Not just East meets West: A tribute to Istanbul

Protesters in Istanbul

Istanbul is not a city that can be summed up easily.

Cat in Galata, Istanbul Men making baklava in Istanbul

There was a particular confusion that I felt there, the strange experience of seeing one thing that felt so Western, after seeing another that had felt so Eastern, but being immersed in a place that was very clearly neither. I suppose it makes sense, as you frequently hear Istanbul called a mix of the East and the West. But that line doesn’t actually do the city any justice.

Yes, Istanbul is a city at the crossroads, with elements of European, Asian, and Middle Eastern influences in it – but to call it a mix of those is to degrade Istanbul’s identity. It implies that Istanbul is nothing without being defined by its neighbors.

In reality, though, this city is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Light in the Ayasofya Museum, Istanbul Tombs behind the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Medallions and a seraphim in the Ayasofya or Hagia Sophia Museum, Istanbul

Take the Aya Sofya. First built as a Byzantine church, later turned into an Ottoman mosque, it has both the Western element of Christianity and the Eastern element of Islam, but this building can’t be compared to any other church or mosque in the world. Is it the the dwarfing sense of space underneath its dome, the span of history depicted in its mosaics, the massive rondells of Islamic calligraphy hanging on the walls – or simply the unique combination of all three in one place?

The Aya Sofya is pure Istanbul. It couldn’t be anything else.

Afternoon light in Istanbul

A matyr shrine in Istanbul

Because of the violence and revolt taking place, Istanbul has been in my thoughts a lot lately. For information on the protests, please read here or here, or follow #direngeziparki on Twitter.

Istanbul captivated me, and for those there and in other Turkish cities currently fighting to express their voice and protect their space, I offer a tribute to the allure and the power of this city.

Street art in Istanbul

Street art in Istanbul

Street art in Istanbul Street art in Istanbul

A tribute to the street art, the rainbow stencils, the intricate wheatpastes, the sly tags and the massive murals.

The Blue Mosque at sunset, Istanbul

A balcony with Turkish flag in Istanbul

Datlı Maya in Istanbul, a bakery in Turkey Momo cafe in Istanbul

A tribute to the look of the streets, the minarets rising over rooftops, the tiny alleys winding through Beyoglu, the hidden vintage stores and cafes in bright facades.

Rounds of sesame bread simit in Istanbul

Traditional Turkish breakfast in Istanbul

Fruit stand in Istanbul

Fruit seller in Istanbul Baklava in Istanbul

Tea on the street in Istanbul

Especially – oh yes – a tribute to the food, the pyramids of Turkish delight and sugary sweet baklava, the rounds of sesamed simit, the juice sellers with piles of pomegranates, the ubiquitous tea in tiny glasses and the breakfasts of cheese and honey and bread and olives.

Mosque at sunset in Istanbul

An Ottoman palace along the Bosphorus, Istanbul

An ornate gate in Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Silhouette of a mosque at sunset, Istanbul

To the architecture, the domes of mosques dotted over the hills, the Ottoman palaces along the Bosphorus, the marble and wood and brick and stone.

A mosaic in Chora Church and Kariye Museum, Istanbul

A mosque in Istanbul Frescoes in the Chora Church and Kariye Museum, Istanbul

To the mosques and the churches, the mosaics and frescoes.

A fishing boat on the Bosphorus, Istanbul

Looking out over a secret beach on the Princes Islands, Turkey

Waves of the Bosphorus

To the sea, the wind, and the waves.

Marxism in Istanbul

Students protesting in Istanbul

To the spirit of resistance.

ADORABS A man smoking hookah in Istanbul

Acro-yoga in Istanbul

A friendly baker in Istanbul

And a tribute to the people, the men playing backgammon, the students browing flea markets, the guys smoking hookah, the protesters on Istiklal Caddesi, the kids playing in the streets.

Oh, and to the young woman in Galata, with short dyed hair and neck tattoos yelling ‘As-salam alaykum!’ to her friends. She seemed pretty awesome.

Vintage records in Istanbul Tiles in Istanbul

Colourful lanterns in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque at sunset, Istanbul

A tribute to Istanbul, powerful and strange, ancient and alluring.

Stay strong, be safe, be bold.

(My love and adoration for this city translates to far too many photos to cram into one post; for the full set, check out the slideshow on Flickr!)

16 Responses to Not just East meets West: A tribute to Istanbul

  1. Kirstin 13 June, 2013 at 13:03 #

    Your pictures are amazing! I was just in Istanbul the week before all the protests started (actually, there were a few while I was there, but just some small ones) and it’s been so strange to watch the news and read articles about what’s going on there because I was just right there! I hope everything turns out well. I’ve been posting photos from my trip for the past few weeks too. Definitely a lovely tribute.

    • Naomi Alyssa 13 June, 2013 at 16:37 #

      LOVE your last post on the street art in Istanbul!! Killer! xx

  2. Kirsten 15 June, 2013 at 12:48 #

    Awe what an awesome post :) I loved Istanbul more than words can express. Your pictures are fantastic too!

    • Naomi Alyssa 22 June, 2013 at 14:33 #

      Thank you kindly! It really is a special city.

  3. Bruno 17 June, 2013 at 22:53 #

    Awesome article! Really touching considering the protests going on right now.

  4. Kristia 19 June, 2013 at 10:45 #

    Love your photos! Istanbul looks beautiful!

  5. Candace 21 June, 2013 at 23:22 #

    Naomi – there is only one word I can describe this post with: STUNNING. Your photos are incredible, and I love how *your* love for the city just shines through them! Thanks so much for sharing these – I was already contemplating going to Turkey in autumn, but this just nails my decision :)

    • Naomi Alyssa 22 June, 2013 at 14:37 #

      WELL…my job here is done. That really means a lot coming from you, so thank you thank you :) Have fun – you’ll love it…and will undoubtedly get some killer sketches!!

  6. This Battered Suitcase 22 June, 2013 at 14:27 #

    I’m coming back to this post for the third time because the photos are so beautiful. You really are a talented woman, I love your blog. Hope to run into you again very soon! x

    • Naomi Alyssa 23 June, 2013 at 14:34 #

      Thank you lovely! That means a lot. I have a feeling our paths will cross again in some crazy location!! ;)

  7. TryTheWorld 28 June, 2013 at 04:16 #

    Wow, what incredible pictures! Istanbul looks like it was quite the adventure for you. So many different things to learn and explore. We hope to make it out there soon ourselves! Safe travels!

  8. Amanda 29 June, 2013 at 01:27 #

    Love these photos, they make me want to go to Istanbul! The architecture is amazing. I will be following you along and living vicariously (for now!) through your adventures! :)

  9. Esther 8 October, 2014 at 17:52 #

    I am so happy to be reading this post. I was just in Istanbul, in August. It was my second time there. The first time I stayed 5 days, now I stayed a week. And I still haven’t had enough. I keep discovering so many fantastic things there, I am just so drawn to the different cultures, people, neighbourhoods and ooooh the food :-)
    Thank you for sharing your view and your great photos!

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