Istanbul never lies

Six hours. This is the duration of the flight from Kigali International Airport, Rwanda, to Istanbul Atatürk Airport, Turkey. It all came as a surprise to me that I have to transit via Istanbul to reach my final destination: Mauritius. As an adventurous young man, the surprise was a pleasant one. While Turkish Airlines managed to impress me with the assorted and mouthwatering food they had to offer on board, I was absolutely mesmerized, minutes before landing, by the topography of Istanbul. The plane dived freely into the air space of Asia and Europe, and this was a scene worth dying for. I saw myriads of small boats sailing in the lap of Eurasia’s sea, and gigantic bridges connecting cities. I grew absorbed into my thoughts, nodding to the doleful fact that humans do not create only bridges and boats, but borders too.

Prior to exiting the airport, I made sure to convert some dollars to the local currency of Turkey: the Turkish Lira. As I exited the big and busy airport, I saw many taxis around but I was recommended by one airport officials, to only choose the yellow taxis as they are supposedly the most trustworthy ones. He was right. The driver was humble and respectful, and the taxi had legit meters.

I entered Istanbul carrying many questions in my eyes and the answers were contained in the unplanned meetings with strangers, in the sacred and breathtaking mosques, in the delicious local food, in the serene gardens and in the spirit of Istanbul. The modern infrastructure and exquisite architecture render the city vivid, colorful and contrasting.

I checked in at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, located in Bağcılar, which is around twenty minutes’ drive from the airport. The hotel was comfy, imposing in appearance and affordable.

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After a hot shower, I headed to Bosphorus: a calm and posh area. It took me around thirty minutes from Bağcılar to Bosphorus by car.  I walked for hours on the streets of Bosphorus: clicking pictures and meeting the locals. I checked in at one of the popular restaurants, called The Market, to have a delicious cup of Turkish coffee. It was love at first sip.  

Sultanahmet, a historical district of Istanbul, was glorious and unique. I felt the divine call of its mosques and decided to travel there the next day. Bosphorus and Sultanahmet are separated by the sea. Many passenger boats were sailing back and forth from Bosphorus to Sultanahmet.

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Istanbul welcomed me with smiles and coffee. I spent the first day to understand the culture of the place: from the greeting etiquettes to food habits. I reached the hotel in the evening and penned down the moments of the first day in my travel diary. One important lesson that I learned on this first day in Istanbul is that Istanbul never lies. It speaks of faith but it brings you to its doors too: the mosques. It takes pride in its local food and it offers you umpteen restaurants and cafes.

It is as it is.

It is an open book for travelers to read.

 

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Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

Until we open our eyes more to a country’s glories and blind ourselves to its scars, I’m of the view that the art of traveling is nothing else but just a lifeless bucket-list.

I have seen some new mornings in the past couple of months; mornings that are made up of chirping birds, dancing waves of untouched lakes, magma sparks, cold cities, lush green wilderness, endless road trips and unending discoveries. It’s been almost three months that I have packed my luggage with travel diaries, cameras and photographic equipment, traveler’s shoes and outfits and left home to travel the depths and breadths of Africa.

In these three months, I have crossed the Republic of Rwanda, from Kigali to Gisenyi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Goma to Kinshasa. One of the places that has moved me is the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, located in the heart of Kigali.

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Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

I shed teas as I walked inside the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. While traveling into the Rwanda, the posh green forests, the soulful landscapes and the smiles that people wear on their faces would make it impossible to even think that this country has underwent a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi by the members of the Hutu.

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Over 800, 000 Rwandans were killed in less than one year and over 2, 000, 000 were displaced.

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The political leadership of the Honorable Paul Kagame has significantly ended this genocide, when his party took control of the country.  Beside the political will to bring these human tragedies to an end, the Rwandans have demonstrated great strength and faith.

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The country, in the process of rebuilding itself, has come a long way and the rise of Rwanda will continue for their scars are now their reference points that remind them to pursue the construction of a new Rwanda.