In other news, Rukaya got a new dress and had a good time showing it to everyone. Photos courtesy of Haydar.
In other news, Rukaya got a new dress and had a good time showing it to everyone. Photos courtesy of Haydar.
Thanks for waiting as I took my time updating you. I could try to tell you it is because I’m on a Spanish time schedule now, but that wouldn’t be true. It is more about wanting some personal time to reflect.
The program has been moved to Madrid for the remainder of the semester due to horrific events that have affected and continue to affect far too many around the world. On March 19th, 2016, a suicide bomber on İstiklal Caddesi took the lives of 5 people and injured 39 people. All of the students, both undergraduate and graduate, Prof. Brad, Prof. Vince, and Prof. Ozayr & his family and I were on a day trip to Edirne at the time of the attack. We were at a rest stop when live updates of the attack came through. There we were, a group of yabangees sitting among native Turks, looking on at the broadcast en masse with shock and confusion. Some students used their survival Turkish to inquire with those around them, sharing the feeling of concern with natives. Eventually we parted ways and continued on our trip.
İstiklal Caddesi is one of my favorite places to be in Istanbul. Being the most captivating public space I’ve ever spent time in, it is part of the everyday of Turkish people, my everyday during the months I called Istanbul my home, and in the experiences of most everyone who visits Istanbul (if you’re doing it right). This was the route I took to get to my favorite restaurant in Istanbul. This was part of my morning walk to the study center, and where we would unwind after the day among throngs of people and discover ıslak burgers, the warmth of Turkish people, get simit from a street vendor, dodge the nostalgic tram, and redefine our understanding of public space. It is where, three years ago, Ozayr and his family introduced us to the city of the world’s desire. It was my first taste of Istanbul, and in no way my last.
And so this act set in motion the tireless efforts of Prof. Ozayr, Prof. Vince, Prof. Brad, and those at Accent and the College of Design to coordinate our move to Madrid. I thank them immensely, and I know the students appreciate their efforts to keep the program abroad. Muchas gracias. Çok teşekkür ederim.
As I reflect on these events, I realize that what is equally gut-wrenching are some of the responses I’ve seen and heard from peers, politicians, and the media regarding these attacks. While some cities are offered Facebook check-ins and “solidarity” flag profile picture filters, others are left to wonder why their tragedies don’t elicit the same response.
This evil has people making decisions about which lives lost should be more mourned. It counts on the media to distort these events. It is sickening and divisive in intent. So don’t let it be. Be smart. Practice empathy and equality. Care for each life. The same evil targets all of these places.
There have been many reminders of Turkey all over Madrid. From advertisements to actual Turkish people, in Spain, speaking Turkish. On our first walking tour we stopped in a plaza and a Turkish tourism commercial complete with whirling dervishes, tulips, and vistas of Istanbul was flashing across a big screen overlooking the square. We tried to orient ourselves in that moment in Madrid, yet couldn’t resist looking longingly at the screen. As we explored the city, a number of restaurants claiming to sell döner and “pizza turco” (pide and lahmacun) kept cropping up. We have tried several. Let’s just say Turkey wins, but the playing ground is also pretty uneven to start with. Turkish Airlines banners advertising flights to Gotham City and Metropolis appear often. A paper Turkish flag fell out of a student’s sketchbook during a review and landed face up on the floor, making us all a little teary.
Don’t misunderstand this as a failure to appreciate what Madrid and Spain has to offer, because it is a lot! Plazas, tapas, vino, churros con chocolate, endless sunlight, siesta, a vibrant social culture, and more architecture, landscapes, and history. I just think Istanbul is special, and after just having been there, found myself reminiscing.
The biggest snapping of our heartstrings happened while we were in Toledo on a day trip. A group of us turned to leave the choir space in the Toledo Cathedral, just after Ozayr pointed out a brass eagle resembling the Beşiktaş J.K. mascot. There they were, a group of Turkish tourists led by a Turkish guide, speaking among themselves, Turkish filling the space. For that brief moment, we were all back in Istanbul.
