Istanbul, The City That Never Fails To Captivate Visitors

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By Kurniawati Kamarudin

The writer at Bosphorus. Foto Bernama
The writer at Bosphorus. Foto Bernama

ISTANBUL (Bernama) — It is certainly an enchanting experience for visitors at Istanbul’s Camcila Hill, thanks to the magnificent panorama of the Bosphorus below, the narrow strait that literally divides Europe and Asia.

Standing at the top of the tranquil hill and facing towards the European continent, one will definitely be mesmerised with the beautiful edifices of Istanbul, a city that traces back its origins to the days of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empire.

Camcila Hill, with an elevation of 268 metres from the sea level, is one of the seven hills around the capital city that beckons visitors and locals alike to enjoy the fresh air and breathtaking view.

At night, the lights of the buildings and streets of Istanbul below along the Boshporus coastline creates a romantic atmosphere for those viewing from the hill.

Turkey has everything that a traveler seeks – architecture, history, culture, heritage, nature and food and therefore it is not surprising that the country has been attracting visitors since time immemorial.


Therefore it is not surprising that Turkey is the seventh most visited place in the world in 2012.

Istanbul though an ancient city, its dwellers have embraced modernity like seen in European nations today.

The city that was known as Constantinople during the Roman period now has a population of 17 million.

Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism and Culture Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz was there recently to lead the efforts to woo the Turks to Malaysia with the promise of luxurious tours at affordable prices.

The ministry in fact had reopened the Tourism Malaysia office in Istanbul in 2011 after closing it in 2009 and the office is expected to play a crucial role in bringing in the targeted 13,000 Turkish visitors to Malaysia during the Visit Malaysia Year 2014.


A travel itinerary to Istanbul is incomplete without cruising along the Boshporus, the only passage between the Black Sea and Mediterranean.

Boats and ferries ply tourists along the narrow strait with the spectacular view of the historical edifices like the Palaces of Dolmabahce, Sariyer, Kanlica and Kubu Rumeli along the shore.

Two bridges across the strait – Bosphorus Bridge and Sultan Mehmet Fatih bridge – connects the European and Asian continent from above while the recently opened 13.6km undersea railway tunnel connects both sides from below.


There are many historical edifices that stand majestically in Istanbul even today, and one of them is the Dolmabache Palace.

Get into the Dolmabache Palace, that served as the administrative nexus of the Turkish Republic from 1856 to 1922, and one will be awed by the intricate gold carvings and unique architecture.

It covers an area of 11.2 hectares with 285 rooms and 55 halls.

The glitter of the world’s biggest Bohemian crystal chandelier, a gift from Britain’s Queen Victoria, greets visitors stepping into the palace’s main chamber. The chandelier has 750 bulbs and weighs a whopping 4.5 tonnes.

Built during the reign of Sultan Abdul Mecid I, the 30th Ottoman ruler from 1843 to 1856, the opulent palace was the home for six rulers and their families.


And one who arrives in Istanbul will never miss the beautiful blue mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmad Mosque, a testament that Turkey is an Islamic state.

Built between 1609 and 1616 during the reign of Sultan Ahmad 1, it is another brilliant architectural masterpiece by Sedefkar Mehmed Aga that showcases the might of Islamic architecture.

The mosque still stands strong and it is also known as the Blue Mosque because of the 20,000 blue ceramic tiles that adorns the walls within.

There are six minarets and no less than 30 domes providing a majestic appearance on the landscape, a perfect magnet for camera totting tourists. Still a functional mosque, the entrance is free including for non-Muslims but one has to be properly attired.


About 500 meters from the Blue Mosque, sits the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) that was initially a church, later a mosque and now a museum.

Paying TRY 25 (RM40) for a ticket, visitors could witness the Islamic and Christian heritage within the same ancient structure.

Built during the Roman era around 537 AD, it served as the world’s biggest church for almost a millennia, until Sultan Muhammad Al-Fatih conquered Constantinople and converted the church into a mosque.

However he preserved the Virgin Mary’s mural on the wall and today it can be seen along with Islamic verses. Hagia Sophia stands testament to the fact that both religions once co-existed in Turkey.

Istanbul still has many other attractions to offer including the Topkapi Palace that could accommodate 4,000 people within and located close to Boshporus.

From an abode of the Ottoman rulers for almost 400 years, the palace now serves as the museum with many valuable artifacts including the sword of Prophet Muhammad.


Istanbul has lots to offer for shoppers as well. Turkey is known for its carpets and they can be found at the oldest market built in 1461, the Grand Bazaar.

The bazaar has more than 4,000 shops selling numerous items like pashmina scarfs, ceramic and copper items, sweets and many more. But good bargaining power is needed here as traders intentionally set high prices for their goods.

Then there is the smaller Spice Bazaar in Fatih, the trademark items here are the spices like saffron, pulses and dried fruits.

While in Istanbul don’t forget to savour the ‘Chai’, the traditional Turkish Tea. Tea drinking is literally a culture here.

And finally one should not forget the colourful and delicious Turkish sweets, that adds to the sweet memories of any traveler who has been to Istanbul.


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