Amazing Istanbul (October 2010) Part 1

Visiting Istanbul Turkey was an exciting & emotional experience for me. The reasons are obvious:

  • Istanbul is approximately the 20th biggest city in the world housing 20 million people. It was  the capital of Turkey then  Ankara replaced it
  • This is the only big city spread across two continents. Old part is in Asia, the new part is in Europe, and Bosphorus strait (aabna-e- Bosphorus) runs in the middle.
  • Bosphorus is about 31 KM long stretch of waterway linking Black sea & Marmara sea, and naturally separating Europe & Asia. Istnabul city is built on both sides of its shores.
  • Istanbul is mentioned in ahadeeth with the name of Qustan-tunia
  • It was the centre of one the most powerful empires on the earth called Ottomans Empire ( Khilafat-e-Usmania),
  • Usmaani Khilafat was the biggest Islamic state ever, and unfortunately was the one in which Khilafat came to end also. Its era was from 1299 to 1924.
  • This city is filled with lots of history including local, Romans as well Muslims
  • Majority of Turks are sunni Muslims. 20% minority belongs to Alavi’s.
New City Istanbul – A Turkish Style Mosque is Visible

Constantinople becomes Istanbul & Ships Run on Land

Istanbul was called Constantinople and was the capital of Christian Byzantine Empire. It was conquered in 1453 by Fatih Sultan Muhammad known as Muhammed II, the conqueror of Constantinople. He was 21 years old when he conquered. Besides Turkish, he spoke French, Latin, Greek, Serbian, Persian, Arabic and Hebrew.

Faatih Sultan Muhammad famously ran his ships across land to avoid a chain barrier across the harbour. Next morning he surprised the enemy and then conquered them ending an 1100 years old Byzantine empire. He named the city Islam-bul (house of Islam) which is now transformed into Istanbul.

I came here 14 years ago. There are  many differences in now & then. Traffic has increased many folds. Istanbul was not so expensive then but it is now, especially food. TL (Turkish Lira) lost its Six zeros in 2003 (old 1,000,000 TL = new 1 TL). It was very confusing then to do business; it took a lot of time counting zeros.  One cup of tea used to be 1, 25,000 TL.

Many people carried tasbeeh in their hands then but it is very rare now. Alcohol was common then and it still is now.  Many girls wore hijab then but it is almost invisible now. Many girls wore jeans then but it is skirt now and often too short too tight.

Galata Bridge, Area where Sultan Fatih took his ships across land

Khilafat becomes Republic

Current day Turkey was formed in 1924 from the remains of Ottamani state after Mustafa Kamal demised it. He, in the name of modernisation, abolished Khilafa system, Arabic language, Arabic alphabets (Turkish language is written in English alphabets now), and adopted western culture as well as systems.

In my opinion, this was the day Turkish nation lost its identity. Turkey is trying become Europe-like. Government is begging to EU to be included in European Union but to no avail.  On the other hand look at China’s example, they kept their language & culture but worked hard technologically. Today they are the richest & most powerful state on earth. China has more Dollars than USA or anyone else. Many western nationals are learning Chinese to be able to do business with Chinese . Only if Turkey stops following other nations and start doing what its forefathers (Usmani’s) did, they will rule the world once again.

Head Scraf

Turks are a well dressed and beautiful nation.  Men wear trouser and jackets (2 piece suits). Girls wear skirts or jeans in cities, many times dressing is far ahead of even Sweden. When I visited 14 years ago, head scarf was quite common but it is rarely worn now, at least in cities. It was banned in 1997(ish) from universities and government offices. As a result many girls had to leave their education. Some of them went to Austria and Sweden etc to complete their studies.  It is sad that they were allowed to cover their head in countries where nudity is considered an art, but banned in country where it is considered a symbol of purity & piety. I wonder how it helped Turkey to progress. After a long debate, the ban has been relaxed recently, a step in the right direction.

Modern Istanbul City

Istnabul is a good developed tourist city and is quite expensive. All types of transport is available here including taxis, busses (regular, small, & double deckers), tram, metro, ship (connecting old & new Istanbul). Roads are hugely congested all days all time. The bus driver is sometimes called Kaptan (Captain) and many behave accordingly too.

