Published on April 13, 2011 | by Andrea Guerriero


Istanbul – Between Sacred and Profane

Istanbul spreads on the Bosphorus Strait and this is the only city in the world that is part of two continents, Asia and Europe. Traveling to Istanbul means entering into contact with a multifaceted reality, with noisy but very friendly people, immersed in a long and illustrious history made by the Greeks and Romans, Byzantines, Ottoman Turks and more, in a permanent dichotomy between sacred and profane.

The sacred landmark par excellence in Istanbul is absolutely the Sultanahmet Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque. Masterpiece of elegance and harmony, this Islamic place of worship boasts six minarets and its walls are almost entirely covered with tiles painted with floral motifs in which the predominant color is blue. Another great building of the city – actually one of the greatest in the world, is the Church of the Holy Wisdom, aka Hagia Sophia, a former Byzantine church and Ottoman mosque which is now a museum. Other sacred sites worth visiting are the Beyazit Mosque, the Church of the Holy Apostles, the Church of the Pantocrator (Zeyrek Camii) and many other mosques and churches more or less well maintained and all still retaining all the magic of reverence.

Something definitely on the border between sacred and profane in the whole of Turkey, but more than ever in Istanbul are the Hammams. Thermal complexes where Muslims reach their state of ritual purity, tourists cannot leave this city without enjoying the thrill of the original Turkish Bath. In the central area, the most popular among visitors are the Cemberlitas and Cagaloglu – which is listed in the 100 Placed To See Before You Die.

And then, plunge into the profane with plenty of opportunities for shopping and partying. The Grand Bazaar is a haven for shoppers, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. In addition to colorful ceramics and carpets, the Grand Bazaar includes also two mosques, hammams, fountains, and many restaurants and cafes. Moreover, Nuruosmaniye Caddesi, east of the Bazaar, is lined with jewelry stores, and fine art boutiques; get pleasure also from the Egyptian spice Market, the markets of Tahtakale and all the modern shopping complexes here and there around the city.
And how not to mention the vibrant night life in Istanbul!
On the European side you can enjoy it at Taksim/Beyoglu, Nisantasi, Levent – along the Bosphorus and Sultanahmet. On the Asian Side, you will find Kadikoy and Bagdat Street. On Istiklal Caddesi you’ll find rock clubs, jazz clubs, R&B and Hip Hop Clubs. The place to be for the rich and famous is the Club Reina, a cruise deck-like club with a glittering Bosphorus view.

Istanbul is one of the most visited places in Turkey and also has the distinction of being the most populous city in Europe, with more than 12 million inhabitants. The territorial division matches with that of the locals’ lifestyle, as Muezzins and Muslim customs and clothing coexist with the European fashion and manners. For this reason, Istanbul has been the European Capital of Culture in 2010.

Photo by Kıvanç Niş

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Andrea, a travel blogger, web programmer, seo apprentice and amateur photographer based in Milan. I love reading, I love music. I love to travel but only if I leave on a mission! I've been traveling through most of Europe and I love writing about it. I love photography, especially as a way to document experiences, places, events. My Nikon D300 camera is always with me, and it helps me in sharing my life with the rest of the world. Getting in touch with new people, different life styles and foreign traditions, and write about it, is all I can ask for.

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