Taking it easy in the UAE
8.26.14 - 8.31.14 105 °F
My last full day (August 26) in Istanbul was pretty busy. I started the morning visiting Hagia Sophia, once a church, then a mosque and now a museum. It's a pretty amazing place.
Not only is it a pretty huge place, but the detail in some of the smaller aspects of the building are also really interesting. Several original murals were also uncovered during its restoration for its conversion to a museum.
I continued my Robert Langdon adventure across the street at the Basilica Cistern. A massive subterranean gallery, it used to be supply this section of Istanbul with water. It would be considered an impressive engineering feat today, but the fact that it was built some 1500 years ago is hard to imagine. Considering it was a hot day, it's also a convenient place to cool down.
My hostel was pretty well located so later that afternoon, it was time to visit the Blue Mosque. The mosque gets its name from the predominantly blue tiles decorating the interior. This was the first working mosque I had visited and the similarities and differences to the churches I visited were really interesting. The mosque had a large interior space like the churches, but the mosque was carpeted, in contrast to the stone floors in the church. Visitors have to cover their legs in the mosque and take their shoes off before entering. And when it is time for one of the 5 daily Islamic prayers, the mosque is closed to visitors, while the churches were open for most of the time.
Finally, I went to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest in the world. It can be a confusing place, and I certainly did not see all of it. It's a worthwhile place to walk through, even if you don't plan on buying anything, just to see the sheer number and variety of things for sale.
On August 27th, I flew to Abu Dhabi, UAE to stay with my uncle Pete and aunt Holly. I planned for a lot of my time here to be focused on taking a break and just generally resetting. Everything from charging batteries, doing laundry, and backing up photos (now that I had a stable wifi connection). We spent a day in Dubai, mostly focused around the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. It's hard to describe just how tall this building is, but when you're on the observation deck that is still several hundred feet from the top and you're still looking down on buildings that are hundreds of feet tall, you start to get a sense of it. The night we arrived we had dinner at a restaurant that overlooked a pool that has a fountains that sync to music every night.
The next morning we went to the observation deck, and let's just say I'm glad I'm pretty much over my fear of heights.
We also walked around some the older parts of Dubai, and discovered that Friday really is a holy day for Muslims because outside of the Burj Khalifa and the malls, there was nothing open. Even the elevated train doesn't start running until after 2 pm. This wasn't necessarily a problem, because we just went back to the hotel to eat lunch and swim on the rooftop.
So now it's off to Mumbai, India for 3 nights. I will also be going to the Taj Mahal and Delhi while I'm in India. After India I am heading down to Bangkok to spend a few weeks in SE Asia.