After the rather disappointing visit of the Blue Mosque (half of which is under construction), we visit the Süleymaniye Mosque, which many tourists consider more beautiful than the Blue Mosque (well, only when it is under construction).
before that, you have to have breakfast first. JB takes me to the Lebanese restaurant he likes a lot: Arada Café. This one is on the way to his gym and it’s not uncommon for him to take something to eat there while I cook for myself at home (diet obliges). For 49TL/person, we are entitled to all that, and obviously, we couldn’t finish everything.
belly, we leave to discover this beautiful mosque which isn’t very far from the university of Istanbul. The streets are suddenly more animated and people (or rather students) have all eyes glued to their smartphone, while cars honk their horn to pass in the small streets.
A huge building appears out of nowhere, and the further we go, the more impressed we become by its size. The inner courtyard is really incredible.
However, I thought the inside would be bigger. Maybe we are banned from some parts reserved only for Muslims? The central chandelier, which goes down super low, remains impressive by its size. Here, the ceilings are nicely decorated but less beautiful than the pictures I saw of the Blue Mosque. There are cartouches with Arabic calligraphy in every corner, it’s too beautiful!
There is a staircase that leads to who-knows-where, and a space dedicated exclusively to women wishing to pray quietly. The Mihrab isn’t clearly visible in the photo, but it is made of marble, with blue ceramics around it (with superb Arabic calligraphy, still). As usual, all women must veil themselves, and the central part is forbidden to non-Muslims.
Outside, there is a beautiful view of the Bosphorus, the roofs of a museum, and access to the tombs of sultans, princesses etc..
Located on the tip of the Seraglio, an eminence that dominates the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, the palace of Topkapı was the residence of the sultans for four centuries from the capture of Constantinople. It extends over 70 hectares and four interior courtyards, laid out by successive rulers with gardens, kiosks and fountains. In the palace’s heyday, there were as many as 4,000 people here, including a thousand women in the harem.
Source : Le Routard
Hagia Sophia, together with the Topkapi Palace, is one of the must-see places in Istanbul. Having been disappointed by the must-see (because of the works) and pleasantly surprised by the optional visits, we visit Topkapi Palace 10 days before our departure from Istanbul, just to say “we visited it”. And unfortunately, the visit is a disappointing shouia. Because the treasure room, the best of the best of this palace, is under renovation. Here it is!
We arrive there in the early afternoon and there is already a long queue in front of the ticket office. And nobody, but absolutely PERSONAL, in front of the automatic machines. So we buy the tickets, timidly, at the ticket machines with our credit card, and wonder if the queue is for entering the palace, or for the tickets. In the end, the queue is just for the tickets. So we enter in record time: 2 minutes.
I heard about the treasure room of the palace so we immediately cross all the courtyards looking for the place where there is more queues (the palace can be visited one way or the other, and there is only one entrance so we have to come back anyway). We end up finding a rather long queue. 20 minutes later, we finally enter and discover that :
- it isn’t the treasure room because it is closed for renovation
- it is the room of the relics of the saints
When we see the cane of Moses, the footprint and the coat of Mohammed, the pot of Abraham…. in perfect condition, we are stunned! We suddenly feel super privileged to have seen this and super sad not to be able to appreciate it as a practitioner who would have been too moved to see all these objects mentioned in the Koran, in the Bible?
We then visit other pavilions. I’m surprised not to see so many fountains. Or are they all being renovated?
In any case, the ceilings are sumptuous, and so are the ceramics.
In the library, there is a wax statue that is truer than life.
We return to the 2nd courtyard to visit a room full of watches and clocks. It is extremely pretty! Pictures are forbidden so I just show you the outside.
Just to the left of this building is the entrance to the harem. The visit costs 35TL/person more. And half of the rooms of the harem is under renovation (again!). Here is the dormitory. Frankly, it isn’t luxury. Imagine the sultan’s concubines sleeping side by side in this (big) room, on both floors. It is so unfair, especially when you see the large room that the mother-in-law is entitled to.
On the other hand, the room where the sultan and his concubines meet for parties, dancing etc. it sends a big bang! It is the most beautiful room of the harem.
Some pictures of the harem. Well, I was expecting a more glamorous universe but I think it’s related to the closing of half of the harem for renovation. Because it’s really too small to fit 1000 women.