There are many astray dogs in the city. They don’t bother usually, just bark.

 Turkish Food

 

Turkey is a food heaven. Its cuisine is a mixture of Turks, Romans, Greeks & Persians so naturally there is a big variety. Turks are the inventors of world-popular Donnor Kebab (Shawarma). Other foods include many types of grilled meat, breads (naan, roti, etc) salads, cheese, curries (salan), thin bread pizza, stuffed jacket potatoes, the list is endless.

Fresh Fish Food

Fish is fresh & tasty. I & my colleague ended up in a fish market while strolling in the city. There were restaurants offering fresh fish cooked on the spot. We chose Kalamari (a kind of octopus) and Sea bass. Both were just delicious.

Donor Kebab in front of Blue Mosque

I had donor kebab at a shop near Blue Mosque. Meat contents were negligible, most of the filling came from salad & potatoes.

Yoghurt drink Ayran (salty Lassi) is commonly drunk with food. Alcohol is allowed, so it is available in ordinary shops .Turks drink very strong tea & coffee. I remember when I came here first time 14 years ago with my friend. Tea addicts, we tried Turkish one, oh GOD it was really bitter. No matter how much sugar or milk we added it remained equally bitter, and still is to date.

Bitterly Bitter or Extremely Sweet

Colourful Array of Desserts – Really Yummy

Turkey is sweet-lovers Mecca. In-line with other things there sweets are extremely sweet. Many types of Halwa, Gulab jamman, Kheer/ Firnee (rice pudding) and other pudding-like desserts are normal part of the food. We would add a spoon or two to a dessert, they add equal amount of sugar if no more. Talking about Baklava (pastry with honey/sugar and nuts), there are shops on every corner. Awfully delicious but notoriously sweet, I took full advantage. It was a must every night. My colleague shared this sweet passion with me.  We would go to a local small shop and order a plateful of Baklava with Turkish tea without milk or sugar. And we both skipped lunch every day, just a bowl of dessert and glass of Ayran.

Saudia Loving Serb

Talking about this colleague, he is a one strange fellow, Christian, originally from Serbia, now living and working in Saudi for 4 years (family is in Serbia) and he is happy. He says it is much more fun working in Middle East than in Europe. He doesn’t drink, well only on funerals as it is customary. He is almost half Muslim i.e. doesn’t pray & doesn’t cheat or lie. Only if he starts both would accomplish him Full Muslim. But he loves seeing us pray, especially together in Mosque. We came out of the mosque and he asked how many young people prayed today? Sadly there were almost none.

To be Continued..

Read 2nd part, my fight on the flight, Fat Lady (Part2, Click HERE),

and Mosques & Palaces in Istanbul (Part 3, Click HERE).

Weapons of Math Instruction

At New York’s Kennedy airport today, an individual later discovered to
be a public school teacher, was arrested trying to board a flight
while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, and a
calculator.

Attorney General John Ashcroft believes the man is a member of the
notorious Al-gebra movement. He is being charged with carrying weapons
of math instruction. Al-gebra is a very fearsome cult, indeed. They
desire average solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off
on a tangent in a search of absolute value. They consist of quite
shadowy figures, with names like “x” and “y,” and, although they are
frequently referred to as “unknowns,” we know they really belong to a
common denominator and are part of the axis of medieval with
coordinates in every country.

As the great Greek philanderer isosceles used to say, there are 3
sides to every angle, and if God had wanted us to have better weapons
of math instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes.
Therefore, I’m extremely grateful that our government has given us a
sine that it is intent on protracting us from these math-dogs who are
so willing to disintegrate us with calculus disregard. These
statistics-biased love to inflict plane on every sphere of influence.
Under the circumferences, it’s time we differentiated their root, made
our point, and drew the line. These weapons of math instruction have
the potential to decimal everything in their math on a scalene never
before seen unless we become exponents of a Higher Power and begin to
factor-in random facts of vertex.

As our Great Leader would say, “Read my ellipse”. Here is one
principle he is uncertainty of — though they continue to multiply,
their days are real-numbered and the hypotenuse will tighten around their necks.

