Sometimes life is filled with the best kind of surprises. I got a call last week from a friend in Istanbul who needed a bit of help with a tourism project. She asked if I would be willing to leave Morocco for a few weeks to come to Turkey – those of you who know me, know that my answer was most definitely “Yes. When do you want me there?”
I was thinking it would be in a month or a few weeks but instead she answered – can you come this weekend? I checked with my wife and she gave the green light – after all, it is work and not just cheap holidays to Turkey, but in fact it is always a pleasure for me to come to Turkey.
In particular, Istanbul in Winter is a magical place. The crowds are smaller, the city is still completely and overwhelmingly exotic and for me – going to Istanbul is like going home to Bellingham, Washington or Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s nice to go home now and then.
And best of all, nobody asks me if I’m Muslim, if I pray, or if I know the shahada. Nobody looks at me like I am a demon as I order a beer. Nobody cares what I do – they are too worried about what they are doing – unless the two merge and I look like I might buy a carpet, but they rarely take me for a buyer.
As I walk around this city during the time I have off from the tourism projects, I remember why I fell so deeply in love with this place. It’s cold, but I don’t mind in the least. It’s not as cold as the inside of our uninsulated concrete house in Morocco.
Jumping on the ferry and going across the Bosphorus, walking across the Galata Bridge, seeing the crowds marching through the city carrying their football club’s banners in the hopes that their fandom will bring a win, drinking raka with fish (rakabalik!) and struggling to get my Turkish to come back as an amused shopkeeper smiles at me in approval for even trying.
The smell of the Bosphorus, the smiles of Turks passing by, the sounds of the traffic, the slightly worried looks of tourists as they are herded into souvenir and carpet shops and the sound of wheelie bags being dragged across the cobblestones. All of these things make me love this city. Maybe I can figure out how to stay this time – maybe I can get my wife and daughter here for good. Maybe I can find a place to rent in Kadikoy and a job to supplement my writing income.
I’m working on buying a small house in Morocco to turn into a writer’s residence and that we can stay in when we go to visit my wife’s family. I’m trying to get my wife a resident visa so she can live in the United States – but that’s for her – I want to live in Turkey. Oh, I’m so happy to be back in this, the queen of all cities. The most magnificent city in the world.
From Sultanahmet to Taksim – the fresh yogurt and cheese, the smit (like pretzels and bagels had a baby), kebab shops, doner, and the wonderful melody of Turkish language. Restaurants galore, coffee shops (even Starbucks and I’m happy to see it), grocery stores you can wander through isles, book shops, cinemas, cafes, and so many language schools because all the Turks want to learn English right now.
If you’d like to visit Turkey or Istanbul, contact me using the form below and I will gladly hook you up with the right people, companies or destinations and any advice I can provide.