotel. I would happily stay here again. Address: Al Garhoud Road.

Arabian Courtyard Hotel And Spa: A Good Idea.

We have not stayed in this hotel, but like their offers for passengers arriving at ungodly times of the morning. In Dubai I think that is nearly everyone. I photographed the sign so people can see what they do as they do not seem to advertise these deals on their website, though, in my opinion, they should. we go to this hotel a lot to eat in the Sherlock Holmes Pub. Address: Al Fahidi Street, P O Box 46500, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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Sherlock Holmes Pub.

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Sherlock Holmes Pub.

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Sherlock Holmes Pub.

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Arriving early deals.

Burj Al Arab Hotel.

If you are not a guest, you can only get in by having a breakfast, lunch or dinner reservation. We just looked from the outside and took lots of photos. It is an impressive looking building. The free public beach near the hotel is a good location for taking hotel photos. You can reach this beach using bus 8A, 8 or 88. The Wild Wadi Water Park is very close to the hotel, too. You also get excellent views of the Burj Al Arab Hotel from Jumeriah Medinat.

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Burj Al Arab Hotel.

Shopping Malls Dubai.

Generally I hate shopping, but visiting shopping malls in Dubai has several big advantages. One, many of them are easily accessible by metro. Two, they are air-conditioned. Three, they have lots of restaurants and cafes. Four, many of them are really extravagantly decorated and they are worth just wandering around to look at the decor. Five, there are several entertainment options available in the malls. We visited three malls during our
stay.

Ibn Battuta Mall

To get there take metro to Ibn Battuta station. Exit and walk towards the exotic looking buildings on the other side of the road. If you are staying in Jumeriah, get there using the 8A bus in the direction of Ibn Battuta. The bus station is between the mall and the metro. This shopping mall is named after Ibn Battuta who was an explorer there is an exhibit about him in the centre of the mall. The mall is divided into six areas. Each area represents a place Ibn Battuta travelled to. There is an Egyptian area shaped like an Ancient Egyptian temple and covered with wall paintings and hieroglyphics. There's a Persian area with a huge central dome covered in beautiful blue patterened tiles. There's an Indian area with a huge elephant clock. There is a Chinese section with a Chinese junk. There's a Tunisian section with a replica Tunisian town. Finally, there's an Andalusian section with an ornate fountain. Stores inside the mall include Woolworths, BHS, Boots and lots, lots more. There's an enormous supermarket called Geant. There is a food court and restaurants. We had a very tasty meal in Restaurant al Arab a Lebanese restaurant in the Persian area.

Dubai Mall.

Get the metro to Dubai Mall Station and take the feeder bus from directly outside. It's very frequent. Dubai Mall is beautifully decorated especially
in its gold souk area. It is located near the Burj Kalife the tallest building in the world. There are good places to photo this just outside the mall. The Dubai Mall has an iceskating rink, a huge aquarium and a fashion area complete with a cat walk and fashion shows at certain times of the day. There is a stunning mall designed to look like an old Arabian souk just next to the Dubai Mall. Lots of restaurants and cafes, big Waitrose's supermarket. The Dubai Mall is well known for its fountain shows. I am not quite sure when the first fountain show starts. I read somewhere it was 6pm but this was not correct. It may depend on the time of year. Maybe they start when it gets dark. I would guess in summer they start around 7pm and take place on the hour and half hour. We watched the show at 8.30pm. The fountain display was actually very good. The music was well-chosen and dramatic. It lasted maybe 5 to 10 minutes and was certainly worth seeing and all for free. To get to the Dubai Mall take the metro to Dubai Mall/Burj Kalife Station then take the F13 feeder bus to the mall. Follow the signs on the ground floor for fountains. The lake with the fountains is right in front of the Burj Kalife the tallest building in the world. The Dubai Mall has plenty of other things to do, too, such as an ice rink, a huge aquarium, a gold souq , lots of places to eat and of course lots of shops. We had a pleasant, filling and cheap Lebanese meal in the food court there.

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Fountain Show at Dubai Mall.

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Fountain Show at Dubai Mall.

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Fountain Show at Dubai Mall.

img=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/871317/large_5109368-Dubai_Fountain_Show_Dubai.jpg]
Fountain Show at Dubai Mall.

Mall of the Emirates.

