MohennysDoTurkiye - Istanbul: An imperial capital of ages

November 8, 2016

Unless you know your geography, or are really good at capital cities, you might not know that Istanbul is in fact NOT the capital city of Turkey. The capital is Ankara, yet Istanbul is by far the most well-known city of the country, and possibly even the region. 

Istanbul, previously also known by other names such as Constantinople (after Emperor Constantine) has been the capital of 3 great empires, namely the Roman empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman empire. It has great significance geographically, politically and economically, and hence control of it was always highly sought after. With large parts of it now declared a UNESCO world heritage site, the city still exhibits much of its historical legacy, not only in its museums, but also in artefacts that can be seen just by walking the city. A UNESCO world heritage site is a area that is protected under international UN laws because of its historical significance and benefit to the world.  

Map showing parts of Istanbul declared UNESCO world heritage sites

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is a city stretched across 2 continents, Europe and Asia (the section on the right of the map). The continents are separated by the Bosphorous Strait, with the Black Sea in the north and the Sea of Marmara in the South. The continents are joined by the Bosphorous Bridge. It also contains a very long natural harbour referred to as the Golden Horn, which borders the Old City in the north-east. 

The yellow bordered area in the picture above shows there confines of the old city, and the bordered area is where the city wall was. In addition to this, the city wall also bordered the area on the sea sides, and parts of the original wall can still be seen today. 

Part of the old city wall seen on our short run along the seaside promenade

The most popular area of the old city is Sultanahmet, situated in the Fatih district. This is the area with the red border in the map further above. Sultanahmet Square contains the Sultan Ahmed Camii (The Blue Mosque), The Hagia Sophia (which was a church under the Byzantines, then converted to a mosque under the Ottomans, and is now a museum), the Hippodrome, the Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern. 

Sultanahmet Square

The Hippodrome of used to be a circus (which is a circular track, not clowns and things), and was the sporting and social centre of Constaninople, the capital of the Byzantine empire. Horse and chariot racing were very popular during those times and that took place there. In 324 AD, Emperor Constantine the Great moved the seat of government from Rome to Byzantium, and tried to rename it to Roma Nova (New Rome), but this failed to impress and the city became known as Constantinople, the City of Constantine. To raise the image of the new capital, Constantine and his successors, especially Theodosius The Great, brought artefacts from all over the empire to adorn it. Of the ancient decorations on the Hippodrome only the Walled Obelisk, the Serpent Column, the Obelisk of Theodosius, and the German Fountain remain. 

Obelisk of Theodosius

The Obelisk of Theodosius is carved from pink granite, and was erected in the centre of the racing track by Emperor Theodosius in 390 AD. But it was originally carved and erected in Luxor in 1490 BC. So this obelisk is over 3500 years old! It is the oldest monument in the city. 

Serpent Column

The Serpent Column was cast to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians during the Persian wars of 5th century BC. The 31 Greek cities who defeated the Persians in the 5th century BC melted the bronze items they had captured to create this monument. Constantine ordered the column to be moved from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi to the Hippodrome in 324 AD. The top section had a golden bowl supported by 3 serpent heads. The serpent heads and top third of the column were destroyed in 1700. Only this section, the base, remains today. The section is referred to as the Serpentine Column. This item is therefore over 2500 years old.

Walled Obelisk 

The walled obelisk is situated near the serpentine column. It's exact date of construction is unknown, but the erection date has been attributed to Constantine VII, who repaired it in 10th century AD. At the time it was decorated with guilded bronze plaques that celebrated the victories of Constantine's grandfather, but the plaques were taken and melted down by the 4th Crusaders in 1204.  

German fountain

As can be seen from its more modern design and construction, the German Fountain is a new addition to the Hippodrome. It is dedicated to the second visit of the German Emperor in 1898, and was gifted to the Ottomans to commemorate the visit. It serves a as a functional water fountain even until today, but is mostly known for its monumental value. The design is more of an Ottoman fountain rather than that of a public fountain.

The Grand Bazaar is also in Sultanahmet, not very far from Sultanahmet Square is the Grand Bazaar, the largest covered market in Turkey. Construction of the marketplace started in 1455, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Sultan Mehmet II, and officially opened in 1461. It was established as a marketplace and became the biggest trading centre of the time. It covers an area of 37,700 sq metres, has 61 streets, 5 mosques, 18 gates and 7 fountains. Today it has over 4000 shops. 

One of the fountains in the Grand Bazaar

One of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar

Again... Turkish flags everywhere

The bazaar is somewhat of a madhouse and can be daunting if your bargaining and negotiation skills are not on point. There is an art to shopping here, and NOTHING should be bought at the first price that they offer. There are so many traders selling the same things that you should slash the original price by a good percentage, else you will simply be paying too much. If the negotiation doesn't work, all you have to do is go to another trader that will sell you the same thing at a different price, and that is often in the same street or even right next to each other. It is for this reason that traders seldom let you leave the shop without offering a lower price. Just say no and start to walk out. They will call you back and start dropping by 10% or more a pop. Be prepared to drink tea with them and answer personal questions about your family, where you're from, etc, and spend a bit of time in the store. Often they will even close the door. But don't let it melt you. That is a tactic they use to warm you up to them. And whatever you do, DO NOT ever show that you have fallen in love with an item, no matter how much you like it. It immediately gives the trader the upper hand. Put your best GAME FACE ON. I am all for paying a fair price for an item and having a win-win situation for both buyer and seller, and here this does require bargaining. 

