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Istanbul is beautiful with lots of red roofs and minarets everywhere. We stayed at the Anemon Galata, a charming older hotel which has been boutique-ified. It’s on one of the “7 hills of Istanbul,” and by Galata tower, which was created by the Genoans during their occupation of part of the city.

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Our hotel was on the western side of the Istanbul — the side that is part of Europe. Mehmet and Fuson, Oz’s parents, live on the eastern side, which is part of Asia. Istanbul straddles the two continents, and has a European side and an Asian side. The freeway sign says “Welcome to Asia.” One day we took a boat tour of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus River, which divides Europe and Asia. The sights were amazing, but the photographs weren’t. From the boat, we were able to see all the major large mosques including Aya Sophia and the Blue Mosque as well as structures such as an art nouveau mansion serving as the Egyptian Embassy.

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Our friends were very hospitable. We had many wonderful meals made by Fuson, Ozgur and Pinar’s mother (with the occasional meatball made by Mehmet, their father). We ate kebabs, cucumbers, aubergines, tomatos, Anatolian honey, sour cherries, a ubiquitous white cheese, and Raki (Turkey’s answer to Ouzo) on a daily basis.

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Dinner with Oz’s family on the eve of his wedding was truly special. There must have been at least 25-30 of his family members crammed into their living room that evening for the big feast.

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I snuck a photo of this niche in a room of Topkapi palace. The inverse geometric forms are just gorgeous to me — simple and modern, evocative of Buckminster Fullerian geometry. And the stark white is a nice foil to some of the elaborate painting, tiling, typography, etc.

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This is the beautiful “Tree of Life” pattern.

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Which happened to be on the outside wall of this special room:

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After leaving Topkapi Palace we happened to see a child on the street dressed in a fancy white dress-like garment and white pointy cap. We later learned that this unfortunate child was wearing his “circumcission outfit” for his “special ceremony” that day. Apparently kids are circumcised at age 5 up to age 8. So they actually REMEMBER it.

After the Circumcission Room, we saw some more amazing tiles. I didn’t read up on it, but Turkey obviously has an amazing tile and pattern tradition. You can see the mix of Eastern and Western motifs in the tiles and other ornamental elements of the palace.

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Ozgur’s friend Sebil was our tour guide for a day.

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She took us to the Blue Mosque.

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After that we walked to Aya Sophia.

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I’d wanted to see Aya Sophia for years. The forms are such an amazing combination of East and West.

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There was a contemporary tile design exhibit on at Aya Sophia, including this one by Zaha Hadid:

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Magic towels were procured at the Grand Bazaar.

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