Author Topic: Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June  (Read 1022 times)

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Hmmmmm

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Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June
« on: January 18, 2013, 03:34:46 PM »
My DD and I are planning her HS graduation trip.  We'll be spending 5 days in Rome, 3 days visiting family in Zurich.  I want to add one additional location that is less Western European.  I am considering Istanbul or Morocco. 

I know travel time is a factor for many people, but it's not for us. We'll happily add on 6 to 10 hours of travel if I get to go somewhere that is a completely new experience for me.  We would plan to spend 2 to 3 full days in the additional location.

I've never been to either location.  Everyone's input is appreciated, whether you've actually been or not. 

If it matters, we are from the US, she has travelled extensively here, and also to Mexico, London, Moscow, Abu Dhabi and Australia.

camlan

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Re: Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2013, 06:07:04 PM »
I have been to Istanbul, but not Morocco.

There are simply layers and layers and layers of history in Istanbul. Old churches and mosques galore--Haghia Sophia, Church of St Saviour--many of the churches have incredible mosaics. Places of the sultans-- Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace. The food is wonderful--I think Turkish food is one of the best kept culinary secrets there is. Plenty of shopping at the covered bazzar or in modern malls. Lovely modern hotels, plus lovely traditional ones. You could do a day trip to Troy and bring the Illiad to life. Just ignore the Trojan horse they've built.

You could easily spend 3 days hitting just the major tourist spots. Most places have tour guides who speak English, and most of the museums have signs in English and Turkish. Driving is a hassle--the streets are narrow and the city is hilly and clearly the roads were laid out long before there were cars. Parking is also an issue in many places. I'd plan on taking taxis.

I found that knowing just a few words of Turkish, "thank you" and "hello" and that sort of thing, really got a positive response from the people I met, much more so than in other countries. From what I understand, Turkish is a difficult language to learn and most foreigners don't even try, so just an attempt earns you a lot of goodwill.

In case you couldn't tell, I had a great time there and can't wait to go again. And I still can't believe I've actually been to Troy.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


Margo

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Re: Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2013, 11:57:29 AM »
I think I'd go to Istanbul. As  Caan says, it has practically everything - wonderful history & architecture, fantastic food - there are some excellent museums, and especially as you're planning to go to Rome first you'll get the opportunity to compare the Roman remains, art etc, and the Byzantine & Ottoman ones.

And when you feel a little less cultural, treat yourself to a hamman and spa treatments.
There are also boat trips on the Bosporus if you want to get out of the city.

I loved Istanbul (and other parts of Turkey)

I don't know where in Morroco  you were thinking of visiting - I've been to Marakesh. It's interesting, but I didn't like it as much as Turkey. For one thing, although you'll get people trying relentlessly to sell you stuff, they are FAR more persistent in Marakesh, I also found as a woman travelling alone or with another woman there was a lot more hassle in Morocco. (even when dressed in a similarly restrained fashion)

Although both are predominantly Muslim countries, Turkey is more relaxed and liberal-as an example, you are free (even welcome) to visit mosques in Turkey (and many are stunning) in Morocco (or at least Marakesh) non-Muslims are forbidden to enter mosques.
Learning a few words , even if it's only 'merhaba' & 'teşekkür ederim' (hello and thank you) it will be appreciated.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 12:41:37 PM »
Thank you both for your input.  It sounds like Istanbul will be the winner.  I had not thought about Morocco being more traditional Muslim as far as women traveling alone.  And I did not know that they did not allow non-Muslims to visit Mosques and would never had validated that had you not posted.  Non-Muslims visiting US Mosques is common.

Margo

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Re: Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2013, 10:27:53 AM »
The mosque thing wouldn't have occurred to me, either, before I went. I think most here welcome visitors (provided they are willing to remove shoes / dress appropriately etc)

camlan

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Re: Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2013, 04:49:36 PM »
Hmmmmm, I found a list of places I visited in Instanbul, which might help as a starting place. I had three days there, because I squandered the last day on a trip to Troy. Several of these are close together. The two palaces will easily take a half-day each, or longer if you want.

If you want to visit a mosque, you will either have to remove your shoes or put on shoe covers. Just be quiet and respectful inside, and don't walk directly in front of someone who is praying. In some, bare arms and shorts are not allowed. Try to avoid visiting at prayer times.

Topkapı Palace
Dolmabahçe Palace
Haghia Sophia
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)
Grand Bazaar (also known as the Covered Bazaar)
Istanbul Archaeology Museum
Basilica Cistern
Hippodrome
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


Hmmmmm

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Re: Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2013, 08:35:36 PM »
Camlan, thank you so much for putting the list together.  I'm going to start researching now.

Margo

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Re: Visit Istanbul or Morocco in June
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2013, 07:24:15 AM »
In addition to the excellent suggestions Camlan has made, I'd also recommend:

Rustem Pasa mosque (small, but with fantastic iznik tiles - usually much quieter than the Blue Mosque)
Galata Bridge (where you can eat freshly caught fish, as you sit looking over the river)
Galata Tower (good views, provided the day is clear)
Süleymaniye Mosque (check first - it's been undergoing restoration and some parts have been closed)

Although most in Instanbul are too polite to insist, it is courteous to take a scarf to cover your head when you visit a mosque (and it is noticed, and appreciated!)
I founbf first thing in the morning was the best time to visit the Blue Mosque - it was quieter then than later in the day, with fewer groups. It and Haighia Sophia are right next to each other, and close to the Cisterns, so you could visit all three on the same day.

You can, I think, pre-book tickets for Topkapi Palace to avoid having to queue. I would recommend doing this - I visited in the middle of winter when there were not many tourists but there was still bit of a queue, and I know my sister & BiL who have been several times say it is worth booking ahead in busy times.

Be aware that the the museum at Topkapi has a number of relics relating to the Prophet  Mohammed, so it is a place of pilgrimage as well as a tourist attraction. (there aren't any restrictions on how you dress, but there are likely to be visitors who will stop to say a prayer in that part of the museum, and the atmosphere of those rooms is a quiet and respectful one)

Enjoy your trip!