“Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeologist, diplomat and merchant, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner screams with same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is the most beautiful place on earth.”
– Edmondo De Amicis
Ladies and gentlemen,
One thing is certain – never have I delivered so many Royal Endeavors signature episodes than in the past year, which, on an individual level, proves my increasing level of self-awareness and demonstrates an unshakable dedication to provide generous knowledge and solid inspiration for my beloved audience.
That is because Royal Endeavors is a lifestyle concept, a unique form of giving what has been taken with an extra touch of artistry, a refined channel to convey insights for impact and subconsciously convert the non-believers to a superior form of being one with their surrounding beauty, a belief that seeks to powerfully support and gently transform the collective perspective on the Art of Living in alignment with Honor, Purpose and Authenticity.
I warmly invite you to walk closely during this fabulous journey, which will be rather short, as I am planning to provide my precious insights for The Ultimate Shopping Guide in Istanbul separately. Please take into account it was probably my third time visiting this breathtaking city, therefore some of its main attractions which I strongly advise you to consider on your first time will not be covered at this time. For example, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Dolmabahçe Palace, Topkapi Palace, Galata Tower, Süleymaniye Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Maiden’s Tower are an absolute must, although I haven’t included them in the tales of this 6 days tour. Nevertheless, I promise to delight you with the majestic Hagia Sophia, all three Bazaars, a Bosphorus Cruise sprinkled with visual memories, a glimpse of the somptuos Beylerbeyi Palace and the incredible Intangible World Heritage Dervish Experience at Hodjapasha Theatre.
Let’s indulge together in the immense greatness of this unforgettable city, which never ceases to fascinate millions of tourists every year with its majestic architecture and luxurious experiences. One visit is never enough to taste its mystical flavors and enjoy the fabulous sightseeing therefore you can always find another reason to wander around its vibrant streets and connect to the energy of its intense living.
“To the one in the skies, this city must look like a scintillating pattern of speckled glows in all directions, like a firecracker going off amid thick darkness. Right now the urban pattern glowing here is in hues of orange, ginger, and ochre. It is a configuration of sparkles, each dot a light lit by someone awake at this hour. From where the Celestial Gaze is situated, from that high above, all these sporadically lit bulbs must seem in perfect harmony, constantly flickering, as if coding a cryptic message to God.”
– Elif Shafak
Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya,
Meidani, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul,
Everyday from 09:00 to 17:00.
Hagia Sophia – a divine architectural achievement – is an integral piece of Istanbul’s cultural and historical fabric in ancient and modern times, a symbol of harmony, peace and tolerance in Turkey and a meeting point of the world’s religions.
The walls of Hagia Sophia represent a blend between Islamic arts and symbols of Christianity, as the architectural monument was a Church, a Mosque and it is now a Museum.
As this sacred monument will continue to fascinate me, no matter how many times I visit it, I would like to briefly share some sage facts about Hagia Sophia to encurage everyone to endure the time spent at the queue:
– after being destroyed by riots twice, it was reconstructed by the first Byzantine ruler, Emperor Justinian, as the most important religious structure in his empire on December 27, 537 CE;
– the grand feature of the Hagia Sophia, its original dome, was replaced after an earthquake in 558 CE;
– one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the columns from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus – was used to beautify its interiors;
– many mosaics and paintings from Hagia Sophia were destroyed, taken away or plastered because of the iconoclasm movement, which banned the production and use of religious images, the cross being the only acceptable icon;
– the church became a mosque for 500 years during the ruling of Mehmed II;
– instead of destroying the Christian symbols, the sultan ordered to have the mosaics and frescos protected therefore they were whitewashed and covered in Islamic designs and calligraphy;
– the Weeping Column is said to have healing powers – the alleged blessing of St. Gregory has led many to rub the column in search for divine healing.
Sultan Ahmet, Mimar Mehmet,
Aga Cd. No:2, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul,
From Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 19:00. Some of the shops are open on Sundays.
