Saturday, August 29, 2009
'I am neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim. Doing away with duality, I saw the two worlds as one. I seek One, I know One, I see One, and I call One.' - The Life and Thought of Rumi
Since we're both fascinated with ancient aqueducts and enjoy photographing them, Sam and I decide to make our way to the Valens aqueduct which used to supply water to the city during medieval times when Istanbul was still known as Constantinople.
Today the Ataturk Bulvari Boulevard passes underneath it and we try to avoid the cars whirring by whilst trying to find the best angles for a photograph or three.
My curiosity leads me to the vendor on the side of the road. He offers a variety of locally produced, non-branded nuts, dried apricots and dates in small individually portioned plastic bags. We each decide on a small packet of salted hazelnuts to savour along the way to the Grand Bazaar, one of the world's largest and oldest covered markets.
As dusk falls the sound of a single reed pipe calls up my spirit. The music is carried from what must be a Sufi performance in the area. I have rarely heard something so pure, one clear melody that invites my soul out to dance.
Sufism is the mystical expression of Islam. As with yogis and monks, Sufis search to become one with Divine Love and deny all human indulgences and religious institutions.
This essence reminds me of how William P. Young personifies Divine Love in his book "The Shack", where he illustrates that those who are enlightened come from all walks of life and that different paths work for different people. It doesn't mean that all paths lead to God, he explains, but that those who love Him can be "Buddhists, or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions".
Young goes on to say that God has no desire to make all people Christian because religious institutions are flawed. Instead even former murderers can be transformed through Divine Love and find peace without a religious label. Around 400 BC Plato said that mystic belief is the most uncorrupted form of divine worship. It seems that the ancient philosophers already found many answers for modern man that is all too easily forgotten.
Yet, today, this flute resonates with me and I am living more inside this moment than most.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Sam and I arrive in Istanbul at dusk and during our train journey to the Old City the sky turns to a postcard purple background for the numerous Ottoman mosques. We’re speechless as we roll our suitcases down the cobbled streets outside Suthanamet station.
I let Sam and the friendly travellers we met on the train do the navigating while I gasp at the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia – the basilica that became a mosque and is now a museum.
By the time we reach our hotel we are hungry and decide to meet Rita and Mike for dinner after freshening up. It seems to be a lively area, full of hotels, backpackers, bars and restaurants so we wouldn’t have to go far.
Hotel Tria really lives up to the Lonely Planet recommendation, with brand new boutique styled rooms and homely amenities. It's great to arrive to such good value comfort, especially since Sam and I both are not in best of health.
We find a small restaurant serving local delicacies in a side street not far from where we are staying. Mike suggests Turkish beer and we all agree to toast to the occasion. I order a Turkish pancake which turns out to be huge. Even my giant appetite isn’t great enough to finish every last morsel of rich meaty flavour rolled in the fluffy pancake. Sam and Rita’s vegetable dishes also look delicious, with the roasted eggplant and peppers generously drizzled in olive oil.
After dinner we feel extremely lazy and stumble back down to a majlis style bar at a backpackers close to our hotel. There we sit down with a host of other travellers and talk into the early hours of the morning.
One Swedish guy tells us he’s been travelling around Turkey for nine weeks and can’t get himself to leave. He quit his job because of the recession and decided to take a sabbatical until things look up. I guess if you do have the savings it’s not a bad way to deal with the situation.
The mosaic lights all along the street cast a soft, magical light. I want to savour the beauty and decide to go to bed before the crowd gets too drunk and in order to get up early and start exploring the Old City area of Istanbul.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Dubai Mall is eerily empty as I walk down its Fashion Avenue. I'm not sure if it's because of the recession or simply that this is a really huge mall and there are not enough people in Dubai to fill it.
Armani, Louis Vuitton, Dior... it's not Milan or Paris but the line-up will do. The shop assistants say sales have been really bad during this year's Summer Surprises shopping festival. The discounts have been incredible but yet on designer wear the price still remains high and it seems that people are holding on to their money during these financially unstable times.
I spot a Joe's café in between the designer shops and shriek in delight. This is the trendy foodie version of the fashion label Joseph and it offers lunch bites equally as satisfying as its jeans. Of course, at Joe's there will always be an extra chair at your table for your shopping bags - because designer bags should never go on the floor. I like that!
The Dubai Mall Fashion Avenue also boasts an Armani café (and they offer the only really good Italian style pizzas in Dubai - although it might just cost you more than actually flying to Italy) and a recently opened Fauchon, the designer pastry shop with Parisian origins.
It's such a thrill for me to spend time in these shops. I leave Alexander McQueen with real tears in my eyes because I lost my heart in there. Then I stop at Jimmy Choo. It's empty too, just the excuse I need to go and keep the shop assistant busy.
Trying these shoes on exhilarate me in the most amazing way. I'm wearing Choos. Real Choos, ah!
Saturday, August 1, 2009
During a short visit to try and sort out my passport in Paarl, I quickly popped into Juno cafe on the Main Street to meet my friends for breakfast. Not only do they make the most delicious flapjacks with bacon and honey here, but it is also the artist's studio of Tertia du Toit whose paintings grace the labels of Juno wines and made them famous.
Juno is a great example of successful collaboration between artists. The wine maker, fine artist and chef all add to the cumulative success of Juno as a brand. That's what a lot of wine brands lack these days - a story to stir the heart strings of potential customers.
The Chilean wine brand Castillero del Diablo is a great example of a successful wine brand with a story. Castillero del Diablo translates as 'Cellar of the Devil' and the legend stems from the 19th century when the family patron became fed up with wine being stolen from his cellars. He started a rumour that a devil lives in his wine cellar and since superstition was at the order of the day, this worked wonders. While other wineries continued having problems, no one dared to steal from the cellar of the devil.
Both Castillero del Diablo and Juno unintentionally added the perfect twist to their label. Who could have known that Tertia du Toit's paintings of local women would become so popular and help to escalate the wine brand to where it is today. Even then, the team still managed to extend their success by opening this lovely restaurant and wine shop.
The food is well presented, tastes like home and goes down well with the carefully chosen drinks on the menu. Definitely recommended as a memorable meal as well as a wonderful place to buy tasteful souvenirs that smacks of the Cape.