I’d like to link to both Ozayr’s post about leaving Istanbul and the compiled post of student reflections about Istanbul on the U of M Rome Istanbul Study Abroad 2016 blog page. I highly encourage you to read them. Creating the program in Istanbul has been a labor of love for Ozayr, his family, Brad, friends in Istanbul who helped get the center and program started, Accent, the college, and without their efforts I wouldn’t have gotten to know such a beautiful place, complex history, and loving people. It was an emotional experience to leave Istanbul in the way we did and it deserves a moment of reflection.
Below are two photos of the Selimiye Camii. This was architect Sinan’s masterpiece, and one of the places we were in Edirne to see the day of the attack.
A couple photos of Madrid below. Look at that blue sky.
Happy International Women’s Day from Taksim Square / İstiklal Caddesi in Istanbul.
#women #internationalwomensday #istanbul #internationalwomen
Merhaba! I was fortunate enough to be part of the inaugural program to Rome and Istanbul back in the fall of 2013. Now I am thankful to have the opportunity to return as this year’s co-teacher for the 2016 program.
Below is a quick attempt at explaining what it feels like to be back in Istanbul.
I arrived in Istanbul four days before the group arrived from Rome. During this time I re-explored the metro, the ferries, got in touch with Accent Istanbul staff, marveled at all the changes, smiled at all the things that are still the same, walked İstiklâl Caddesi several times over, ate at Dürümzade, smelled the salty Bosphorus air, took a walk down the street we lived on in 2013, and visited new places as well.
Throughout this reintroduction to the city I had two main reoccurring thoughts.
1) Certain spaces felt different to return to because I had been there before. I’ll describe the feeling further. I felt as though I was returning to a place I visited a lot as a kid. When I was young, everything looked huge and vast, but now, certain things are more comprehensible and quantifiable in a way. How much of this space am I actually realizing? That counter you were too short to see over before, now you can, and the view is great up there too. That street you thought existed by itself as a magical, singular place, is actually connected to other streets, and you can access them too. The first impression lead to a certain understanding and acceptance of the space. A period of time passed. As I acknowledged things I remembered about the city, I realized there was now another layer to uncover.
2) At the same time, because I had returned, Istanbul was now being defined as a familiar feeling. The sounds, the smells, the textures, the way you move aside to let a car pass, all the life on the street, in the squares, on the boats, and everywhere in between. The underlying happiness I felt when I first visited Istanbul was unchanged.
While the first implies that something has changed and now I see the same things in a new light, the second recalls my memories in which I feel how I did before. I can grasp it, but I’m not necessarily predicting it. Things are still surprising me every day.
Projects that were under construction when I was here are now finished. New construction has started. Stores have changed over, expanded, and remodeled. Walls have been tagged with new graffiti. Areas you used to be able to go in are blocked off. The lights on the entrance to the Balık Pazarı are gone. I can’t find my old grocery store. The fantastic view towards the Bosphorus Bridge from the Süleymaniye Complex is now open for enjoyment, and it’s breathtaking. I can’t find Magnum Nar anywhere (…yet). The park by the center is undergoing renovations. But I’m even surprised when certain things haven’t changed.
There is a barbershop near the center, and they dry wet towels outside on a drying rack. It was bolted to the exterior wall of the barbershop, hovering over the sidewalk. It’s still bolted there. A tree with pink flowers was blooming when we first visited the fishing town of Anadolu Kavağı on our Bosphorus tour. I noticed the same tree blooming just as beautifully, three years later. A dog was resting on the roof of a restaurant as we walked up to the Yoros Castle when we came in 2013. A dog was bathing in the sun on this very same rooftop last week. Dogs still love that rooftop. Students continue to love the dogs.
And so it goes on like this. The duality of these feelings is part of why I love Istanbul so much. The city is new, and the city is old. It is vast, but also intimate. I’m seeing things differently, yet the same. I feel different, but also the same. There is a familiar comfort and a desire to know more in both, and at the same time. It’s wonderful, and I’m elated for the chance to be back, going through it all again.
Below are comparisons of things that are the same.
Below is the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, completed two days ago. This change is big enough to make up for all of the pictures I don’t yet have of all of the other changes I’ve noticed so far in Istanbul.
Here it was, just a few days ago, as the last piece was waiting to go in.