This chic and intimate open air bazaar, conveniently located behind the Blue Mosque, is the most stylish alternative to the Grand Bazaar. It was was built in the 17th century by Ottoman officials – rental revenues from its vendors were meant to finance the upkeep of the neighboring Blue Mosque. The mosaics found in the environs of the Arasta Bazaar during excavation works in 1930s proved that the territory once had belonged to a Byzantine Palace complex.
Its main advantage is the possibility of skipping a significant crowd in order to find a high quality range of local teas, coffee, handcrafted ceramics and luxurious textiles and handicrafts.
The prices could be just a little bit higher, but still reasonable and mostly negotiable, if people are generally aware of this fact and can manage this important skill.
It is definitely the right place to find exceptional crafts and silk carpets, although shopping will be the main focus of our next Royal Endeavors journey together.
This being said, it is also highly recommendable to visit the Great Palace Mosaic Museum underneath the Arasta Bazaar.
Beyazit, Kalpakcilar Cd. No:22,
From Monday to Saturday from 09:00-19:00, except national holidays.
One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, Grand Bazaar is 30,700 square meters with over 60 streets and alleys and 4,000 shops. The original historical core of the bazaar, İç Bedesten, was completed by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461. According to the Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi’s Seyahatname, by the seventeenth century the Kapalı Çarşı (or the Çarşı-yı-Kebir as it was known at the time) had reached its present size, with over 4,000 shops and nearly 500 stalls known in Turkish as dolap (literally translated to “cupboard”).
In addition, there were various other amenities for the merchants who worked there: restaurants, a hammam, and a mosque, as well as at least 10 smaller mescits, or prayer rooms. Today, this city-within-a-city also contains a police station, a health dispensary, a post office, branches of most major banks, and a tourist information center.
Trying to see the entire Grand Bazaar in one afternoon is an unrealistic task. With this in mind, it is best to experience the Grand Bazaar at a leisurely pace, not by rushing from one shop to the next. The eventual purchase is not as important as the process and the relationship that will be established between the vendor and yourself. Chatting and bargaining with the sellers, who often are fluent in more than one language, is what makes the Grand Bazaar experience different. For the record, accepting tea does not mean either party has sealed the deal; instead, it is the Turkish way of welcoming visitors. More tips on how to make the most of your deals will be provided in my next shopping guide.
Rustem Pasa, Erzak Ambari
Sok. No:92, 34116, Fatih/Istanbul,
From Monday to Saturday from 08:00 – 19:00; on Sunday from 09:30 – 19:00.
The Spice Bazaar is the most colorful and authentic bazaar, one of the most famous and oldest covered bazaars in the city and formerly the international trade center of the Ottoman, where a wide variety of spices, dried fruits, basketry, jewelry, drapery and haberdashery is sold. It is definitely a feast for sore eyes, which delights the eyes and nose with its surprising range of spices, many kinds of tea, fresh ground Turkish coffee, and, of course, the famous Turkish delights.
This is the only place where the mystical smells of cumin, mint, cinnamon and countless other therapeutic herbs and exotic aromas blend nicely, creating an amazing ambiance. It is definitely a must-see during the trip to Istanbul.
Bosphorus Cruise by Sea & Land Travel Agency
One of the most underrated attraction of Istanbul is, surprisingly, having an unforgettable cruise along the Asian and European sides of the city. There are private yachts and boats available to this purpose and many travel agencies which can facilitate this fantastic service, although I recommend to check the prices and conditions twice and investigate more options. I was satisfied with Sea & Land Travel Agency located closely to out hotel, which provided the wonderful Bosphorus & Golden Horn morning 5 hours tour, with free Turkish tea and Nescafe coffee included, as well as free tour guide and photography services. Turkish coffee was also avaiable on the boat but sold separately.
There were two important stops of an hour duration on each side, Rumeli Fortress on the European side, closed at the moment of our arrival, and the mesmerizing Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asian side. Evening cruises with Turkish traditional dinner options were also available to be booked at the agency, although I truly recommend them for a warmer time of the year.
Beylerbeyi, Abdullahaga Cd.,
From Tuesday to Sunday, from 09:00 – 16:30.
