“A misbahah, known in Turkey as tespih, is a string of wooden or plastic beads used by Muslims to keep track of their prayers.”
After a brief online search, I finally get the meaning of this beautiful string of purple beads that I brought from Istanbul. Turns out it is not just a nice necklace, but the Muslim version of a rosary.
Looking at it now many good memories come to my mind.
Kneeling on the floor, in absolute silence, my hair covered in a pink scarf, surrounded by a dozen of turkish old ladies, all of us confined to the tiny space reserved for women in a gender-segregated mosque, of a gender-segregated religion and culture.
I recall the bittersweet feeling that invaded me in that moment. I guess being a feminist can flavour some moments in its own special way.
How unfair it was that men could enjoy the dazzling beauty of those mosques in all their splendour, while women were squeezed in those small basement-like sections, having only a glimpse of it through the holes of carved-wooden partitions!
And there I was, with these mixed feelings of anger and amazement, head-to-the-ground, blending in, when a shy girl suddenly approached me.
‘Mashallah!’ – exclaimed her, grasping my face with her hands on my cheeks.
A sweet monologue in broken English clarified my startled brain and confused expression. She thought I was turkish so she was addressing me a compliment in her language.
Everything clear, she was curious and wanted to know all about me. Excited, she introduced me to her group of friends, and this small gathering was so much fun and rebellion that even included a group selfie in the mosque. The party did not last long. Soon enough, the noise we were making attracted disapproving stares from all directions.
Istanbul is packed with beautiful monuments. Facing each other, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque ensure a magical atmosphere day and night.
The Strait of Istanbul (also known as Bosphorus) is a narrow, internationally significant waterway that forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, dividing Turkey in its european and asian parts.
Along both shorelines, the Bosphorus has about 600 waterfront houses built during the Ottoman period.
A mini cruise here will provide you what I believe to be the best way to appreciate the most significant landmarks, including several Ottoman palaces, mosques, museums and universities.
Public ferries that cross the strait connect Eminönü to Anadolu Kavagi.
To me, an important part of traveling is to taste the local food and drinks. This said, and after a night out with a taste of Raki (the traditional turkish anise-flavoured brandy that tastes like cough drops), Eminönü seemed like the perfect place to try the iconic fish sandwich, Balik Ekmek, served straight from the boat on which it was prepared.
And while my friend looked distrustful to the entire trout stuffed inside the bread she was holding, I happily devoured the delicacy.
The result was a near-death experience of getting a huge fish bone suck in my throat.
But, as people say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and after the fussy procedure of my friend removing it from my tonsil, right there in the middle of the square, our adventure continued.
Another delicious treat that you can find on the streets of Istanbul is Midye Dolma, which are stuffed mussels with aromatic rice, herbs and spices. I would buy a box of those on the way back to the hostel at 4 in the morning, after a night of dancing at the lively bars around Galata Tower.
Yes, you figured it right. I was not sleeping much. In my defence, no matter how much time you spend in this city, you will always feel like it was not enough. Trust me on this one. Thankfully I had it all under control (or at least I thought so). I would sleep deeply on the eleven-hour bus ride to Cappadocia! All sorted!
My plan was great, although a little (let’s say very) naive. I was not expecting to get seats on the last row of a fully crowded bus with no air conditioning, no seatbelts and no wi-fi as we were promised.
And there I was, a grumpy me, enduring a never-ending ride to this region of exceptional natural wonders. Fairy chimneys and colourful hot-air balloons roaming the skies was all I could think about, expectations were high.
Unfortunately 2019 was not my luckiest year, so I can proudly affirm that I am probably the only person on Earth that was in Cappadocia and did not see a single balloon in the air. Why? Because when we arrived it was snowing non-stop.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my time there. After a sip of a disgusting turkish coffee we rented a car and hit the road.
With Brazilian funk playing in the car to keep us awake, we were thrilled with the hundreds of spectacular minaret-like forms of the eroded rocks of Göreme! Competing in its beauty with the work of nature were the houses, churches and monasteries carved in the soft rocks of volcanic deposits.
Driving from one ghost village to another, seeing maybe one person every two hours of travel, we managed to explore the whole area by ourselves, and to have a great lunch and a tea in a tent lost somewhere in the desert.
Long story short, Turkey is an unforgettable place where the people are nice and warming, the food is delicious, the culture unique and the history worth knowing.
Wishing everyone safe travels,