Saturday, March 26, 2016

Tips for Untouristy Tourists: Istanbul’s Hidden Treasures

Istanbul is the jewel of Turkey, the land of exceptional cultural and natural treasures, country of contrasts and contradictions, history filled with epic episodes. If you already had chance to visit this beautiful city, probably you’re waiting for the day to go back. If you still haven’t, treat yourself with a trip to this amazing city, the crossroad of modern Europe and mystic Asia; Istanbul should be definitely included into your Turkey tour package.
Almost everyone who arrives in Istanbul begins with the classic Sultanahmet (old city) tour. Visit will include Topkapi Palace Museum and Haghia Sophia Museum along with other Sultanahmet highlights. Well known Topkapi Palace was the imperial residence of the Ottoman Sultans for four centuries and houses examples of Ottoman architecture, large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armour, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts, as well as a display of Ottoman treasure and jewellery. Second major highlight Haghia Sophia, the “Church of Holy Wisdom”, was built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. After 916 years as a church, in 1453, shortly after the conquest, Haghia Sophia was converted into a mosque. In 1935 it was transformed into a museum. These main museums will help you in understanding the country’s history and appreciating the richness of its culture.
However, there are numerous other treasures you can discover in Istanbul. For example The Archaeology Museum in G├╝lhane Park is a place not to be missed while in Istanbul and is only steps away from Topkapi Palace. It is certainly one of the best museums in Turkey and a must see for anyone with any interest in archaeology. A nice definition used by travelers for this museum is that it is country in nutshell. Turkey has many archaeological sites and the museum offers visitors a sample of what the country has to offer in terms of archaeological treasures, from the prehistoric times to the Ottoman period.  This complex is divided in three buildings, the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Oriental Antiquities, and the Tiled Pavilion. The star attraction is the Alexander Sarcophagus which is remarkable for stunning carvings on the exterior detailing the battles and the life of Alexander the Great.
Another less known jewel is Chora (Kariye) Museum hidden in Edirnekapi district of Istanbul. The dictionary meaning of Kariye (Chora) is “outside of the city”, or “rural” in old Greek, probably stemmed for being located out of the ancient city walls; today it is located close to the Edirnekapi city walls over the Golden Horn.  Kariye Museum is the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul after Haghia Sophia and houses the best examples of Byzantine mosaic art. The neighbourhood has a relaxed atmosphere, with narrow and steep alleys, traditional wooden and colorful Turkish houses and small cafes where you can enjoy a cup of tea.
Dolmabahce is another effulgent palace and museum at the shore; five million Ottoman gold pieces, the equivalent of 35 tonnes of gold was used at its construction. The Palace was the official residence of several Ottoman Sultans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Dolmabahce visit is usually offered as optional in many itineraries, but you can also visit it on your own with a short taxi ride from Sultanahmet.
The other shore of the Bosphorus houses another palace, Beylerbeyi, the summer palace of the Ottoman sultans. After palace visit you can stop at the Beylerbeyi town center, a small fishing town where you can enjoy scrumptious sea food with the tranquilizing view of the Bosphorus.
Finally, make sure you pay a visit to the Basilica Cistern, also known as the “Sunken Palace”. Usually guides do not include it to their itineraries but it is conveniently located across St. Sophia, at the centre of the historic hotels. Cistern was constructed by Justinian in 532 to supply (water) the Byzantine Palace primarily. It is the largest of all Istanbul’s ancient cisterns; today the walkways have been constructed right through the cistern and subdued illumination lends the place a suitably mysterious atmosphere.
Istanbul is full of historic and cultural sights; it is a vibrant and colourful city offering surprises to its residents and visitors every single day. It was usually described as beautiful and flirtatious woman in the old poetry, seductive but variant. So next time you visit Istanbul, discover your own treasures, in other words, make sure you’ll have couple of free days to have Istanbul on your own way…

