Istanbul: a post reflection

Encompassing many cultures and ethnicities, Istanbul is a unique metropolis representing its unique identity. During this trip, I had the pleasure of meeting people from different backgrounds: Turkish, Kurdish, Levantine, Armenian, Greek and the list continues. Despite how some Western viewers portray Turkey as a typical post-colonial Islamic state, I found out how, on the contrary, Turkey is much more liberal and diverse in its social policies. It could be felt just by walking around the city, moving from a more orthodox area such as Eyüp Sultan to a more western place like the fancy pubs in Kadikoy, where hijabs and cigarettes were a normal combination to see.

As this trip included an academic experience with the Lecturers of the University of Beykoz, we could juxtapose our analysis of theories with theirs and ask questions concerning Turkey’s current geopolitical and economic situation. Overall it has been time well-spent time at the university, where we also had informal chats with the lecturers and expressed our perceptions on the future of Turkey and the European Union.

During the excursion with the guide, we could visit the different neighbourhoods of Istanbul, where we could spot the legacy of the Byzantine times and the Ottoman Empire. What I liked about the experience with the guide was the understanding of why certain places are called the way they are. For example, ‘Taksim’ comes from the verb ‘distribute’, hence Taksim Square was a place where water was distributed to the population. 

As we also had time to explore the city by ourselves, my classmates and I decided to visit the Basilica of Hagia Sophia, which has recently turned back into a mosque. It represents the city’s timeline from Constantinopolis to modern Istanbul. The transition from a Christian to an Islamic empire is still tangible as the building represents both distinctive aspects of Christianity and Islam.

Finally, although it might sound unrealistic, one of the parts I liked the most about this trip was crossing the Bosphorus by boat. While crossing the sea, it gives you 20 minutes to escape the city to reflect on the journey and perhaps experience some more profound thoughts while sipping a cup of Turkish tea, with a fantastic view of both its European and Asian sides.

Soufiane Khald

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