Get there by travelling to Mall of the Emirates Station. Walk from the metro via an enclosed air-conditioned walkway. Inside Mall of the Emirates there is a huge Carrfour, Ski Dubai with ski slope, real snow and lots of snow covered play areas for children. There is also a cinema and bowling rink and a food court in this mall.

WAFI.

The WAFI shopping Mall can now be easily reached using the new green metro line. Get off at Dubai Health Care Station and it is five minutes walk away. The shopping mall is behind the Raffles Hotel. The mall follows an Egyptian theme with pyramid shaped buildings, columns with Egyptian reliefs, pharaoh and Anubis statues. Inside there is a modern shopping mall which during our visit was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Downstairs is an old style souk type shopping mall and restaurants. At 6.30. 7.30, 8.30 and 9.30 there are sound and light shows. These are free and can be viewed from the central WAFI square. Themes vary but the ones we saw were based around Christmas. As well as many shops, there are also many places to eat, a spa and an Indian restaurant with upstairs outdoor garden.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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WAFI.

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The Wafi.

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The Wafi.

The Mercato Shopping Mall.

A 10 minute walk from Jumeriah Mosque or a couple of bus-stops further on, just past the zoo, lies the Mercato Shopping Mall. It is a themed mall designed to look like Venice with fake house fronts, bridges and paintings of the Grand Canal. It also has lots of shops and a food court. It is lit up nicely at night. Get here by number 8 bus.

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The Mercato Shopping Mall.

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The Mercato Shopping Mall.

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The Mercato Shopping Mall.

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The Mercato Mall.

Festival City Shopping Mall.

This shopping mall is located on the creek. You can get here by bus 4 from Rashidiya metro or bus S11 from Emirates Metro Station. The mall looks quite futuristic, part of it is a gold centre, part of it is located on a manmade canal, part of it is on the creek. You can hire a sofa boat and pedal on the canal part. There is a marina outside on the creek. There are 2 hotels here the Crown Plaza and the Intercontinental. The Intercontinental pool has an odd glass part where you can see people swimming above you. The mall has sound and water shows at night. There are lots of restaurants, including areas to dine on the waterfront. There is a local restaurant with lots of middle eastern themed models. You can also get here by boat.

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Hotel with infinity pool.

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Belgian Bar Cafe.

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Fun for Kids.

Deira City Centre Mall.

To get to this mall take the metro to Deira City Centre. This is not a themed mall, but it is a good place for shopping. It has a huge Carrefour, a small Marks and Spencer's, a Debenhams. There were lots of sales on and we got some reasonably priced shoes. The mall also contains cinemas, bowling and food courts.

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Christmas at the Mall.

Old Dubai Around the Creek.

No matter what it builds, invents, creates as far as I am concerned the Creek is by far and away still the loveliest part of Dubai. We've visited by day and by night when we have enjoyed the lit up buildings and the lights on the water. We walked to this area from the abra station near the Old Souq. You could also walk from Al Ghubaiba Metro Station. Many buildings showing traditional Arab architecture have been restored in this area. The first we came across was a restored watchtower. Then nearby was the traditional Arab architecture Museum with displays about traditional Arab building and restoring methods. Free entry. The house of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum was our next port of call. Entry was 2AED. The building displayed some interesting photos showing traditional Arab life. There was even one of the creek during a swarm of locusts. This building has lots of traditional wind towers. After that I had a look at the Museum of Calligraphy free entry. The displays did not interest me, but the building was beautiful.

Next we went to the Dubai Heritage Museum and Diving Village. Both are free entry. Not a lot was going on in either of these places when we visited at Christmas in the early afternoon, so on our recent very short visit (one day only) to Dubai we revisited later in the day to see if they had livened up. The answer was yes and no. I still could not describe them as hugely exciting, but they were better than before. The Heritage Village in the early evening had camel rides, donkey rides, people making and selling traditional food and people doing traditional crafts. No-one, except the camel, liked having their photo taken, though. If you ask, you are told no and if you take it without asking you are shooed away, which is a shame as it was quite photogenic. The diving village just had a lady selling mint tea when we visited. It may have more going on later. The whole Shingdaga Area is worth a stroll though especially if you get a lovely breezy day like we did. The waterfront restaurants are wonderful places to sit and watch the world go by maybe while smoking a traditional sheesha pipe. The whole heritage area is very close to Al Ghubaiba Metro Station. We ended our time in this area by having lunch in one of the restaurants on the waterfront. Worth a look.

