Monday 16th February 2015.
I woke up at 5.10am not knowing what time the Adhaan was so I was waiting in bed worried that I might have missed the Fajr prayer but it was still dark outside. I went to do wudhu and I stayed in bed until 5.45am. At 5.55 we heard the Adhaan! We got up, ready and left the hotel to go to the masjid. It was so dark outside and rather cold but it felt good. We went to a smaller masjid around the corner but there was only one man praying and no congregation, I was a bit confused and I waited for the brother to finish his Salah and asked him why there was anyone here. He said that everyone goes to the bigger masjid at the top of the hill (Sehzade Camii). He was from Iran, I wished him farewell and we departed.
Samir and I took a deep breath and started walking up the huge hill. I was worried that the salah might have started already so I walked at a quicker pace.
20 minutes later we we arrived safe al hamdulilah. The salah didn’t start until 6.30am which was a long time but because it was such a different timing compared to the UK I didn’t know how to work this out.
Sitting in the masjid doing dhikr and making duas I could feel the ancient air caressing my face and the cold air of the morning was keeping me awake. It was such a beautiful moment that I found myself becoming teary. Alhamdulilah.
The breeze was even stronger during the salah and I remember it well as I was taking my time at each ruku, the air would fill up my lungs and a sense of freedom and safety came over me. I felt peace. May Allah accept our salah. Ameen
The prayer finished and we exchanged “Salaams” to the brothers of the masjid and went back to the hotel. I was quite emotional because of the turn this holiday was taking. The spiritual essence of it became stronger as the hours went by and I felt so at peace. It was just a dream come true hearing the adhaan all the time and never missing a Salah.
We arrived back at the hotel and went straight to bed. We woke up at 9.10am which left us with just 50mins to enjoy the breakfast. I rushed to the shower and went downstairs without my brother. I managed to eat 2 healthy plates of food (salads, bread etc…) which was great for my energy level. I made my way back to prompt my brother to wake up because Yassir was on his way to meet us at the hotel reception for the adventure.
We went downstairs and as promised Yassir and Bilal were there waiting for us. Bilal was our trusty tour guide for the day and was only 23 years of age (Masha Allah). He was also from Syria, Damascus. He fled the country to escape the brutal regime of Assad. May Allah give them victory. Ameen.
We left the hotel and made our way to Taksim! The centre of Istanbul, the heart of shopping, the Oxford Street of Istanbul….Ok I think you get the picture? haha it was mad to go from old architecture to shopping malls.
We arrived at Aksaray Square to get our Istanbul cards (Oyster type thing). We took 2 cards each and topped it up with 15 liras. We took the bus 187 to Taksim and started our day trip.
We arrived at Taksim and walked up the stairs outside the station to come out on the square.
This top of the hill district really looked Europeean and was quite beautiful and friendly. The architecture did boast an awesome vintage style.
I absolutely loved the tramway system it looked so cool and retro.
Bilal and Yassir said they needed to stop at the office to do some work which took 10 minutes, they asked if it was ok. I went into the building which was old and lovely. We took a one man size elevator which was odd and arrived at the 3rd floor when all of a sudden Medhat opened of the door. I didn’t expect him to be there! It was such a lovely surprise. We exchanged salaams and laughs. They took us to the main Tourism office and we took a sit. A few brothers from Egypt were there. They offered us green tea and the hospitality was amazing. Very warm and genuine Alhamdulilah.
Medhat (whilst Bilal and Yassir were discussing business) was teaching me arabic and I was so into it. I told him that I was learning Tajweed Ul Quran and how it changed my life.
They taught me how to say: My name is (Isme), Beautiful (Jamil) and Kaifa haluka (How are you) in arabic and they said: I will teach only if you teach me English. It was a deal
We left the office and made our way to the Masjid as it was time for Dhuhr.
We saw that little boy hanging out at the back of the tram. It was a shock. The conductor saw him in the mirror and stopped, he walked out of his seat and shouted at the boy who fled the scene haha.
Taksim is quite big and to find a mosque we had to walk to the end of street. The more we were walking the more the architecture took an arabesque look and we heard the Adhaan. We found a small mosque and entered whilst Bilal was doing wudhu.
We prayed and came out and arrived in the Ottaman area of Taksim called Gelata.
We saw the tower and wanted to go in but it was 25 liras and we were on a budget. We decided to give it a miss.
We passed some gorgeous fruits stalls and I took opportunity of the situation to catch these wonderful shots.
We stopped at Burger King to have lunch, everything is Halal so it was so easy to eat out.
The weather started changing but we still had in mind to go on a river boat cruise. It was 2pm so we kind of rushed through the busy streets towards Taksim square and took the train towards Emoni.
It was our first trip on a Turkish train, they were so clean I was so impressed.
We arrived back in Aksaray Square
We came out of the station and quickly walked through some districts with Bilal who knew the place by heart.
This time we took the tram to go to Emoni, the port.
We found the dock and boarded after paying for the fare.
It was so cold a waiter came and offered us some tea.
The air was so fresh.
It was beginning to get very cold and we arrived across the river in Kakaray which was even colder.
We walked around for a while and then took the ferry back to Emoni as it was raining.
We took the tram back to Aksaray and went straight to the hotel it was then dark and we said Salaam to Bilal.
We went to another restaurant to eat.
We then went home to sleep. A pretty easy day filled with intense emotions and lovely discoveries.
Before departing, Yassir sent us a message saying that tomorrow there would be snow!