If I’m ever distracted from writing a blog post, it’s probably because I’m hanging out with this girl. Meet Haydar’s two year old sister. She teaches me Arabic, loves playing doctor, can sit through an entire soccer game with as much enthusiasm as her older brothers, climbs just about anything, loves her family, is fearless, makes me laugh, and is full of energy all day long. Ana bahebik! ❤
Hello again! It has been a busy couple weeks over here and I’m finally carving out some time to write about Baalbek. We have been taking full day trips and usually get back to the house by 8 or 9pm. By the time we spend time with family, eat something, move the day’s photos onto the computer, charge batteries, shower, and prepare for the next day’s trip we are ready to sleep because we know we are waking up at 5:30am. I’ll be back-blogging from Istanbul.
Haydar and I visited Baalbek two weeks ago. As with each trip we take, Haydar left our actual destination a surprise, so I had no idea what we would see that day. He has been keeping the itinerary under lock and key and enjoys seeing my reaction when I finally experience things in person.
Baalbek is located in the Beqaa Valley. It is about an hour an a half from Beirut. You travel up, over, and back down mountains to get there. The valley is between Mount Lebanon of the West mountain range and Mount Lebanon of the East mountain range. When we got over the crest of the Mount Lebanon of the West mountain range and began making our descent into the Beqaa Valley, traffic slowed down. The road we were on is an international highway to Damascus, one of several international highways between Lebanon and it’s neighbor Syria. People can pass back and forth internationally from Damascus to Lebanon, and for this reason the road is heavily monitored with checkpoints. However, at this location you are still far from the actual border. After our decent we had another forty minutes to go before we reached our first stop in Baalbek. Once down into the valley, you have a view of Mount Lebanon of the East mountain range. At the foot of the other side of these mountains is the border between Syria and Lebanon. Here is a picture of those mountains.
Worthy Side Note:
As we drove to our first stop, we passed several more large fields like the one you see above. There are several Syrian refugee camps in these fields. Lebanon has a population of around 4 million. There are currently around 2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. That is 1 refugee for every 2 Lebanese. I took a few zoomed in photos. (separate blog devoted to this topic later on)
Back to the Trip:
Here is a picture of new mosque under construction – I had to ask Haydar to stop the car to grab a photo because I’d never seen a mosque done in all concrete, granted this is just the bones. This structure will most likely be clad in other stones and materials.
Our first (actual) stop was an ancient quarry. “The Stone of the Pregnant Woman” is an ancient monolith thought to be quarried for the nearby Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek, 900 meters away. It is around 1,000 tons. A second stone was discovered in the 1990s and is even larger at 1,250 tons. A third was discovered in 2014 weighing 1,650 tons. This holds the record for the largest quarried monolith by human hands to date. “The Stone of the Pregnant Woman” is the most popular and well known. It sits at an angle in the quarry and the other two stones lie underneath / to the side of it.
There are many stories behind the name of this stone. A local shop owner and expert explained that ancient folklore states if women touched the stone it would increase their fertility. Some stories say pregnant jinn (supernatural creatures in early Arabian, later Islamic, theology and mythology) were given the task of cutting and moving the stone. Another legend is that a pregnant woman convinced people she knew how to move the stone if only they would feed her until she gave birth. And so the stone got it’s name: “The Stone of the Pregnant Woman”. Both Haydar and I touched the stone.
After some time here, we made our way to the ruins at Baalbek. We spent the rest of the day there until it closed, then rushed to a restaurant around the corner where we had a kilo of lahmacun, Baalbek style, being prepared for us. Our friends Nick and James visited Haydar in September before I came and left Baalbek without trying it. They were enjoying the ruins so much (it was summer, so they could stay until 6pm) that the restaurant was closed by the time they left the temples. Knowing that it takes a while to make and that we weren’t leaving Baalbek without trying it, we stopped inside ahead of time. Sorry Nick and James, you missed out, but save it for the next time you visit Baalbek! (more about lahmacun below…I’m getting off topic again).
This area was just outside the entrance to the Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Bacchus. You didn’t even have to pay to enjoy this part. In the picture below, the Temple of Venus is being restored, and the Temple of the Muses begins with the columns you see to the middle right of the photo. The Roman ruins at Baalbek were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. For anyone unfamiliar with what specifically qualifies a site, it means that, according the their website, it has special cultural or physical significance. (I’ll say!) You can see the “UNESCO” banner, although falling down at one corner, on the scaffolding.
