A Ruby in the Crown. Night time view of the Haya Sofia as seen from the hotel terrace.
We have come back to Istanbul. This time to the old quarter ��" Sultanahmet. It was mid-day upon arrival at our hotel, a historic prison that once housed enemies of a long ago Sultan, now reinvented as a sumptuous Four Seasons. Our room would have comforted any royal, old or new. Having started that day in the dusty hills of Cappadocia, we felt truly in need of a good scrub. So, we headed off to one of the ancient Hamams. Only steps away, it was an easy walk. Deep within the domed marble bath, we lay on heated slabs and let the steam loosen those layers of caked in dust and ease our tired joints. Slap! “Stand up lady!” This strong scrub woman meant business.
She laid out the sheet, had me lie on top and went to work. With pails of water, loofah scrub and billowing clouds of soap bubbles, I was exfoliated within a layer of my derma, top to bottom and side over side. Squeaky clean we were left alone to lie in the steam. Lighter and whiter, I drifted off to sleep.
Blue Mosque behind an early morning fountain wash.
Later, back outside, we wandered the old alleys behind the Blue Mosque. As we made our way slowly back to the hotel, we stopped to listen to the prayer call of the Imam and gazed at the Egyptian Obalisk that had been gifted to Alexander the Great. Timeless sounds ��" and time-ago sights…
It was a late afternoon sun that led us back to the hotel.
We spent that evening dining on the rooftop terrace. Here we felt wrapped by the hotel’s rich, warm comforts and caring attention, marked by the perfect comfort food that warmed our tummies and the soft wool shawls that protected our shoulders from the cooling night air. To our right, the colours of the setting sun turned the Haya Sofia’s walls a glowing red. To our left, the Blue Mosque was a razor crisp silhouette. Topkapi Palace ringed a view behind that stretched out to the Sea of Marmara. Could there be a better box seat on these wonders of an ancient world?
Ancient Constantinople's water storage cistern.
Our next day began and ended in the company of our dear friend Anet. In between we explored every nook and cranny of the Grand Bazaar.
No stall left unturned, no alley unexplored and no wares unexamined. That said, we were completely successful at escaping the clutches of the rug merchants. The highlight that must be mentioned is our time spent at a wonderful shop, outside the covered bazaar, on the grand boulevard of Nuruosmaniye; SOFA is a treasure laden boutique filled with contemporary art and treasured antiquities. Kasif, the proprietor, is himself, a resource of knowledge as vast as is wares. The beautiful Perrihan, his valued right hand, is tireless in helping you find just that thing you never knew existed, but now, cannot live without. We dined that evening with Anet at a tres chic restaurant that was perched on an embankment overlooking the Mosque of the Dolmabachie and the Bosphorus.
Underneath the mutli-domed layer cake of the Blue Mosque.
Over the next two days, we trailed through the highlights of Sultanahmet. We rose at dawn to have the view of the Blue Mosque that seemed for us alone. We climbed the levels of the Haya Sofia. And descended to the watery depths of the ancient cistern. We walked the gardens of Topkapi, got lost in the night blackened alleys of the Spice Bazaar and watched old men gamble at backgammon and found our way home again. We used up every last second of our stay, not wanting to waste a moment, but still there is far more to see and do than we could possibly accomplish. We must return.