I have the most amazing husband. I often wonder if he knew what he was getting into when we started dating. Luckily for me, he often humors me and my crazy, lofty ideas. He’s an engineer, so studying religion seems strange to him, but he supports me anyway. When I suggested a stop in Istanbul during our European vacation last year he was nervous and unsure, but he obliged. Turkey is a Muslim country known for it’s openness and acceptance of a not only all faiths, but also all ways of practicing Islam. I figured Istanbul would be the perfect way to ease him into potentially visiting the Middle East in the future. The tickets were purchased and my unsuspecting husband would be accompanying me to visit my first Islamic country.
We arrived in Istanbul around 10:45 PM from Italy. After an intense ride from the airport, we settled into our hotel which was about a five minute walk from the Blue Mosque. I didn’t warn my husband about the call to prayer. I debated this choice for weeks before we left for Europe, and finally decided that he would obsess over it if I warned him. The call goes out five times a day, the first of which is at dawn. The call, which is in Arabic, also has a very distinct sound that is almost foreboding. Due to the wonderful location of our hotel so close to the Blue Mosque, the call was hard to miss. Needless to say, he was not super happy about the wake up call.
After going back to sleep for a bit and a shower my husband had forgiven this omission and we set off to explore. We enjoyed brunch on a patio and some people watching. It did not take long for us both to fall in love with Istanbul. He was very impressed by everything Turkey had to offer, from the ancient sites, to the history, to the food and beer, to the openness of the people. In my book, I had officially won him over to Islamic countries and Islam in general.
Outside of our hotel in Istanbul
New kitty friends
After a good day or two in Turkey he made a comment about how impressed he was with the way Turkey managed religion and government. I compared the US and Christianity to Turkey and Islam; despite the separation of church and state, government is influenced by Islam in Turkey just like it is influenced by Christianity in the US. Over a delicious Turkish dinner we mulled the question of why all Islamic states are not as open as Turkey. That is one question I do not feel qualified to answer, at least not yet, mostly due to the fact that this is a very American ideal for a decidedly non-American region. But more on that later.
As soon as we were safely back at home in the states, my husband took to telling everyone he could about how much he enjoyed Turkey. He was most impressed, and has told many of our friends, about walking behind women in Istanbul, one in a full burka and one in short-shorts. I was most impressed, and keep telling our friends and family, about how easily we both adapted to the Islamic ways of Turkey. My hopes for travel, and maybe even extended travel, in the Middle East were restored. And, our last morning in Istanbul, we both slept through the call to prayer.