Items you can find in the bazaar are turkish delight, clothing, jackets, turkish delight, leather goods, shoes, tea, turkish delight, gifts, jewellery, gold, turkish delight. In fact anything you can possibly think of. Did I mention Turkish Delight?!

Turkish Delight for Africa! (or Europe... or Asia)

Pressed pomegranate juice stands are never far away

Uhm... yeah we shopped a little bit...not just the girls btw 

The bazaar even has overflow stalls into the surrounding streets

Between the bazaar and Sultanahmet Square, at Çemberlitaś tram station, the Çemberlitaś Column can be found. This is often referred to as the Burnt Pillar, or the Column of Constantine. The column was erected under the orders of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, to mark the city as the new capital of the Roman Empire in 330 AD. Earthquakes and a fire in 1779 destroyed the neighbourhood surrounding the column, hence the burnt appearance of the column, and earning it the Burnt Pillar title. 

Burnt Pillar / Çemberlitaś Column - erected under Constantine the Great

Ok that's enough of a history lesson for this post.
Will be back soon with more interesting stuff from the city.

MohennysDoTurkiye - A mixed welcome

November 5, 2016

Quaseem, Fadeelah, and I left Cape Town, South Africa on Wednesday, 2 November 2016 for our long-awaited trip to Turkey to run the Istanbul Marathon, and make a fabulous holiday out of it while we're at it. It was a long 9h30 flight to Doha, 8 hours in transit and then another 4 hour flight to Istanbul, making a full 24 hours of travel. We were lucky in that both flights were a little bit empty, and I used some handy travel tips I've picked up to make sure we were positioned to have the highe...
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eBook giveaway - Acres of Diamonds

January 27, 2016

I hope you've all had an awesome start to the year.
Here's wishing you a great 2016. May it be your most amazing year yet! 

I'm feeling generous, so I'm giving away a free eBook. It's a very short read. I hope you'll enjoy it, and that it inspires you. It's Dr Russell Conwell's classic, Acres of Diamonds

You can download the .pdf file from the image below, or CLICK HERE.

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What would you do if you weren't afraid?

October 23, 2015

I'd like to leave you with this thought today...


Now think of what it is that makes you afraid.
What is the worst that can happen if that fear comes true?
How bad is that reality really?
Is it worth the emotional energy that you invest into that fear?

And then I ask you again:

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An EMPOWERED competition & giveaway

August 7, 2015

On 9 August annually, South Africa commemorates the strength, determination and courage of the 20,000+ brave women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest the country's pass laws. These women took the initiative and responsibility to change the status quo, to say NO to an oppressive existence and to utter the famous words of
Wathint 'Abafazi Wathint 'Imbokodo. Directly, this is translated as Now that you have touched the women, you have struck a rock, or the more recent adaptati...

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Fadeelah's First Comrades

June 10, 2015

During the latter part of last year, my sister Fadeelah made the commitment to do what is known as the Ultimate Human Race, the Comrades 88km ultramarathon. The run takes place between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and it changes direction every year. This year was to be an UP run, starting in Durban and ending in Pietermaritzburg. 

When she told me of her plans, it was an absolute no-brainer that I would also go to Durban, not to run it but to support and second* her on the race....

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April 3, 2015

I had a list of super scary goals at the start of the year. 
Believe it or not, running a 56.6km race was not one of them. Yet here I am, on the eve of my first ultramarathon, feeling nervous, excited, and most of all extremely blessed and grateful at the prospect of lining up at that start line tomorrow. I will save the part of when and why I decided to do it for the post-race report ;)

It was back in late-2009 that Fadeelah and I started training for our first 5km (yes, we trained for it, qui...

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My eyes burned...

February 2, 2015

I'm starting this post off with a disclaimer that what follows is not an original post of mine, but rather something that I received in an email newsletter a few days ago. It is from someone who is always a source of great inspiration to me, Robin Sharma. These words are too beautiful not to share, not only because of what it means to me, but also because so much of it really is what I want to say to you from me too. So I hope you like it. 


My eyes burn as I watch you overcome your trial...

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Make 2015 your most fabulous year yet!

January 22, 2015

It's still January, the children have only just started school this week, and the klopse had their new year's parade in Cape Town only 5 days ago. It is therefore not too late to post my new year's message. (that's my story and I'm sticking to it)

The start of a year is traditionally a time that we reflect on the year that passed, evaluate our lives and set new goals. I say 'traditionally' because these things can, of course, be done at any time of the year. 

I hope 2014 has been kind to you. A...

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RISE & SHINE - Welcome to the Grind

September 20, 2014

You’re a sportsperson. 

You test and defy the limits of the human body, no matter what your level…
Always pushing harder, going further, lifting higher...
You love to feel the strength in your muscles as they work to carry you through from the start to that finish line...

But to push hard, go long, and be strong takes hours, days, months, and years of defying alarm clocks and snooze buttons, going out in the cold, going out in the dark… to train, to race. 

No man or woman can do that withou...

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About Me

Rogeema Kenny My blog aims to inspire. Be the best YOU that you can possibly be.


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