These are some final pics from when I returned to Istanbul before flying home...
My last day there was a big gypsy festival down by the seaside...lots of dancing and great music!
I went with Les Arts Turcs to an authentic whirling dervish ceremony. Dervishes practice Sufi Islam, and the priests spin themselves as a form of meditation. It was very intense and powerful to experience! You can read an article about the ceremony here. (This is a stock photo, since you cannot take pictures obviously...)
My whole visit I kept making Alp promise to take me around Istanbul on his motorbike--it's definitely the best way to explore the city!
And here was the view flying out...goodbye, Turkey!
My trip was, for lack of better words, AWESOME! The trip was especially fulfilling because I spent almost the entire time with local folks rather than other travelers...and this was thanks to my friends at Les Art Turcs. Through their hospitality I was able to experience real Turkey...
Les Arts Turcs is a 10 year-old collective of
painters, photographers, artists, singers, journalists, professional guides and entrepreneurs based in Istanbul. Their aim is to meet people from all over the world, promote communication between cultures, and to bridge the artistic/cultural gaps that have formed over time. They offer classes in dance, art, language, and cooking. They offer specialty tours and workshops catered to your specific interests (from modern art to Turkish baths) in Istanbul and other regions of Turkey. And of course, they're the folks that Lonely Planet recommends if you want to see a real whirling dervish ceremony!
So I must thank Nurdogan...you can always find him here in their office in Sultanahmet. He knows everyone, and wants you to get to know everyone, too! He will greet you with a smile, offer you endless cups of tea, and he might even teach you some Turkish dance moves if you're lucky!
And I must also thank Alp, who works at LAT and volunteered to be my guide around the city without even knowing me. (His efforts to find vegetarian food for me must be commended!) I am so thankful we developed such a good friendship. Here's his picture at the nargileh cafe...
If you visit Istanbul, pay Les Arts Turcs a visit! It's a great place to meet other creative folks and chat over glasses of tea within view of both Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. And it's perfect if you need a quiet sanctuary where you can make art while listening to Nurdogan's massive Turkish music collection.
Their latest big project is the Istanbul Photo Contest...they are welcoming international photographers of all skill levels to submit their best pics of their unique city. The deadline in in November, and the top prizes are free stays in Istanbul.