A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Istanbul. This city, stradling two continents, has at least 15 million people, 95% of whom of Muslim. Every morning, I laid awake around 4:30, listening to the call the prayer. Those half-awake minutes, with words I could not understand but could feel, are some of my favorite memories of the trip. Since being back, many people have inquired as to whether I felt safe traveling there. While at times I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people on the streets, never once did I feel unsafe or fearful. My husband and I were actually much more laid back when it can to money belts, wallets, bags, and purses than we had been in Italy a few years ago. I can’t explain exactly why – there was just a very positive, safe feeling everywhere we went, whether it was a very touristy area, or less-traveled neighborhood, where we very obviously stood out.
I’d known I wanted to post about my experiences, however, after last week’s events in the beautiful city of Boston, I began to realize how important it is to share the wonderful experiences I had in this predominantly Muslim city. I lived in Washington, DC during 9/11, and saw how the Muslim community, along with many Sikhs (mis-identified as Muslims), were adversely affected by the fear that a few had caused. As I post, the motives of the Boston violence are still unknown, but I have heard much talk about the suspects’ faith, and hope that the Muslim community is not harmed in any way due to this.
While the pictures from our trip should speak for themselves, I’d like to tell one final story about our trip to Istanbul. My husband and I went to buy tickets for a boat trip early on Saturday morning. We had some time before the boat left, so we walked around the water and then decided to sit on a bench and people watch. All of the benches were still wet, and as we stood contemplating one, a man sitting on the next bench over got our attention, and then handed us part of his newspaper. He gestured to show that he was also sitting on newspaper. We thanked him with our limited Turkish, and then spread the newspaper and sat next to him, watching the city wake up. Human interactions like this are the antidote to hatred and fear.
May this week be filled with peace for all.