Turkay Aykut is the Sales Manager of Anatolia Tours & Travel Co. offering private and escorted tours to Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Dubai, Oman, Egypt & Jordan. More information at http://www.anatoliatravels.com/

Discover Wonders Of Egypt And Jordan

7 Wonders of the World… You may not name all of them but probably you know that most of them were destroyed by earthquake, fire, or other causes since Herodotus formulated his list in mid 5th century BC. Today you may only see 2 monuments: the remains of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Turkey and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the only one fully standing. Although Egypt has many to offer still thousands of tourists visit Egypt every year to see the Great Pyramid. In 2001 a corporation started an initiative to choose the New 7 Wonders of the World. The results were announced in 2007 and one more monument in the Middle East was selected as one of the new wonders: Petra in Jordan. Since then Jordan became a booming tourism destination. Although Egypt was not happy with the results still Petra’s selection increased the tourist flow to the region, and both Jordan and Egypt benefited from this traffic. The frequency and the short duration of the flights between these countries motivate North American travelers to visit both countries once they take the long flight to the Middle East. You’ll need at most 13 days to tour Egypt and Jordan; you can cover the major highlights and return home with mystical memories of the new and old wonders of the world.It is suggested to begin with Cairo, the bustling city of North Africa. Don’t plan to begin touring on your arrival day, try to rest, recover from jet lag and keep your energy for the next day. Next morning why don’t you start with the famous Giza Pyramids? If you have booked a private tour in Egypt, probably you’ll meet your guide at your hotel and you’ll drive to Giza Plateau, located in the west bank of Nile, facing Cairo. Cheops, Chepren and Mycerinus are the three pyramids you will see in this plateau and their guardian Sphinx, the lion body human head mythical statue. If you are planning to enter the Great Pyramid you’ll need to arrive the gate early as the number of visitors is limited with 150. After Pyramids, visit the second highlight, the world famous Egyptian Museum. The museum that houses the largest Egyptian collection with more than 250.000 antiques extending over the past 5000 years. The famous Tut-Ankh-Amon collection is one of the most splendid parts of the museum. In the museum you may purchase additional ticket to visit the Mummy Room (cameras not allowed).
Your second day should begin early with a flight to Aswan or Luxor to join the Nile Cruise. You may not be really a “cruise type” but in Egypt, Nile cruise is the best way to visit Luxor, Aswan and other sights in between. If you begin from Aswan probably you’ll want to take the expensive excursion to Abu Simbel. It is a half day excursion but a must-see sight in Egypt. Flights to Abu Simbel fly early morning from Aswan and return by noon allowing ample time for cruise guests to board their ship. In Abu Simbel you’ll see the magnificent temples of Ramses II and Nefertiti.
Then you can join your Nile cruise ship where you’ll spend you next 5 days. Most cruise excursions will take you to Aswan Dam, to the Philae Temple and to a short sail by felluca’s, traditional sail boats to view the Agha Khan Mausoleum which is currently closed to visitors. On the way to Luxor ship will stop in Kom Ombo and Edfu. The Kom Ombo Temple was built in Ptolemaic Roman era for the worship of god Haroeris and Sobek, the crocodile god. Edfu Temple, located in the west bank of Nile, is dedicated to god Horus, the falcon god. This temple is the second largest temple after Karnak and its distinctive character comes from its huge structure that blends Greek and Pharaonic architecture. At the end of 3rd day on boat you will arrive Luxor, the greatest open air museum in the world.
Luxor tours begin with the Valley of Kings and Queens. Some of the most important tombs in the valley are the tombs of Tut-Ankh-Amon, Ramses III, Set I (Kings), and Nefertiti (Queen). Here you can also see the colossi of Memnon, Necropolis of Thebes and the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, established by the only woman who ruled Egypt. Three terraces of the temple are impressive. Then you’ll cross the river to the eastern bank of Nile to see the temple of Karnak and Luxor. Luxor temple was built for the worship of god Amon Ra. Karnak temples includes several temples and it begins with the spectacular avenue of Rams. Next morning you’ll disembark and may spend the day in Luxor to visit the Luxor museum or you can return Cairo via flight or train.
