TAKSI Spices at the Rock Boutique

At the end of the last issue, we had just finished dinner in the old city section of Istanbul. We wanted to take a taksi back to the hotel - but we were a bit wary. Cab rides from the hotel (arranged by the hotel) has cost an average of 13 Turkish Lira (around $7.00); rides to the hotel had cost about twice as much. And..

“.. I’m sure that we were cheated last night,” I explained, as we walked to the taksi queue. “We went around one building at least three times..”

“... and he didn’t drive into the hotel’s entry, he left us by the staircase...”

“He did say that there was a lot of traffic because of the rain.”

“So, let’s be careful,” Nazy concluded as I began negotiations.

“Oh no!” the driver began. “Football game tonight, much traffic. No meter apply.”

“Then forget it. We’ll take the tram,”

“No tram during football game.”

“Really? How much to the Conrad Hotel?” I demanded.

“Forty Turkish Lira,” he replied. “
That’s about $22,” I thought. “35 Lira,” I replied - roughly matching the price of the previous night.

“I thought the football game was tomorrow,” Nazy interjected.

The driver gave me 15 Turkish Lira and asked for 50 Lira - before we left.

I handed him a 50 Lira note - which he subtly swapped for a 5 Lira note. “No!” he said. “You owe me 50 Lira.” He brandished the 5 Lira bill.

“Let me see what we owe you!” Nazy shouted. “I gave you a 50!” I yelled.

The driver produced my 50 Lira...

.... from behind his ear,” I thought.

.... and Nazy grabbed it before telling me to return his 15 Lira. “Come on, Nazy,” I replied. “Let’s get out of here.” I threw the money on the floor and slammed the door.

“How did you know that there was no football game today?” I asked as we tried to find a tram stop.
Nazy just looked at me. A few hundred meters past the taksi thieves, I found another cab.

“How much to the Conrad?” Nazy asked.

“I use a meter.”

“What about the football game.”

“Football game tomorrow - not today.” The ride to the Conrad cost 12.37 Lira.

The next morning, like every morning in Istanbul, we were awoken by the nearby call to prayers. Naturally, I was intrigued.

“Why does he sound like someone is shoving a hot
poker up his ..”


“He sounds like he is in pain.”

“The muezzim who sings..”

“ ... screams...” I interjected.

“ ... is chosen for the beauty of his voice.”

“Chosen by someone deaf?” I asked.

“We call them ‘azangou’ in Farsi,” Nazy continued, ignoring my question.

“I call them loud and obnoxious in English.” I replied, stuffing cotton swabs in my ears. “What shall we do today?”

“We can go to the
Galata Tower, Princess Island and the Spice market,” Nazy replied.

“Eh?” I asked - before removing the swabs.

nazy and the captain

We walked to the Bosphorus and took a ferry up the strait and then into the Sea of Marmara. Nazy helped the Captain with his navigational duties. (See photo at right.) We continued onto Princes Island (accompanied by seagulls) in the Sea of Marmara. No cars are allowed on the island, so there are a zillion horse drawn carriages (60 Lire for a short tour). The boat ride was great.

Later we went to the Galata Tower, a stone tower that was the highest building in Istanbul when it was built 1348. It has spectacular views of the harbor and the old city area (the golden horn). It’s in a busy part of the city. (In truth, every part of the city is busy.) We walked through some commercial districts that sold items that weren’t on offer in the Grand Bazaar - like plastic pipe and toilets.
the plastic pipe bazaar

Back on land, we walked toward the spice bazaar - but before we got there, Nazy spotted Sa’id - who owned a pre-bazaar shop selling...

The toilet bazaar

“Rocks, Nazy!” I exclaimed. “He’s selling rocks.”

Turquoise, Dan. Agate.”


Most people bought a necklace with pre-selected (i.e. Si’ad-selected) stones. Nazy, on the other hand, talked Si’ad into letting her chose one stone from each of 12 necklaces. Then we waited while he untiled each stone. Then we waited while he bound them all back into a necklace. Then we discovered that one of the stones (a middle one) had a crack. Nazy selected a replacement. I counted sumac seeds while Si’ad counted Turkish Lire.

Nazy talking with Sa’id

said fixing naz's toruquie

We (eventually) made our way along through the crowds: past the wedding gown emporiums, the designer copy shoppes (Class B and Class C), the pots and pans stores... As we walked, I remarked on the

“.. wonderful names they give their sultans. Isn’t Suleiman the Magnificent better than a simple Peter the Great?” I asked.

“The English had Richard the Lion-Heart.”

“And there was Vlad the Impaler, Ivan the Terrible, Æthelred the Unready, Louis the Pious, Charles the Bald...”

“That would have worked for you.” Nazy interrupted.

“The only thing cooler would be The Wonderful Wizard of Oz..”

At the spice market, we found real Iranian pistachios, some Turkish dried mulberries and, one of Nazy’s favorites from her childhood, dried sour cherries. Because we were running late, we decided to take a taksi back to the hotel.

“Very busy now,” the driver said. “It will be 40 Turkish Lira.”

We took the tram instead. It was time to head to Lebanon. More about our arrival in the next issue of
The Weekly Letter.

Note: Photos from our trip to Istanbul are available by clicking

The Strait of Bosphorous

bosphours view

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