The Horse Museum and Camel Museum - We knew there was supposed to be a Camel Museum somewhere in the Shingdaga Heritage Area when we visited at Christmas but did not find it. This time we found both it and its neighbour the Horse Museum. Both are located immediately behind Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's house. We could not go inside, however, as the museums close at 2PM.

The Customs Museum is also part of the Shingdaga Heritage Village. It was closed when we visited. I doubt it would be all that interesting inside, but it does have a traditional dhow outside being unloaded by various hard working figures while a watchful customs officer gazes down on the scene. Good for a photo op at least.

Desert Area Shindaga Waterfront - A few things had changed for the better on the Shindaga Waterfront Area. One improvement was a section on deserts containing desert animals. The best were the camels, which were just so smiley and cute that I cannot imagine why they have a reputation for being grumpy and bad-tempered. There were also goats and deer.

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House of Architecture.

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Photogenic Camel.

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Photogenic Camel.

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My husband at the museum.

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Camels.

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Heritage Museum.

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Horse Museum.

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The Creek.

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The Creek.

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Shindaga Heritage Area.

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Shindaga Heritage Area.

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Shindaga Heritage Area.

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The Creek.

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Shindaga Heritage Area.

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Shindaga Heritage Area.

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Shindaga Heritage Area.

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Shindaga Heritage Area.

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Shingdaga Waterfront.

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Shingdaga Waterfront.

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Shingdaga Waterfront.

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Shingdaga Waterfront.

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Shingdaga Waterfront.

Dubai Museum.

This museum is located inside an old fort. It is very cheap to get into. When you go down to the galleries, it is air-conditioned. There is a small souvenir shop inside. Next to the exit there are seats and drink machines. There are clean toilets in the museum. Exhibits in the museum explore various traditional aspects of Arab life. It is quite an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so. The museum is on the Bur Dubai side of the creek near the old souk. It is not far from Bastika, the abra station to cross the creek, the old souk, the grand mosque, the Iranian mosque. Worth a visit. I think the nearest metro station to this is Al Fahidi Station around 10 minutes walk away. You can also go to Al Gubiba Station and walk up the side of the creek to it. This is an interesting walk, but difficult in the heat of summer. The Arabian Courtyard Hotel with its Sherlock Holmes Pub is just behind the museum.

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Dubai Museum.

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Dubai Museum.

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At Dubai Museum.

The Bastakiya Area.

The Bastakiya area is another place to see traditional Arab architecture. There are some museums and heritage houses to visit. There are also restaurants and guest houses. It is worth having a wander around. It is very close to the Dubai Museum. Nearest metro Al Fahdi or walk from the Old Souq abra station.

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The Bastakiya Area.

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The Bastakiya Area.

Souqs.

Most of the souks are near the Gold Souk Bus Station. Not too far (at least in winter) from Al Ras Metro Station. They are quite colourful and interesting and offer good photographic opportunities. We visited the gold souk, perfume souk and spice souk. The souks are open air so very very hot during the day. Many shops close for a long lunch so it's not good to visit in the middle of the day. Vendors will approach you frequently to try and sell you copy watches, designer hand bags and tailored clothes. While it was a bit hassley, the vendors were not particularly persistent. Or maybe I just look poor. The area was certainly worth a look but very very hot when we were there. The spice souk is just across the road from an abra station. You can take an abra across the creek for 1 diarahm. It only takes around 5 minutes to cross, but it is fun and gives a good opportunity for taking photos. The old souk, the grand mosque, Iranian Mosque and Dubai Museum are walking distance from the abra station on the Bur Dubai side.

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Fish Souq.

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Fruit and Vegetable Souq.

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Camels at the souq.

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Souqs.

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Souqs.

Abra crossing by night.

We have crossed the creek by abra many times by day and it is beautiful. This time we also crossed by night which was also beautiful as many buildings are lit up by night. Price 1 AED. Just be careful not to fall in in the dark.

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Crossing the creek.

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Traditional Dhow.

Jumeirah.

Jumeirah is an area of Dubai along the coast with many beaches, fancy hotels and some sights. The famous Burj Al Arab Hotel is located here.

Jumeirah Madinat Souq.

