That time I crashed a wedding in Istanbul

The girls and I have been walking for over 25 minutes now. I dragged them through the remains of the book market and we went deeper into the residential area of Istanbul.

The remains of the book market

The remains of the book market

They were suspicious of where we were, but I told them google maps was the boss and since we have no idea where we were we should just keep following it especially that we were headed to a supposedly an "amazing" place to eat that an expat who considered herself "local" has recommended. Turns out the location she shared was bogus and we ended up in the middle of no where without any humans or cars to be seen! Everyone turned to me and gave me the -WHAT THE HELL- look. I didn't only get lost but I managed to get six other girls lost with me! Six exhausted girls may I add. We were all tired after an intensive day of drawing geometry and visiting mosques and I just made them walk up hill for at least half an hour. At the point, they were fed up and just wanted to go back to the hotel even if that meant sleeping without food. 

I kept walking and suddenly I looked up and spotted a bunch of people at a terrace. "Look" I shouted as I pointed up. "there is a restaurant up there." The girls were suspicious, but they followed me anyway. I just entered and hopped on five flights of stairs. There was a function of some sort but I asked a waiter if that was a restaurant and he said yes. I asked if it's ok to eat there and he said of course and he directed me to a table close to the people there, but I pointed at the other empty end and asked if we can move the table there to be away from the noise. Everything magically worked out! And smiles were finally appearing. After all, four of the six girls only knew me for a day!

 While we were ordering food, we noticed that the function was actually a party and then we realised it was actually a wedding! There was a lady in a white dress and everything. We were so hungry we missed her! When we realised that we just crashed a wedding, we just got closer to the corner and wished we were invisible. We were shocked that the restaurant even allowed us to go in! Maybe it was our lost exhausted faces. 

Just look at the gorgeous view of Istanbul that we stumbled upon!

Just look at the gorgeous view of Istanbul that we stumbled upon!

As we were eating, the terrace few buildings away released some fireworks and we were thrilled to see it all and moments later, a man on our terrace held some fireworks and lifted them and we were so close to the action. It was so thrilling. Plus we got an amazing view of Istanbul. 

Getting lost could either go really well or miserably bad. we were all pleased it turned to be such fun. It was a night to remember and by the end of it, it felt like the girls and I were friends for years.    

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Five Top Mosques To See In Istanbul

Istanbul has over 300 mosques. During my Istanbul Art Trip, I managed to visit five in the city. I was only in that part of town for a week before I ventured to the Asian side and saw the beautiful mosques of Uskudar

5- (Sultan Ahmet) Blue Mosque

This is one of the most obvious mosque options because it's right there in the centre. Prepare yourself to see masses of people 

4- Aya Sophia

The same crowdedness applies to this one too. It is really interesting to see the old Christian art along side the Islamic one. I felt that is what diversity is all about. 

3- Sokullu Sehit Mehmet Pasa Camii

This one is right in front of the Istanbul Design Centre, where I did my Istanbul Art course. I also lived facing it in a really cute little hotel called Oba Hotel. It was a very nice mosque. Peaceful and absolutely gorgeous inside. 

2- Rustum Pasa Camii

The tiles were interesting in this one. It's actually known for its Iznik tiles. There is a book stand in the courtyard that sells books about the tiles found in there. We had to walk through a very busy market to get to it. It was distracting to look at the market stalls, but we got there. We did a little drawing session there as well, which was really nice. 

1- Sulymania Camii -top pick-

Very grand and stunning inside and outside. I liked the view of Istanbul from there. If you don't have time to go to all five, I would recommend this one over the rest. 

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Mosques of Uskudar

Uskudar is a quick ferry ride away from Istanbul. I wasn't even planning to go, but I happened to find myself in the area and I though it will be a shame not to discover the area. I did a quick google maps search on what's around and I followed the path. It was heavily raining when I was there last Fall, but I kept going. There was something nice about rain and mosque architecture. I was drenched, but life in London has prepared me to face any amount of rain. What I enjoyed the most was that I was the only tourist in that whole area. It was great to wander around picking the best angles and to sit around without interruptions. If you are a lover of Islamic Turkish architecture then make sure to include this little gem in your program. 

Ps. the word Camii is pronounced jami'e, which means mosque. 

The order of the photos is the same order I followed during my visit. 

