One man’s opinion

The cobbleslopes of Galata are running with water now as I came up to one of the Istanbul-hipster coffee shops I knew would be open late on a Sunday in these strange times. Last night the party I ate with actually got kindly asked to leave at the late hour of 9:30.

Istanbul shut down yesterday but the melt is already on. In times of slow business, or when you turn up to a place they don’t normally see tourists, Turks are very happy to speak with you, especially if the language allows.

Last night I met a middle-aged small business owner who speaks five languages.

In the cold street, I told him about a Syrian friend who fell in love with a Turkish girl. Both parents disapprove, one’s a refugee without great status, and after two years the relationship fell apart.

“Yes, it is a big problem, it would not be such a problem if it were the other way around,” he suggested.

“Turkish people like Arabs as customers” he explained, “but not as friends.”

If you can believe it, this guy had been to Iqaluit, Nunavut. Some ‘research’ trip that had also led him to Newfoundland, Quebec City, and Greenland. I obviously found this astonishing. He couldn’t believe the social discord in Iqaluit, to the point where he asked if the people there were even officially Canadian. On the low quality of life:

“Iqalit is fucked up. There is so much pedophilia! And drinking — everyone’s an alcoholic and how can they afford it? One beer is $9! There are 7,000 people there, one local was telling me this guy’s fucked with his little cousin, this guy’s done that. Why don’t they do what we did, fly one hour to Quebec and go to a tittie bar? Problem solved.”

He was speaking frankly. This anecdote from someone north of Istanbul, a European Turk, where they “Like fish. Not like in Gaziantep, just heavy meat and kebap and super sweet desserts. I guess that’s the tradition there, they keep a culture from the old times.”

Today I walked through Ayasofya, Hagia Sofia, nearly alone. On the gallery level I took this shot with my bad camera phone (despite the GoPro in my bag). I am a bad photographer and loathe to improve.









That’s what the hotelier told me first thing this morning — “Ice! Pure ice.”

Sultanahmet is beautiful right now and there aren’t that many tourists out. So I’m going to see if I can sneak into Hagia Sofia (Ayasofia in Turkish) after posting this.

I was supposed to give a workshop today on English CV-writing, for an NGO I’ve been doing some English proofreading for called Afkar. Unfortunately it was postponed because of the snow.

The organisation is expanding. Yesterday I checked out the space they’ve leased in Fatiah, a central district of Istanbul.  They are planning and running various classes — I am hoping to attend beginner’s Arabic at some point in the future.


We had Syrian for dinner afterwards. Why ever go back to normal rice?


If you click on this link it should send you to a video news report on Afkar’s most well known work, an orphanage in Eastern Aleppo (they evacuated the children to Idlib province recently).

For dessert we had probably my favourite Syrian food, Halawet El-Jibn, حلاوة الجبن. White cheese pastry rolls with pistachio and sugar drizzle. My new friends let me have the lion’s share of what is pictured. I didn’t hesitate too much.