The Jumeirah Madinat Souq is a beautiful shopping mall that makes up part of a luxurious resort consisting of the souq, two luxury hotels and a beach. The theme of the resort is traditional Arabic architecture built on the banks of several manmade canals. As well as admiring the beautiful architecture, there are lots of shops and restaurants here. It is also possible to go on a boat trip around the canals for 60AED. There are excellent views of the Burj Al Arab Hotel from here. To get here you can take the number 8 bus from Ibn Battuta Mall, Gold Souq bus station, or Al Ghubiba Bus Station. The Jumeirah Madinat Souq is next to the Wild Wadi Water Park.

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Jumeirah Madinat Souq.

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Jumeirah Madinat Souq.

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Jumeirah Madinat Souq.

Dubai Marina.

You can get to the Dubai Marina by taking the metro to Dubai Marina station or Jumeirah Towers Station. We got off at Dubai Marina and took the feeder bus to the Marina Walkway. This was good for taking photos but very hot and with little shade. We then walked down to the sea next to the Hilton Hotel. There was a public beach next to this hotel with beautiful white sand and clear blue sea. Very very hot though. Had a look in the Hilton and noticed it is possible to use their pool and beach facilities for the day for a fee. There is also a Marina Mall but we did not visit it. There are many restaurants on the walkway near the Hilton.

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Dubai Marina.

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Camels near Hilton Hotel.

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Dubai Marina.

Jumeriah Mosque.

This is possibly the loveliest mosque in Dubai. We have passed it many times by bus, but this was the first time we stopped off to take photos. It is the only mosque in Dubai that non-Mulims can go inside, but to do so you must be on a tour arranged by the Centre for Cultural Understanding. We just viewed it from the outside. You can get here by number 8 bus from Gubaiba Bus Station or the Gold Souq Bus Station. Across the road from the mosque is Jumeriah public Beach.

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Jumeriah Mosque.

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Jumeriah Mosque.

Jumeriah Public Beach Park.

Noticed the sign for the public beach park when we were visiting Jumeriah Mosque. There is a paying beach park (small entry fee) and a public one (free). We had a look at the free one. There were showers on the beach and toilets were available, palm trees provided a bit of shade. The beach had a great atmosphere people were swimming, playing football, riding go-carts, having picnics. There was a kiosk selling drinks and snacks. I noticed some surprisingly philosophical graffiti around. The best bit was the stunning view of Dubai skyline, though, great views towards the Burj Kahlife. Get here by number 8 bus.

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Jumeriah Public Beach Park.

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Jumeriah Public Beach Park.

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Jumeriah Public Beach Park.

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Jumeriah Public Beach Park.

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Jumeriah Public Beach Park.

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Jumeriah Public Beach Park.

The Atlantis Hotel a cheapskates guide.

Dubai can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. You could stay in the Atlantis Hotel, or pay to use its Aquadventure Waterpark which certainly does look lovely, or visit the sealions, or the dolphins, or the aquarium. All of these things are expensive. We considered visiting the aquarium but did not, instead we just had a wander around for free. There are security men all over the hotel to make sure you cannot go to things you have not paid for, but without paying you can laugh at the gold dispensing ATM machine in the lobby, admire the sea themed paintings on the lobby ceilings, have a look at the dolphin themed lights. Walk down to the front of the hotel and try to get a photo that doesn't have ninety-two cars in it. We enjoyed all of these things, but then we are cheap to run and easy to please. I thought it was worth visiting even just to get to ride the monorail. Inside you can only do so much without forking out a fortune, but there was enough to photograph for free to keep me happy.

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The Atlantis Hotel a cheapskates guide.

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The Atlantis Hotel a cheapskates guide.

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The Atlantis Hotel a cheapskates guide.

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The Atlantis Hotel a cheapskates guide.

Gold Dispensing Machine.

The height in luxury or the height of bad taste. Imagine you have money to burn would you really buy your gold jewellery like this? Still it was fascinating to have a look at.

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Gold Dispensing Machine.

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Gold Dispensing Machine.

Parks and Beaches.

Al Mamzur Beach Park.

