December 31st, 2012
- As part of my MBA program, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Dubai to meet a Global Business course requirement. Before I arrived in Dubai, I toured around Istanbul, Turkey and almost all of Jordan over the course of 6 days. The time in Istanbul and Jordan was not a part of the MBA program, it was just personal travel. I traveled with my good friend, Mike Crow, who is also in the MBA program. Mike and I were in the same fraternity at Drake University and we coach a few hockey teams together in Des Moines.
Our first destination in the Middle East was Istanbul, Turkey. We chose Istanbul simply because it was the cheapest round trip flight over to the Middle East from Chicago ($550 each!). We had a 4 hour layover in Amsterdam on the way over, but during that first leg of the journey over the Atlantic, we were lucky enough to be upgraded to business class! 3-course meals and seats that recline to be almost completely horizontal. It was a fantastic start to the trip!
Once we arrived in Istanbul, we jumped on the metro train system and
made our way to the hotel. The trains run down the middle of the city streets just inches from cars and pedestrians. We quickly learned to remain very aware of them while we were walking around the city. It was about 6pm by the time we arrived at the hotel, so we just put our bags down and started exploring right away. We were in Old Town of Istanbul which is on the European side of the city and has many historical sites and museums. We wandered through narrow streets and into the spice market before we decided to sit down for dinner. After dinner we went back to the hotel for a short nap, but woke up around 11:30pm in time to watch the New Years Eve fireworks over the river from the top floor of our hotel. After the fireworks and a couple beers, we called it a night as we were pretty tired from the flight and were a bit jet lagged.
The next morning we were up by about 7 for breakfast, and then began to explore the city in the daylight. We started at the Sophia Mosque (Hagia Sophia) which was only a few
blocks from our hotel. This was originally built as a Christian church in 537 but then converted to a mosque in 1453. It is an enormous building with incredible history. The Islamic religion does not allow depictions of people in mosques as it distracts worshipers. Instead, they use symbols and Arabic writing to represent God, Allah, and the Prophet Muhammad. However, under many of the walls remain the original artwork from the Christian church. These huge mosaics are very impressive from up close.
After the Hagia Sophia, we went across the street to the Blue Mosque which is still an active mosque today. Before entering the mosque, we had to take off our shoes and leave them in bins outside. This huge mosque is essentially one giant room. The carpet has lines on it to tell worshipers where to stand. Women pray in the back of the mosque in a separate gated off area. While this seems very prejudice towards women from a westerner's mindset, this is completely normal in Islamic culture. The reason for this is because if women were intermingled with men during the prayers, there would be too much distraction for the worshiping men.
of the Blue Mosque were several ancient obelisks that were brought over from Egypt during the days of Constantinople (the name of the city before it became Istanbul). After that we each grabbed a chicken schwarma (like a chicken wrap) from a small store and headed back to the hotel. We had to make our way to the airport to catch our flight to Amman, Jordan which was leaving at 2pm. We knew that we'd have one more day to tour the city more on our way back to the States. January 12th, 2013
- After our MBA trip in Dubai was over, Mike and I needed to make our way back to Istanbul to catch the return trip to Chicago. We found a direct flight from Dubai to Istanbul very early in the morning and arrived in Turkey around 8am on the morning of the 12th. This time, we landed at the city's smaller airport which is technically located on the continent of Asia. We got a shuttle to take us to our hotel (same as where we stayed the first time) and it was very neat to cross the bridge over the water and go
from Asia in to Europe.
Once again, we set our bags down and began exploring. We followed a walking tour from one of Mike's travel books which led us down some side streets that many tourists do not typically see. It was a very cold and rainy day, but the streets and markets were still packed with people. The Turks are much more persistent sales people than anywhere else we visited in the Middle East. They can tell we're foreigners and immediately start speaking English to us to try to entice us to buy their products. During our walk through the markets we also found a hidden mosque that very few people know about. The entire interior was covered with blue tile. After lunch, we went and explored the Archeological Museum which was also very close to our hotel.
Being a little dragged down from the cold and the rain, and knowing we had another very early flight the next day (6am), we called it a night around 8 and prepared for our trip back to the States.
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