Clairwil v Istanbul
I was in the middle of writing this when my pc died a couple of weeks back. I'm up and running again so wallop this up to reassure anyone who's still reading that I'm still alive.
Well I can now add being sexually propositioned in a mosque to my list of things I didn't expect to happen to me. Whilst I am supportive of efforts by Muslims to promote a more liberal interpretation of Islam I cannot help but think offers of 'good fuck yes' are best made outwith religious buildings. If this is typical of the sort of thing that goes on in mosques it's no wonder the women sit in their own section.
Ah yes the 'modern European city' of Istanbul. Well it is modern in the sense that you'll have no bother getting a mobile phone connection and they have all the mod cons. However if you regard wacky ideas like women being human beings or more fancifully having the right to go about their business unmolested and what have you as modern then you'll share my irritation at the failure of the airline staff to tell the women on board to put their clocks back 200 years. Actually that's a little harsh 99% of the population are fine it's just the remaining 1% that lead one to think Valerie Solanas might have had a point.
I have spent the last week, in what I learned on the last night was a 'conservative' district, in this instance 'conservative' denotes backward illiterate sex pests rather than any serious ideological position.
My advice to the lone female traveller in this neck of the woods is to walk fast, ignore everyone and don a hijab. Not because everyone else wears one (most folk don't) but looking 'conservative' in saves a lot of hassle and cuts out about 90% of the sexual harassment you're likely to encounter (unfortunately there is no cure for looking foreign). As for the quick walking and ignoring folk it's the only way to avoid the intense pressure to buy a carpet or a leather coat. Honestly it was worse than the mobile phone counter in Dixons!
Until I got the hang of the place I spent my time storming the streets of Istanbul bellowing 'ayip' (Turkish for shame on you) at people who have difficulty coping with the sight of an unaccompanied woman. Honestly between the perverts, the carpet sellers and worst of all the tits selling leather coats I struggled to get a moments peace. Actually with the exception of the perpetrator of a very minor but distressing sexual assault* I had little difficulty seeing off the sex pests. A forceful 'ayip' saw off all but two of the most persistent.
The first of the persistent element eventually after lengthy negotiations agreed to leave me alone on the condition that I passed his phone number on to the all the 'sexy Scottish women' which I am happy to do. To be honest I think he'd fuck a barber's floor so I wouldn't let lack of Scottishness, sexiness or femaleness put you off. His name is Aydun, his number is 0536213 2978 and he reckons he's a ten times a night man.
The second got me so flustered and confused that being a mere silly woman I got my dates and times all mixed up and accepted a dinner invitation on the Saturday night. I'm so absent minded I forgot that it was Friday and that I was leaving Istanbul in an hours time. Gosh I do hope I haven't blown my chances there, it's always been a dream of mine to have sex with a promiscuous halfwit who regards me with complete contempt as a human being.
Re-reading the above I realise I've made the whole trip sound worse than it actually was. Most of the population are in fact good eggs and Istanbul is well worth a visit -just be aware that there are pockets of it where between the sales and sex pests it get's bloody unbearable. According to some Turkish folk I met on my last night I'd have been better staying in Galata on the other side of the river rather than Sultanahmet. That's not to say that you should stay out of Sultanahmet, it's just that a day or two at a push is more than enough before remaining in an almost permanent state of wary alertness starts to send you murderous. Much as it pains me to admit it -you might be better taking a man with you. It's also worth mentioning that it is a haven for smokers, the foods great and the architecture stunning.
I don't mention the downside to put anyone off visiting but in the spirit of forewarned is forearmed. The guidebooks are too busy pushing the partially true 'modern European city' bit to make sufficient mention of this stuff which is a shame because had I known at the start of the week what I knew at the end I'd have had a much better time.
Oh and before anyone starts I was not walking around wearing next to nothing, in actual fact I was more covered up than most of the Turkish women one saw around the place. Nor am I making this up. I note, having scooted about the internet that there seems to be a degree of scepticism regarding accounts of sexual harassment in Turkey.
According to some it's no worse or more frequent than the harassment encountered in every other city in Europe which is odd because I've never encountered anything like it in Venice, Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nice, Stirling, Prague or Krakow. Presumably these folk also imagine that the women of Istanbul were protesting for no reason.
Foodwise I recommend the 'Green Corner' near the Hagia Sophia. It's in pleasant surroundings, the food is quite good, they do a nice apple tea and you can smoke a waterpipe filled with lovely apple tobacco. Also worth a visit is Dubb, a fine Indian restaurant not far from The Blue Mosque. I also recommend dropping into the Sultan Pub for a drink but not for something to eat -the food is bloody awful but the staff are pleasant except for the creep on the door. Divan on Divan Yolu does a nice enough salad and bread, though there is better food elsewhere you'd be hard pushed to get friendlier service.
For those who like looking at things I recommend taking in a performance by the whirling dervishes at the Press Museum. The Topkapi Palace is worth a visit though I was disappointed that the harem was closed for the day as I was looking forward to a poke about. the rest of the palace is well worth a visit, the grounds are beautiful, the jewels on display are breathtaking ( A magpie would go mental) and I saw Mohammed's footprints and beard clippings which was unexpected. He had quite a slim foot which leads me to suspect he probably had very good ankles. Also worth a gander are The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, The Grand Bazzaar, The Basilica Cistern and The Sultan's Tomb. All in all I didn't get to see as much as I'd have liked as I was a bit wary of straying into somewhere worse. But there will be a return journey in a few years to a different part of the city.
*Owner of the shop with the red canopy next to The Press Museum on Divan Yolu. I'd be grateful if you'd join me in a boycott.