Described by some as a miniature Dolmabahce Palace but without the crowds, the Beylerbeyi Sarayı (Beylerbeyi Palace) was commissioned by Sultan Abdülaziz to act as an imperial summer residence. With 24 rooms, 6 halls, and a hamam, it would have been quite the summer home, and was also used to entertain visiting dignitaries. The palace is an ostentatious blend of architectural styles including Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical and modern Ottoman, dripping in luxury.
It looks its most attractive from the Bosphorus, from where its two bathing pavilions, one for the harem (women’s only) and the other for the selamlik (men’s only), can best be seen.
One of the most opulent rooms is the lavish reception hall, which has a pool and fountain, as running water was popular in Ottoman houses for its pleasant sound and cooling effect in the heat. Nevertheless, all of its majestic features are worthy to be admired during the half an hour tour, such as the handmade parquet floors in the Dining Hall – a delicate masterpiece carved from rosewood, ebony, and mahogany, almost hidden by the lavish furnishings. Egyptian reed matting is used on the floor as a form of insulation. The crystal chandeliers are mostly French Baccarat and the carpets are from Hereke. Not to miss the 4.5 tonne chandelier reigning in the ceremonial hall, a present from Queen Victoria and the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier.
Hodjapasha – Shows Within History
Ankara Caddesi Hocapasa Hamami Sokak. No:3.B Sirkeci,
Dervish in Islam can refer broadly to members of a Sufi fraternity (tariqah), focused on the universal values of love and service, deserting the illusions of ego to reach God. In most Sufi orders, a dervish is known to practice dhikr through physical exertions or religious practices to attain the ecstatic trance to reach God. Their most common practice is Sama, which is associated with the 13th-century mystic Rumi.
In folklore, dervishes are often credited with the ability to perform miracles and described with supernatural powers.
Mainly accepted to be the mystical dimension of Islam, sufism is defined as a means by which a person makes his personality free from bad habits, cleanses his soul and attains maturity with his love for God. Sufism is a lifestyle; it is a different attitude to life.
On the other hand, the order is an institutionalized phenomenon arising from Sufism. It resembles to the relationship between ice and water. Ice is made up of water but a solid state of water. The metaphor “the ocean and a jug of water” explains the relationship between Sufism and Orders very well. Even if you take water from the ocean and fill it into a jug, to what extent can the water in the jug preserve its oceanic nature? (Hazret Inayar Han, Hazreti Mevlana)
In the Islamic world, many orders are known. The most renowned is the Mevlevi Order, or the Mevleviyye in Ottoman Turkish. The Mevlevi Order was established by Sultan Veled, the son of Mevlana, after his death in 1273, within the framework of his father’s ideas. Mevlana’s son is regarded as the real founder and the second father of the Mevlevi Order because he systematized and organized his father’s idea as an order, an institution founded exclusively om the base of love and tolerance.
The Mevlevi Order continued its existence as the most institutionalized order durin the time of the Ottoman Empire until 1923, when Ataturk closed all orders and hermitages. Today, the Mevlevi Order Culture and Sema Ceremony, the most significant ritual of this culture, are regarded as a cultural heritage and taught for the purpose of transferring to the next generation by universities, foundations and associations.
In 2005, the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony was proclaimed as a part of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is one of the most important riches of the Turkish culture, as a tradition of 800 years.
This form of physically active transcedental meditation is not for everyone to enjoy, although the performance only lasts an hour.
It requires silence, pacience, focus and respect for other cultural traditions.
It is a spiritual experience whose significance is revealed through the graceful movements of the whirling dervishes. It is also an art form which requires commitment, intense practice and selflessness.
Speaking about commitment, thank you for keeping up with your beloved PrincessaPetra until the wrap up of this wonderful episode dedicated to one of the most surprising cities in the world – Istanbul – a mystical delight for the wanderes in search for the spiritual depth and transcendental essence behind the effervescence of a vibrant city. I am confident you had enjoyed the fabulous journey so far and I can’t wait for us to reunite under the magical spell of this prized piece of land, during the final episode of Istanbul’s discovery ceremony.
With taste and grace,
The most fortunate and delightful,