Below is part of a colonnaded street that separated these two temples from the larger temples we were about to see.
Beyond a green gate (seen in the photo below if you follow your eye along the railing to the left) is the paid entrance ($8 for the two of us *insert face with open mouth emoji*). Once inside, we went to the right. We ended our tour of the ruins at the structure (Temple of Bacchus) in the distance behind the green entry gate.
Once up the stairs, we explored the propylaea (entrance).
Already I was stunned by the scale of things. And this was just the entrance.
From the photo below it is hard to tell exactly how big the top stone with the shell pattern actually is. This stone was still in its original place. The photo below the photo below is me sitting inside a similar top stone from somewhere inside the Great Court (I’m guessing based on further exploration). Insane.
Here is another example. I looked towards the other end of the propylaea (opposite where Haydar and I took the photo in front of the pedestal). I see a Corinthian capital on the ground. I walk towards it. It is massive. This capital belongs to one of the columns of the propylaea. *insert astonished face emoji*.
Two-story towers flank the rectangular hall and staircase of the propylaea. I went into one of the towers. Again, massive.
There was so much detail.
Next stop is the hexagonal court. These are views from the propylaea into the court. We read that this is “the only example attested in Roman architecture and was built in the 2nd c.AD”. It is the forecourt to the Great Court. It underwent a series of changes during different periods. The Byzantine period added a roof and punctured its outer walls to let in light. Passages were added during the medieval period when it was being used as a citadel. At one point it may have also been used as a church.
There are a lot of photos, I know, but the ruins at Baalbek were really impressive. On to the Great Court. It has a substructure underneath (which is partially accessibly today) that would keep horses and act as storage space. In the middle of the Great Court there are two larger structures. One is a tower that may have been used for worshipers to view what was going on in the temple, the other an altar for sacrifices with space for sculptures. Flanking the altar are pools for ritualistic washing. The altar and the water basins were especially important elements to what went on at the Temple of Jupiter and its worshipers. Surrounding the altar and viewing tower was a colonnaded portico connected to rectangular and semi-circular exedras (side rooms). Statues would be displayed in these rooms. During religious feasts, different cities would come and occupy an exedra. In the early Christian period a basilica was constructed where the altar and towers were. The church is gone and the altar and tower partially reconstructed (I am pretty sure). This information is general and pulled from different placards and pamphlets at the ruins.
At this point Haydar was getting worried about time, and had to push me out of the exedra (side room) because there was still more to see. We hadn’t even gotten to the temples yet. I agreed to move on only to stop in the next exedra and look more.
After another ten (okay maybe twenty) minutes of looking here, we climbed the steps to the Temple of Jupiter. This was the sanctuary for the worshiper and it was approached through the series of spaces I just wrote about. The temple is on podium that is seven meters above the Great Court, and thirteen meters above most of the surrounding landscape. On the west side of the podium is a “trilithon”, which is what the “Stone of the Pregnant Woman” and others in the quarry we first stopped at may have been cut for.
AHHHHHHHHHHH! *insert astonished face emoji* There they are. The six remaining columns of the Temple of Jupiter. Standing in this spot I am about one third of the way into the temple. Not much else remains. I turned around. My jaw dropped again at the view of the Great Court below. We walked around and soaked in the scale of things. In order of appearance: standing next to part of the entablature from the temple, part of a column from the temple, more entablature, and the base of a column.
We went through a doorway in a far corner of the temple. From what Haydar and I gathered, this was an addition during the medieval period when the ruins were turned into a citadel to fight the Crusaders. Sultan Bahramshah of the Ghaznavid dynasty (we think) added the Temple of Bacchus into the citadel and erected other structures such as a mosque, a gate, and a large hall. In 1260 the Mongols invaded. After, the Temple of Bacchus was transformed into a palace, and a tower at the front of the temple was included (we go into this tower at the end of the day). The next four pictures show traces of these additions.
They are so beautiful.