Mihrimah Sultan Camii

This mosque was opposite to the harbour and easy to spot when you get off. "It was designed by Mimar Sinan and built between 1546 and 1548. It is a massive structure on a raised platform and already shows several hallmarks of Sinan's mature style" (Üsküdar Belediyesi, 2016). 

Uskudar Camii

I should have started with this one because that was even closer to the ferry drop off point. It's across the street from Mihrimah Sultan Camii. I met the nicest old man there who was so excited to tell me all about the place. It was SUPER tiny and the style is repeated, so you can skip this one if you are in a rush, but I liked it.  

Yeni Valide Camii (1700)

What struck me about this mosque were the dark coloured interior of red, black and green.  

Ps. Yeni means new and below you will see the older copy of this mosque.  

Aziz Mahmday Efendi Hazretleri Camii

My Islamic Illumination teacher Dilara Yarci told me about this one. Just hearing her talk about this little shrine made me want to come see it for myself. People come here with so many wishes and hopes and they ask Aziz Mahmday Efendi Hazret to ask God for those wishes as a medium because of his holy status, which is similar to saint like. I actually haven't heard of him before, but he is a big deal in the Turkish culture it seems. It is a really tiny place as well. I didn't actually go inside the mosque because I wanted to make it to the other ones before dark. 

Atik Valide Camii (1570)

Ps. Atik means old. 

I think this was my favourite mosque in Uskudar. I liked the spacious courtyard outside and the interior tiles and details. It was a trek getting there on foot. It was hilly. Actually the further I walked, the more hilly the town got. It might be easier to go there by taxi. I wanted to return by taxi after this one, but I could not find one and just had to walk back which was about 40mins from the harbour where I needed to be back. 


  • Üsküdar Belediyesi. (2016). Mihrimah Sultan Mosque. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Jun. 2016].

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Ebru Workshop in Istanbul

Ebru is a traditional Turkish art used to decorate paper for bookbinding, calligraphy and stationary. It is also known as paper marbling for the effect the colours make in the preparation process. Marbling paper adds another artistic depth to the art piece. 

The process of Ebru is fascinating and it is like painting on water. The water has some ox gull in it, which causes the colours to float and be on the surface. Liquid colour pigments are splashed with special brushes. There are various tools to use to shape the Ebru and produce different results. Drawing precisely is also possibly, but Ebru in general is unexpected and requires a lot of practice. 

I am so glad I got the chance to do a quick workshop with the rebound Turkish artist Alparslan Babaogluin the Istanbul Design Centre as part of the Art of Islamic Pattern art trip. It is surly worth a try! 

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On the Asian side of Istanbul

It was so tempting to just stay in the European side of Istanbul. The markets and mosques there were enough to keep me occupied for weeks, but I headed across the waters to the other side. I went to Kadıköy to discover another side I haven't tried and I am so glad I did. The ferry trip was really cheap. I used the Istanbul transports card because it is much cheaper than getting one ticket at a time. It was only a 20mins ferry journey. I sat on the upper deck of the ferry to enjoy the views. It was October so the breeze was slightly cold, but very refreshing. Kadıköy was filled with locals. I felt like I was the only tourist and I liked that. My only three Turkish words I knew -which are used in Arabic too- took me a long way there: Marhaba (hi), Tamam (ok) and Tashkur la (thank you).

Everyone was very sweet and super helpful. Their market was small. It smelled of fresh vegetables, fish and kebabs. It was so alive with footsteps and conversations. There were lots of little nice spots especially in Moda. They had many quirky fashion boutiques. It's surly worth a visit for a day. The hotels there were relatively cheaper than the touristy spots of Istanbul.

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Istanbul Art Trip

Since I started with the Art of Islamic Pattern, I have been in love with their classes in London and abroad. I have been to most of their art trips. I started with the Granada Art Trip then the Fez Art Trip. My last one was to Istanbul. Like the first two, the trip was amazing! I loved being surrounded with a group of like minded people. The trip was a nice mix of drawings and field trips to local mosques. We learnt a few geometric patterns with Richard and biomorphic ones with Adam. All the patterns were from Turkish mosques. It was nice connecting the drawings to the location. 

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Istanbul Travel Vlog

I went to Istanbul for the second time in Fall 2015 and I loved it as much as I did the first time and I would love to go back for a few more times not only to Istanbul but to explore the rest of Turkey. My Istanbul posts and photos will give you lots of the information you need and tell you about my art experience there and about lots of interesting sights on the Asian and European sides of the city. Here’s a little video as well to give you a feel of how it was like in Istanbul.

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