Our hotel the Premier Inn Airport runs a free shuttle to Al Mamzur Beach Park leaving the hotel at 9am and picking guests up from the beach at 16.20. We only took their transport to the beach. To get back we took the C28 from immediately outside the main entrance of the beach park. The C28 goes all the way to the Gold Souq Bus Station, but we got off at Union Metro Station as this bus passes very close to this station. The beach park has an air conditioned cafe/restaurant with clean toilets and amusement arcade games for kids. The park consists of lots of welcome greenery and colourful flowers. There were three imaginatively named beaches : beach 1, 2 and 3. All were beautiful with fine white powdery sand. Beach three had great views off towards Sharjah (at least I think it was number 3 the one that was furthest to the right when you stand outside the restaurant facing the sea). Beach 2 was the busiest when we were there and the biggest. Beach one was peaceful. The sea was pleasantly warm yet refreshing and so salty and bouyant that I kept thinking my feet and legs were going to come straight out of the water as I swam. The beaches had sun shades and chairs for rent. I did not check prices. There were plenty of toilets in the beach park. I changed clothes in the toilet, not sure if there were separate changing rooms. As well as the restaurant there were several kiosks selling cold drinks. Entry to the beach park was an extremely reasonable 5AED. There was mention of a swimming pool inside for an extra 10AED, but I did not see it. A really beautiful place.

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Al Mamzur Beach Park.

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Al Mamzur Beach Park.

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Al Mamzur Beach Park.

Creek Park.

To get to this park by public transport take the metro to Dubai Health Care City and then get on bus C7 which will take you right to the park entrance. It cost 5 AED to go into the park. It is open from 8am to 11pm and has no ladies only day. There are various fee paying things inside the park a dolphinarium, a bird show, children's city and a cable car. We did not visit or use any of these. We had intended to go on the cable car but it was not running for some reason. We went for a walk along the side of the creek. There were good views over Dubai and the park had a great family feel to it with school girls feeding the seagulls and paddling in the creek. The park was more popular with locals than tourists and had a lovely atmosphere. A thoroughly enjoyable visit. There are barbecue pits available in the park, too.

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Creek Park.

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Creek Park.

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Creek Park.

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Creek Park.

Safa Park.

We got to Safa Park by taking the metro to Business Bay, taking exit 2 on the far side of the motorway, then catching the S20 feeder bus to the park. There were also buses from Gubhiba Bus Station which may be more frequent. The S20 was not at all frequent. Safa Park had an entrance fee of 3AED. It's a large grassy park with lakes, flowers and walkways. It is possible to hire a boat on the lakes. This is a good place to go if you have children or if you are missing greenery. There were good views of the Dubai skyline from the park. On the opposite side of the road from entrance 2 of the park there is a McDonald's and a supermarket.

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Safa Park

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Safa Park

Restaurants and Bars.

The Aviation Club.

The Aviation Club is a collection of restaurants and sporting facilities. We went for the restaurants. There was a good selection of restaurants and they were set out very attractively. We ate in the Irish Village which is basically an Irish pub with typical Irish food. It serves real pork sausages and genuine bacon for anyone experiencing withdrawal symptoms. We went in the day and had to sit indoors due to the intense heat. I was told it is much busier in the cool of the evening when lots of people sit outside. Lots of choices for food there was a restaurant called the cellar, an Italian restaurant, a Persian restaurant, an Indian restaurant, a Costa Coffee and lots more. We walked here from GIGICO metro station. Take exit 1, turn right, get onto the same road as the Meridian Fairway Hotel and go straight down it past the mosque then turn left. There was a welcome air-conditioned bus stop about halfway on this walk which helped us to manage it. The 42 Airport Terminal 1 to Ghubaiba Bus Station passes here.

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The Aviation Club.

Transport in Dubai.

Dubai's new metro.

The new metro is very comfortable and clean. the red line was the first to open. The red line was open between Rashidiya Station and Ibn Battuta Station' The whole route took a bit over an hour. It was very useful for visiting certain sights:Emirates Towers, Burj Khalife, Dubai Mall with its aquarium, ice-skating rink, Mall of the Emirates with ski Dubai, Ibn Battuta Mall. Of course the metro is fully air-conditioned so a welcome respite from the heat. The green line opened later. On our last two visits there were two functioning metro lines. I would guess all the stations on the older red line that goes all the way to Jebel Ali are now open. Use this line for sights like the Dubai Mall/Burj Kahlife (plus shuttle bus), The Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai Marina. The new green line goes round the creek. It was open up to Dubai Health Care Station, not all the way to Creek Station on our last visit (April 2012). Dubai Health Care station is perfect for visiting the WAFI Mall; Al Ras Station is right next to the fish souq, vegetable souq and gold souq. Al Gubiba Station is great for the Creek and Shindaga Waterfront area.

Travelling around Dubai by bus.