For a complete Cairo experience you must visit the Khan Khalili Bazaar, the most famous bazaar of Egypt built in 14th century. The market has a medieval atmosphere and is famous for its unusual, typically oriental souvenirs, and handmade crafts.
At the end of your 7 night in Egypt you’ve already covered the most important highlights. On 8th day you can stay in Cairo to visit Memphis and Sakkara or you can take a daily tour to Alexandria, second biggest city and the largest port of Egypt. The city was built by the order of Alexander the Great in 332 B.C and became the capital city of his reign in Egypt. Here you should visit the Pompay Pillar, Catacomb, Montazah Garden, National Museum and the Alexandria Library. You may stay a few more days in Cairo to visit the old Cairo, mosques, citadel etc. But if you have limited time I suggest you to take the early flight next day to Amman, Jordan.
Amman, the modern and ancient capital of Jordan, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the World. Although Amman is the first step to visit Petra, Dead Sea or Wadi Rum still it is advised to begin your journey from Amman where you can visit the ancient Citadel, the Archaeological Museum and the Roman Amphitheatre.
Next day you can drive along the King’s Highway, the ancient Silk Road, to Madaba that is famous with its Byzantine mosaics. In the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George you can see the earliest surviving original map of the Holy land in a mosaic floor dating to 560 A.D. Ten kilometres west of Madaba is the holly district of Mount Nebo, known as the site of the tomb of Moses. Here you can enjoy the spectacular view across the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, even the spires of the churches of Jerusalem. Leaving Mount Nebo behind you are heading to Dead Sea, to the lowest point on earth, and the world’s richest source of mineral salts. It’s called the Dead Sea because nothing lives in it. Its salt content is six times that of most oceans. Plants or fish can not survive in the salty water but humans can float in the Dead Sea which makes swimming here a truly unforgettable experience. After this unique experience you are ready to head to Petra, but before Petra you have to visit Kerak, the city famous with the12th century hilltop fortress including galleries, towers, chapels, and ramparts that vividly recall the age of the Crusaders. Arrive Petra and enjoy a deep sleep as you’ll need your energy for the Indiana Jones adventure of the next day.
Red Rose City Petra, built by the Nabeteans who settled Jordan 2000 years ago, impresses travelers from all over the world with its desert rock carved monumental tombs, palaces, temples and the treasury. You’ll need to hike the 1.2 km canyon to reach the magnificent treasury. At the end of the fissure passage widens and you catch a glimpse of the astonishing monument that dominates Petra, El Khazneh (The Treasury). The rock face in which it is carved is sheltered from winds and rain so the Khazneh is known as the best preserved of all the monuments. On the way back you can enjoy the horse ride for a complete Petra adventure.
It is the 12th day of your journey, knowing you are approaching the end, you may prefer to slow down little bit. If so, I’d suggest you to head to sunny Aqaba, the red sea resort area where you can enjoy the sunshine and sea on your last day. But before going to Aqaba, the last must-see is the Wadi Rum, also known as Valley of the Moon; tourists explore the area in 4 X 4 vehicles. The landscape of Wadi Rum, with its immensity, colour and awe-inspiring shapes, creates an almost supernatural atmosphere. It was the setting for the film Lawrence of Arabia as most of our guests would recall. Passing by the Bedouin tents you will drive south to Aqaba, the red sea resort area where you can lie on the beach, close your eyes and spend a few moments to memorize the unforgettable mystical experiences you had in 12 days. The next day your final journey will be to Amman to board your flight back home.

About the Author 
The author of this article, Nil Aykut, is the Marketing Manager of Anatolia Travels. Anatolia Travels offer private and escorted tours to Turkey, Greece Egypt , Jordan & Morocco. More information at http://www.anatoliatravels.com