Muslim

The Turkish Connection: What Kathmandu can learn from Istanbul?

Posted by admin on March 01, 2015
CitiSights, KathmanduWalks, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

Ferry ride in Bosphorus, Istanbul

Looking at the Galata Tower from the Bosphorus straits in Istanbul, the part of my mind given to making comparisons reminded me of Kathmandu’s Dharahara. Both are nine-story tall (Galata stands at 66.9 m, just a little taller than Dharahara’s 61.8 m). Dharahara, also called Bhimsen Tower, was Kathmandu’s tallest structure when it was built in 1832, and so was the conical-shaped Galata when it was constructed in 1348. And both towers command a huddle of tightly-packed houses and buildings in the heart of the respective cities.

Though Kathmandu’s Dharahara cannot match the architectural splendor of Galata Tower, the likeness between the two cities of antiquity doesn’t end here.

To start with, writers and poets sometimes invoke Kathmandu’s  historical names – “Kantipur” and “Kasthamandup” – to call to mind the city’s former beauty while Istanbul could be referred to by many as “Constantinople”. (The Istanbul guide book I was carrying mentioned a certain Lale Pudding Shop at Divanyolu neighborhood, calling it the“fabled halfway point to Kathmandu of 60’s hippie lore”). And if Kathmandu is the City of Gods with hundreds of beautiful temples, shrines, stupas and monasteries in ancient city squares, palaces, narrow alleyways, and street corners  Istanbul is the City of Mosques. The first thing that strikes visitors to this city are the imposing, visually stunning domes and edifices of mosques which dot the city. The former imperial city that served as the capital of four empires – Megarian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman, making it the crossroads of various civilisations –  has altogether 3,113 mosques, minarets and madrashas. Continue reading…

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Israel Diaries

Posted by admin on February 10, 2015
OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Shalom Jerusalem

From the vantage point of Mount of Olives, I see the golden-coloured Dome of the Rock soar above the Old City of Jerusalem — a tight cluster of pale limestone buildings, domes, and towers. Entering into the walled city from a glossy, well-planned outer suburb area — home to all branches of the Israeli government –– I feel that I am in some another time period. Of course there are signs of modern-living, but that makes little difference.

Streets paved with setts run past ancient colonnaded houses with wrought-iron balconies. Below them shops and restaurants sell hot pizza, falafel and shawarma. Soon the streets turn into narrow lanes and alleys of bustling markets full of locals and tourists alike.

An Array of shops sell a range of souvenirs that easily catch a visitor’s eye (or dazzle it) – from exotic artifacts, fine local handicrafts and antiques to religious articles, jewelleries, textiles, rugs, cheap clothing, ceramics, glassware and small keepsakes to take back home to remind you of your visit to the holy city.

I head down some covered markets in the Muslim or Christian quarters. They are so devoid of natural light that lamps from rows of shops light the way. Walking down these vibrant marketplaces while passing by a variety of colorful goods and wares and amid merchant calls, you may just walk past a hidden mosque, a church or some religious sites of importance without even knowing. Your mind is too busy processing the multitude of exotic images pounding on it. Continue reading…

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