We walked down the stairs to the Temple of Bacchus. The “small” temple (still huge). Bacchus is the wine god, and this temple was supposedly dedicated to him, although there isn’t anything that strictly confirms this. This is one of the best preserved Roman temples. The podium for this temple is five meters high. It has been through earthquakes, religious shifts from paganism to Christianity to Islam, and was apparently a dungeon during part of the medieval period. It has great Corinthian ornamentation.
On the way down a group of birds decided to make an appearance.
Below is a very well preserved portion of fallen entablature from the Temple of Jupiter.
Looking at the below photo, you will see a lion head at the top of the entablature near the middle-top of the frame of the photo. The part I am standing in front of above stops at the garland pattern below the repeating rectangle shapes you see. The lion head portion on the ground isn’t even the full entablature, it is just the cornice. Everything is so huge.
If you remember the Corinthian capital I took a photo with at the beginning of the blog, that was peanuts compared to this one!
Just for good measure. Here are other shots of the six columns to show you just how many photos I tried to take of them.
Now I’ll really move on to pictures of the next obsession: the Temple of Bachus. It was stunning. While we couldn’t go into the temple because it is currently going through restorations, we walked all along side it.
The picture below is looking up in the portico that surrounds the temple. As with many other parts of the architecture, I never would have been able to comprehend the size of the chunk of ceiling that is missing if it hadn’t fallen to the ground and I could stand next to it. The next pictures are parts of that ceiling.
We moved to the front of the temple. The sun was beginning to set and we had limited time to go through a portion of the ruins that was added in the medieval period and is now functioning as a museum. It is the southern tower of the citadel.
Below is a fountain (if I’m remembering right) that doubled as a clock.
This is the oculus that let in the light for the clock.
Below is a tombstone found in an old storage room on site. It dates to the Ayyubid dynasty.
Below are other remnants of medieval occupation.
This was a long blog because I shared a lot of pictures. Below are two more. I took 1,015 photos that day, and I tried to just show you the highlights. A lot more weaseled their way in. Mainly I just wanted to give an idea of the different areas of the ruins at Baalbek and the many uses for the site. Seeing elements of how Christianity and Islam used the site was very interesting, although much harder to pick out than the pagan parts. A lot has been removed to uncover the Roman ruins.
These ruins were forgotten for a long time. It was covered in rubble and medieval fortification. In 1898 some of the first restoration work began by the German Archaeological Mission. Then in the 1920’s French scholars took a vested interest. The Lebanese Directorate General of Antiques continued their efforts.
Before these temples were erected it is guessed that there was an ancient tell here. The Greeks named it Heliopolis because of their association of the sun with the god of Baalbek. The Romans came and built the Great Court and the temples. More additions were made during the Severan Dynasty such as the propylaea and perhaps the hexagonal court. Then Christianity became an official religion of the Roman Empire and Byzantine Emperor Constantine closed the Baalbek temples. Altars were torn down. Stones were reused to build a basilica. Then conquests by Arab empires and dynasties saw the addition of fortress elements. A mosque was built. Earthquakes damaged the site. Theft and pillaging affected the site, and it is said to have been left pretty much untouched under Ottoman rule. In the modern day – post restoration work, concerts for the Baalbek International Festival took place inside the Temple of Bacchus. HOW COOL. They don’t do that anymore though. Now they are moved outside in the area between the two temples.
Despite all this, there is still so much left to see. I was extremely impressed. While I may not be in Rome with the students right now, I am certainly learning about the Roman empire and subsequent ruling forces. This was a great example of the reach of empires and how they are intertwined. It is also a great example of Lebanon’s historical importance to different religions and empires/dynasties/rulers/power figures.
After our visit was over, Haydar and enjoyed digging in to our kilo of lahmacun. We had leftovers to bring home to Haydar’s family. The first lahmacun I tried was in Istanbul. Haydar took me to a place close to the market where we bought fruits and vegetables. It was served as a round piece of dough rolled up / folded over for easy take out. The Baalbek style lahmacun are “mini” comparatively and the circle of dough is pinched and folded to make four corners. The general contents of this food are as follows: minced meat, minced vegetables, and minced herbs. Compared to what I ate in Istanbul, Baalbek style lahmacun has thicker dough and spicier meat. You also sprinkle more spice on top and squeeze lemon on them. You can also put pomegranate molasses on them, but this was only something Haydar added when we ate them with his family. In Baalbek they didn’t give us any sauce, just the spice and lemon. It is one of my favorite foods (I have so many….).