Many buses go to the Gold Souk Bus Station which is close to the fish market and just across the road from the gold souk, perfume souk and spice souk. For example the number 4 which starts next to Rashidiya metro station passes by Emirates Station, GGICO Station and through Deira Town Centre before going to Gold Souk Station We were able to go to a good view point for photographing the Burj Al Arab Hotel, Jumeriah Beach Park and mosque using the number 8A bus which ran between Ibn Battuta Metro Station and the Gold Souk Bus Station. The 88 and 8 also went to the hotel, beach and mosque. The 88 runs between Deira City Centre and Dubai Internet City (on metro line). The number 47 goes from Rashidiya and Jumeriah Beach Park. The C10 runs from Hamriya Port via Al Karama metro station to Jumeriah Beach Park. To travel we bought a silver NOL card. it cost 20 diarhams 6 diarhams was for the card and there was 14 diarams of credit. It could be topped up at metro stations and some bus stations, bus stops. It was more flexible than the red NOL card as we could use it on the metro and on the buses. It could be used on some boat routes, too.
When you enter a bus, you have to place your card on a machine, you must place it there again just before getting off. Buses had good points and bad points. Good they are cheap; if you get a seat they are very comfortable; they are air-conditioned; many bus-stops are air-conditioned, too. They are useful to rest in even if you are not waiting for a bus as you can cool down from the searing heat there. Bad they are very slow partly because of too much traffic and partly because they go very roundabout routes.

A Welcome Sight.

We are trying to do Dubai by public transport. On some bus routes there are fantastic air-conditioned bus-stops enabling you to survive your journey. Bus number 8 which runs from Ibn Battuta to the Gold Souq Bus Station has many air-conditioned stops along its route.

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Air-conditioned Bus-stop.

Ladies Taxis.

Dubai certainly does not strike me as a dangerous place but if you are a woman travelling on your own, you may wish to use the pink roofed, pink clothed ladies only taxi service. You will see many of these taxis at the airport. Every time we arrive in Dubai we arrive at some ungodly time of the morning. With several hours to kill in the airport in the middle of the night before we could go to our hotel we had a good look around terminal 3 and discovered this sign about free shuttle buses to Al Ain and Abu Dahbi. I do not know what you have to show to use them i.e. do you need a flight to Dubai ticket, do you need a hotel booking in Abu Dahbi or Al ain, or can anyone use them? Sorry, too tired in the middle of the night to find out, but did take a photo of the schedule, though.

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Ladies' Taxi Service.

Luggage Lockers

This is more of a note to myself rather than a tip. Someone asked if there was left luggage provision at Dubai airport in a forum post recently and I could not remember. There is definitely a clearly marked left luggage facility in terminal 3 and I would assume probably in the other terminals, too.

Trams.

The long awaited tram is now opened. It opened in November 2014. To get to it go to Jumeriah Lake Towers Station or DAMAC Properties Station (This used to be called Marina Station) on the red line of the Dubai metro. At both of these you can interchange with the tram. You can use your NOL card on the tram. Before boarding put your card on the machine at the station and do the same when you get off. The tram is useful for going to the monorail which is what we used it for or for going around Dubai Marina. For the monorail change at Palm Jumeriah Station. For a route map check here.

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Trams.

Palm Jumeriah Monorail.

I had read negative things about the monorail but personally I liked it. It now links with the new tram. Get on the tram from the metro at Jumeriah Towers Station or DAMAC Properties Station and get off at Palm Jumeriah. The walk from the tram to the monorail is odd as you go through a huge car park, but at least it is indoors and air-conditioned. You cannot use your NOL card on the monorail. You must buy a ticket from a person or
a machine. Single tickets are 15 dirhams, return tickets are 25 dirhams. The monorail will take you up the trunk of the artificially created Palm Jumeriah Island to the Atlantis Hotel. From the monorail there are wonderful views of The Burj al Arab Hotel, the Dubai skyline, the Atlantis Hotel Beach and Waterpark. You will also see all the posh houses on Palm Jumeriah Island. There is still some construction going on.

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Palm Jumeriah Monorail.

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Palm Jumeriah Monorail.

Dangers and Annoyances.

Heatstroke.

Dubai is unbearably hot in summer. When we were there in July it went to 48 degrees. Try to make sure you spend only a short time outdoors. Keep escaping to air-conditioned places. If you are trying to walk anywhere, take frequent rests in air-conditioned bus stops. Wear a hat and high factor sun screen. Stock up on bottles of water.

