ANCIENT EPHESUS

imageThe ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey remains at the top of my list for the best places I have ever visited in my entire life. I have always been fascinated by ancient cultures and what I saw in this archeological heaven blew me away. Built in 10th century BC, the city featured an advanced acqueduct system, mosaic-tiled sidewalks, a hospital, temples, schools, public baths, library, theaters and an amphitheatre with a seating capacity of 25,000.  My hometown was founded less than 100 years ago and we don’t even have an amphitheatre.  The photograph above shows the Library of Celsus, which was built in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who was a former governor of Roman Asia. He was buried in a sarcophagus beneath this library, which used to house almost 12,000 scrolls. Ephesus may not be familiar to a lot of people, but if you remember the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World…this city used to be home to one of them…the Temple of Artemis.

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AYASOFYA

The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish), which means Holy Wisdom, is a grand piece of architecture that beautifully defines the Istanbul skyline. According to our tour guide, it was originally an Orthodox church which was turned into a mosque and eventually converted into a museum. It was truly a humbling experience to stand before this ancient wonder and be able to walk along its endless halls and explore its grand chambers.  Inside was generally empty except for a few relics and lighting fixtures, however, the walls and ceilings are covered with a spectacular array of religious artwork. It was fascinating to see Christian and Muslim symbols beautifully complementing each other. I think the world can learn from the walls of Ayasofya on how to coexist harmoniously despite our differences.  Sadly though, recent developments in Turkish politics may eventually lead to reviving this museum back into a mosque. I just hope the people of Istanbul decide to retain this as a symbol of secularism where people from all faiths can enjoy the beauty and wonder of this great human achievement both in construction and architecture.

ISTANBUL

The great city of Istanbul has recently been a victim of unnecessary violence resulting to a wasteful loss of innocent lives. However, I do not wish to dwell on this negative incident but instead focus on what is positive about this mesmerizing city. I visited this mystical metropolis two years ago on a cruise and had the best trip of my life. The colorful culture, ancient architecture, rich heritage and friendly people makes Istanbul an amazing destination for those who want to see a perfect blend of  east and west as well as that of the past and present. This photo was taken at the top deck of the cruise ship while docked at the Istanbul Cruise Port, which is located right at the heart of the historic section of the city.  The tower on the left is the Galata Tower, which is a medieval stone tower built to spot fires and now home to a restaurant, cafe and a night club. Istanbul may have hit a road bump a few days ago but it will bounce back just as it did for centuries. Stay strong Istanbul…I will see you again, soon!

HOUSE OF VIRGIN MARY

img_4911Since it’s the season of Lent for Christians, I decided to use this photograph I took back in 2014 during my trip to the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey.  This is supposedly the former house of the Virgin Mary located near Selçuk, Turkey on a hill overlooking the ruins of Ephesus. The place was discovered in the 19th century based on descriptions in the documented visions of a Roman Catholic nun and visionary named Anne Catherine Emmerich. This place is also a famous pilgrimage shrine amongst Christians and Muslims, although, the Catholic church has never acknowledged nor denied the authenticity of the house…despite celebrating masses there (one was ongoing during my visit). Close to the house is a spring where believers can collect “holy” water and I filled up two plastic bottles for my mother and also bought her souvenir containers in the shape of the Virgin Mary. Photography is not allowed inside the house and the visit is a walk through that lasts about a minute or two.

DISTRICT OF FATIH

The Fatih district of Istanbul, Turkey is located on the European side of the city and is right on the historic Constantinople proper where most of my sightseeing was spent during my visit. This district is home to historic landmarks like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Çemberlitaş Column (Column of Constantine), Grand Bazaar and the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, which is one of the best mosques built using the Ottoman Baroque style prominently defining the Istanbul skyline with its dome and minarets as seen in my photo above. I took this photo just as the sun was setting with its rich golden light bathing the city with an aura of mysticism and enchantment. I decided not to include the more commonly known landmarks in order to create a sense of mystery. The city of Istanbul surprisingly gives you a different kind of high…it’s no wonder people who once visited it wants to come back again and again.

LIBRARY OF CELSUS

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The library of Celsus located in the ancient city of Ephesus, Anatolia (now part of Selçuk, Turkey) was built in honor of the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus.  The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls as well as to serve as the mausoleum of Celsus.  I took this photo during my trip to Turkey last year and Ephesus remains to be the best place I have ever travelled to. The place was flooded with visitors so I made sure to position my camera so as not to capture the crazy crowd of tourists. It was very interesting to learn how advanced their society was having their own hospitals, schools, theaters, library and even an aqueduct system. To date, only 15% of the city has been uncovered and future excavations will surely bring us more surprises.

Doorway To The Past


This was taken at the entrance of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. On my way out, I noticed how the doorway was framing the Blue Mosque from a distance.  I got separated from the tour group for a while but I’m glad I took the time to take this photo. I also think converting this to black and white added an element of drama and enchantment.

COLORFUL ISTANBUL

Here are more photos of Istanbul taken during my trip last year to this exotic and interesting city.

Istanbul at Night

Istanbul, Turkey was one of the stops during my Eastern Mediterranean Cruise with Celebrity Cruises. This city is rich in history and culture from delicious delicacies and colorful bazaars to splendid mosques, history-filled museums and multiple architectural wonders.

The moon was out the night I was there and it blanketed the city with its silvery radiance. I found myself at the top deck of the ship regretting I left my tripod at home. The siderails helped in a way for support but my photos would have been better using a tripod.

This city is a photographers dreamland especially at night. From illuminated mosques and minarets to busy waterways and brighly lit skylines, the view is just too hard to resist.  I have dozens of daytime photos but will post the night shots for now.  This city has captivated me just as it captivated the millions who visited this city for hundreds of years. I look forward to coming back to Istanbul…and when that time comes, I am definitely taking my tripod with me.

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