Farooq Ice Cream Wala (Ice Cream Seller)

Farooq Ice Cream Wala (Ice Cream Seller)

If this person doesn’t inspire you to do the charity work no one will. He is simply the all-rounder of the aid work, actually all of his family is. Listen to Farooq in his own words:

Farooq Ice Cream Wala (Seller)

“I was born to a butcher family in Quetta. After completing high school, I decided to be a contractor supplier and started supplying goods to Government offices. As you would appreciate, being supplier one has to do a lot of bribing, lying, cheating and all sorts of other corruption. I did this dirty business for many years. Ten years ago I decided that this is time to change; I don’t want to do this corruption anymore. I prayed to Almighty GOD, please take me away from this. He listened to me and created an opportunity for me (You walk one step to GOD, He Will Rush 10 steps towards You). I went to see an SDO (officer) in relation to one of my orders. He insulted me so much that a fight broke, and as a resulted I was blacklisted for contracting. I lost means of earning & soon befell hand to mouth, so much so that one day we were out of milk for my daughter.

Out of desperation my wife suggested one day, why don’t you sell ice cream? I will prepare it for you she said. So I borrowed some money, she made yummiest hand-made ice cream and I start selling it just outside my door. I promised to GOD, if I succeed in this business, I will spend at least 10%, or more, as much as I could, on poor people. And also, I will use only the pure ingredients, no artificial flavours or powder-milk etc., just the pure & natural stuff. The business took off (GOD helps those who help themselves). People started pouring in orders and I even started delivering using a rented donkey cart. Nine years passed, today my wife supervises two workers who make as well as sell ice cream at our shop, which runs out within hours. My son does the delivery business using his van. And I; mostly keep busy searching for needy & poor.

I sometimes deliver food to Dar-al-Amman (shelter for jailed women). I take toys and ice cream for children with these women.

I got 3 poor girls married bearing their full expenses. I provide free ice cream on many poor people’s marriages.

If someone is building house and ran out of money, I give him building material.

I gave one person 100,000 Rupees ($1200) to buy a machine to start his business, now he has a full fledge workshop.

I don’t give few Rupees to every street beggar. It does neither help them nor me. I would assess the person. If he is genuinely needy, I help him start his business by buying tools or goods to sell.

Last year I planted 500 plants in various parts of Quetta, these are being looked after and will be full grown trees by next year.

I felt very bad when I saw dead body of a girl whose parents had to borrow a piece of cloth to cover her body. It costs 600 Rupees ($7) to buy a burial cloth and many people don’t even have this money. I’m trying to start a free burial project within a month.

A train was dispatched with aid for 2005 earthquake victims, I couldn’t go myself so I managed the food for the volunteers on the train. When 2008 earthquake victims came to Quetta, I arranged food, blankets and children’s medicine for 200 persons.

Talking about recent flooding (Pakistan August 2010), I wanted to help them all but no single person or a family could cope as it is such a huge disaster. Anyhow, we did a little bit we could. We have donated all of our clothes and utensils except the most needed ones. We have bought plastic sheets, mats also, and now gathering more aid in our area.

I arranged for 450 people’s hair cut at the two relief camps. I also supplied one days worth of food for 200 people at relief camp. Everybody had ice cream at both the camps on Eid day.

My wife took Bengals & henna to relief camp on Eid night. My daughter has done a beautician course so she applied henna to girls’ hands at flood relief camp. She trained few others there and then together, they decorated all the ladies at the camp.

I used to wear kulaf-wala suit (starch applied clothes to keep them straight) but I gave up, they make the person feel arrogant (takabuur).”

O GOD, Faruque has left me wordless. It just makes me wonder what have I done? He simply does every & any good that passes his way. This should be the attitude of all of us. Just do it no matter how big or small a deed is. Be it removing a pebble from a path, advising bus route to a passenger, pushing a broken car, soothing a crying child, comforting a person in distress, or a person in need of guidance. Just do it. You don’t have to to be a superman to help needy. You don’t have to be a Rambo to resolve an issue. We need ordinary people for ordinary issues. Don’t wait for the angel of help – you do it. You help. After all this was the path of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)!

And, I am not telling you this story to admire Farooq, or his work. Real motive is that you take on what he is doing. otherwise we all lose the purpose..

Read in Urdu here