Reflections from Aya Sofya

A self portrait in front of the Aya Sofya. One of the most (if not the most) visited sites in Istanbul, the Aya Sofya (Haghia Sofia in Greek) still shines at 1,456 years of age. Constructed as a Byzantine church in the Eastern Orthodox tradition in the city of Constantinople, she was converted to a mosque under the Ottoman takeover in 1453 before becoming a museum in 1935 thanks to the esteemed revolutionary leader and first president of Turkey, Atatürk. The layered history inside couldn’t be more tangible: glorious mosaics of Christ and the saints adorn the walls, with enormous round wooden medallions mounted under the main dome that dance with golden Arabic calligraphy, singing praises to Allah, Mohammed, and the early caliphs.

In between visits to the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque, I have a curious run-in with a young Turkish college student on the corner of the street. She asks if she can interview me for her class …something like international economy, and yet her questions seem of a different kind of economy,

“Do you have a guy? Do you believe in love? Do you think love ends in marriage?”

She shields her face from the sun, but more from shyness, as her friend records my answers on her iPhone. Are the questions really for her class or was is undertaking her own socio-anthropological study of Western women? We wander off our separate ways, but not without noting the two bridal parties shooting their Sunday photos in front of these historic pillars of world history. Our tram home pulls up to the stop and the doors open to a sea of male bodies: arms, legs and torsos indistinguishable one from the next as limbs reach up and out for a handle to secure themselves. Where are the women? I have no time to think. Hannah pulls me in, but there is only room for half of me. The closing doors threaten to leave my other half behind. She pulls harder. I am now wedged between the door and too many bodies to count. I have no clue what the proper cultural etiquette is, and moreover, there is no time to think about that. The door skims my backside as it closes as we jolt to a start.

Day 2 of 30; Postcards from Turkey 

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~ by maureenmoore on July 10, 2013.

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