We also visited another site in Baalbek, but that is for another blog.
This past Friday Haydar’s mom dropped Haydar and I off at the Corniche Beirut. Haydar had a couple things in mind to explore in the area, but I was so taken by the sea that we ended up spending a lot of time by the water. We crossed the street and made our way down to the first place Haydar wanted to show me, which may not look like much at first. It is a wide dirt drive leading down to an open space full of boats, a sort of boat parking lot, if you will.
As we made our way down, someone caught up with us. He spoke with Haydar for maybe ten minutes and followed along with us as we walked down from the Corniche. At first I thought he might be asking about directions, but then I realized, by his body language, that he was delivering a sales-pitch. His arms were gesturing to the sea and beyond the hill you see in the photo above. At the end of the exchange, he went further down towards the parking lot for boats and waited.
It turns out that he was offering us a boat ride for 15,000 Lebanese Lira each, which is about $10.00. His colleague, who was just finishing up with some other customers, would take us next if we were interested. We would board on the other side of the hill, and then be taken to see a cave in the bluff and underneath the Rock of Raouché. As I didn’t see anyone else around, and all of these boats were empty in front of me, I was a bit hesitant. However, Haydar reassured me that this was completely normal.
I ran to the left of the structure you see in the photo above to take a quick picture and then we joined the salesman to accept the offer for a boat ride. Here is the view I was capturing, while drooling (not at the resort you see stretched out into the water, but at the sea and mountains beyond).
We made our way past the hill in the first picture and continued through rubble and wreckage of demolished homes. Haydar explained that these homes belonged to fisherman who fished in the area. There were restaurants that would be filled with customers looking to eat fish caught in the area. The lands were squatted, and the government bulldozed their homes (there is more to this story). At the other side of the top of this hill was a staircase, left over from the fisherman community that used to be here. This brought us down to a beautiful “wharf”.
And finally we found ourselves on this boat, getting a small tour of the Mediterranean Sea and one of Beirut’s most recognized natural features, the Rock of Raouché.
So now the Rock of Raouché is in our view. We will go through the rock, and into a cave, back out, and through the rock again on our way back to the “wharf”.
Okay I know this is getting long. But I just have to mention that all of this would not have been possible if this area, known as Dalieh, were privatized. When I mentioned the fisherman above and said there was more to the story I was referring to the never ending conflict between the public and private. Real estate tycoons want to take over this area and build more resorts, like the one I was photographing over in the second photo in this blog. The fisherman and their storefronts were evicted, and plans for private, high end development are coming.
The group The Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouché talks a lot about this on their website, which I recommend checking out if you are interested in such issues that happen in cities all over the world. Here is their website: http://dalieh.org/# (they have an “EN” button in the upper left to translate). They have great historical photos of the area as well.
Rem Koolhaas, a Dutch architect and founding partner of OMA, is involved in a new proposal for the area. An open letter has been written to him to ask he reconsiders the project. You can also read more about the conflict in these articles:
http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/mar/17/rem-koolhaas-dalieh-beirut-shore-coast | http://www.beirutreport.com/2014/12/major-project-by-celebrity-architect-revealed-in-dalieh.html
This is a public space, one of the only parts of seafront left untouched by private enterprise in Beirut. About 1 in 5 resorts on the coast of Lebanon have been acquired through illegally sold land (stat from Al Akhbar Newspaper), and the Dalieh is said to be one of them, which is why there is such a huge backlash. Imagine New York City without Central Park. Dalieh is to the Lebanese what Central Park is to New Yorkers. If a private resort is built on this land, the fisherman will have no other place to fish, and will be forced to leave Beirut to find work. Public space informs one’s identity in the city. Conflicts like these remain interesting to me, although frustratingly so. It always seems there is little to be done to stop what the mix of business and politics sets in motion. This example also highlights the role architecture plays in cities, public life, culture, business, politics, etc.
Here are some more photos of the everyday at Dalieh to end this post.