And the sultan’s room is extremely pretty too, thanks to this impressive ceiling.
We are told that the sultan does not take so much advantage of his harem, because it isn’t he who decides to spend time with this or that concubine. It is his mother who manages the harem. And beware of the one who wants to monopolize the attention of the sultan! Na!
We end this visit by the restaurant at the end of the 4th courtyard overlooking the Bosphorus. The most beautiful room of the restaurant is reserved for groups (too bad).
And next to the exit, you can see the miniature of the whole palace, it’s much more beautiful seen from above than on the spot, huh.
We will then spend 30 minutes at the Carpet Museum, between Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. If the first two halls aren’t as pretty as the stores of the carpet dealers next door, the third and last hall is really pretty, with several carpets more than 3 meters wide. The visit is pleasant (10TL/person) but not essential.
We then visit the tombs of the sultans just behind the Sainte sophie… but we have visited too many tombs of this type these last weeks and finally, everything looks the same (sorry).
We are there in the middle of a prayer call and discover that the songs are live. But on top of that, we can see the “gentleman who sings” (sorry, I don’t know the exact term) live, just behind the Sainte Sophie, with a Turkish style moustache, a microphone and a speaker pointing at him. Moreover, as the Blue Mosque isn’t very far away, there is another gentleman singing on that side, and the two actually answer each other. Woooow, that’s too good!
quickly go back to the big bazaar and luckily this time we manage to find the courtyard where dozens of hard-working jewelers are. In fact, at first I thought they were just jewelry sellers because the jewelry in the store seems quite ordinary to me, typically the kind of jewelry that is mass-produced. And then I look at the back of the store and I see a workbench and a gentleman doing some welding. I’m really thrilled! The jewelers in the Grand Bazaar are very famous, there are even books on them. And they have the technicality and know-how to make any jeweler in Place Vendôme pale in comparison.
As if by chance, while walking, on the other side of the European bank(Karakoy district), I stop in front of a jewelry store and instantly melt down for a solitary ring. I, who hates solitary rings, have finally found THE ring I need (I have small hands and very thin fingers). I push the door and discover with joy that not only is the price softer than in France, but the designer is a former jeweler from the Grand Bazaar. Note: I took jewelry courses at two jewelers so I am very sensitive to the work of a craftsman.
I ask him questions to find out if he really makes his jewelry or just the designer (because his workbench near the cash register is that of an engraver, not a jeweler). And I discover that the main workbench is upstairs. He does some of the wax jewelry (lost wax casting, that’s why we’re not going to call him a jeweler, just a jeweler), but to be able to make so many different settings, in addition to the engraving, he must be damn good . He is even quoted in a book and has an article on Marie Claire Maison de Turquie.
The ring is too big for me, so he offers to adjust it for me. In 10 minutes.
At the same time, ten girls enter the store. Apparently, it is a bride-to-be accompanied by her girlfriends. And she buys all her rings here (including the ring for the groom). I think that the brides-to-be will find their happiness in Istanbul, not only are there custom-made wedding dresses at an unbeatable price, but a personalized ring, made by a jeweler of such incredible technicality, will cost much less than a ring produced in France.
Well, I know you’re dying to ask me his name: It’s Manuk ‘s Workshop https://manuksworkshop.com His site is less up to date than his Instagram: https: //www.instagram.com/manuksworkshop/?hl=fr and less up to date than his real store 😀 Come on, frankly, if you have small hands like me, you’ll fall for any ring. For guys, there are mostly oxidized silver jewels, it’s simple, but it looks very manly.
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So, in terms of price, it’s cheaper than a ring mass-produced in France, that’s for sure! Up to 2 times cheaper. The gold is 18K, and there is no hallmark on the jewelry. He likes to mix oxidized silver with 18K gold. Then, he is the type to use rough diamonds, or diamonds with inlays. These are diamonds but cost 2 to 4 times less than a white diamond. Clearly, we come here for the design, not necessarily for the quality of the diamond. If you want a beautiful diamond, D color, with a carat of ouf, you have to place an order with him, and not just show up and take a ready-made ring.
That’s it for today. I think this is my last travel diary to Istanbul. I will write you very soon a practical guide for this beautiful city.