Posted by irenevt 16:43 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Sharjah.

Day Trip to Sharjah.

sunny

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Detail from a mosque.

Getting there.

Previously we have always visited Dubai in summer when it is too hot to do anything, so we decided on our first winter visit that we should branch out and go to another emirate for a trip. We choose Sharjah because it was so close to Dubai, supposedly doable on foot and because I had heard it had a good heritage centre. Getting there was easy we went from Union Square. Take the metro there. If I remember correctly, you exit through exit 2. Buy your ticket before entering the bus. It costs 7 AED. Returns are not available. Buses also go from Deira City Centre and Al Ghubaiba among other places. The bus took us to Al Jubail Station and we were easily able to buy a ticket back. There were two ticket offices. One was for tickets to the Deira side of the Creek, the other for tickets to the Bur Dubai side of the Creek. This bus station is located right next to the fish souq, plant souq and vegetable souq. It is pretty close to the blue souq and the King Faisal Mosque.

Sharjah vs Dubai.

Sharjah is smaller than Dubai. It is also more conservative and has a total ban on alcohol, but it is more traditional with some interesting things to see. The main things to see in Sharjah are the souqs, the heritage area, the arts area, the corniche, some lovely mosques and the museum of Islamic art.

Fruit And Vegetable Market.

Sharjah fruit and vegetable market was right next to the bus station. I think our bus went to Al Jubail Bus station. The fruit and Vegetable souq is housed in a lovely building that runs parallel to the bus station. It is quite colourful and good for photos.

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Fruit And Vegetable Market.

The Fish Souq.

The fish souq is also right next to the bus station. Follow the smell of fish. There were some interesting specimens on sale here. Had I had access to a cooker I would not have minded cooking some. Good for photos.

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The Fish Souq.

The Plant Souq.

The Plant souq stretches along the main road from the bus station. I guess people drive up, buy plants and drive away. It was quite colourful, interesting and worth a look. Plus it is on the way into town.

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The Plant Souq.

The Blue Souq Or Central Souq.

Our bus passed this on our way to Sharjah. It was not far back from the bus station so we walked back to have a look. The building is lovely with beautiful tiles, You can buy all sorts of things inside: jewellery, cloth, clothes etc.

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The Blue Souq Or Central Souq.

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The Blue Souq Or Central Souq.

The Bird And Animal Souq.

This was on the walk from the bus station into the old part of town. There were two parts an outdoor livestock market with cows, goats and sheep and an indoor market with birds including falcons, dogs, cats, small rodents.

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The Bird And Animal Souq.

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The Bird And Animal Souq.

The King Faisal Mosque.

As non-Muslims we could not go inside, but this stunning mosque is located opposite the blue souq. We originally passed it on our way in to Sharjah on the bus. I insisted we walked back to take a closer look, as I thought it was a pretty stunning building.

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The King Faisal Mosque.

The Heritage Area.

In winter it is possible to walk to the Heritage Area from Al Jubail bus station, but I would take a taxi in summer. The Heritage area was a bit of a disappointment as so much of it was still under construction or restoration. Things available to see were two touristic style souqs, calligraphy exhibitions and the Bait Al Naboodah Heritage House, admission 5AED. The heritage house and the souqs were quite interesting and worth a look if you happen to be in Sharjah. The best thing about the Bait Al Naboodah was getting to try some cardomum flavoured coffee very tasty.

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The Heritage Area.

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The Heritage Area.

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The Heritage Area.

Sharjah Fort.

Sharjah Fort is located between the Sharjah Heritage Area and the Sharjah Arts Area. It is an interesting building from the ouside but it had a sign on the door saying it has been closed for restoration since March 2010, so we could not go inside.

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Sharjah Fort.

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Sharjah Fort.

The Corniche.

Although it only has a pedestrian walkway for part of the way, it is quite interesting to walk along the corniche. You will pass a beautifully tiled (possibly Iranian) mosque, the heritage area, the fort, the arts area, the Museum of Islamic Culture a lovely building and supposedly very interesting, but we did not have time to visit. We walked all the way to the lovely mosque near the Radisson Hotel. Many people were fishing and there were several boats. Quite pleasant if it is not too hot.

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The Corniche.

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The Corniche.

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The Corniche.

Posted by irenevt 05:25 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

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