Turkish Mosques: Experiencing Religion in Turkey

Turkish Mosques: Experiencing Religion in Turkey

pink pangea foreign correspondent My family was hesitant about me traveling to Istanbul, Turkey. Knowing that I would be in the company of two other girls, they ultimately relented and gave me their shaky blessing.

I’ve always been fascinated with locations outside of Europe. My travels have however always been within the continent. Speaking in generalities, it’s safe, resembles home, and it’s where I have family. However, leaving the continent I’ve come to consider a second home has always been inevitable in my mind.

Along with two other girls I’ve become close friends with at my new university, a decision was made to travel together to Istanbul. We all wanted to go away for the long weekend, for starters. Istanbul was a city we’d never been too, but all wanted to see. It was relatively close by, but culturally very different. It was also relatively cheap, given that we only came to a consensus two weeks beforehand.

Although I don’t speak Arabic and am not Muslim, the melodic nature of the call to prayer makes it a beautiful thing to listen to.

Turkish Mosques: Experiencing Religion in Turkey
Turkey’s Blue Mosque

Turkish Mosques: Experiencing Religion in Turkey

Sitting here in my hostel, I couldn’t be happier to have made the decision to come here. It is currently my third day here, and I leave the day after tomorrow to head back to Budapest. Istanbul is an amazing city full of fascinating history and culture that I would not be able to see at home. Simply take something as ordinary as the call to prayer, which you can hear throughout the city five times a day.

Although I don’t speak Arabic and am not Muslim, the melodic nature makes it a beautiful thing to listen to. Instead of the churches I see throughout any typical city in Europe, I’m surrounded by mosques. Their beauty both inside and outside is something you just have to see in person. Of course, religion in Turkey also manifests itself in different ways. Regardless of what your position is on an issue like headscarves and hijabs, this too is a part of the local culture.

Respect for this and how other people choose to live their life is important. While clothing here is a bit more conservative, simple jeans and a long-sleeve shirt is more than sufficient for a girl here. Short-sleeve shirts are also fine should it be a bit warmer. Entering a mosque or other place of worship does however require conservative attire and a headscarf. I’m fine with that though, as it’s a fascinating window into another lifestyle. As soon as I’m out of the mosque though, the scarf goes back around my neck.

Experiencing Religion in Turkey
Christina in Turkey

Respect for this and how other people choose to live their life is important.

My friends and I all stand out here, as we clearly don’t look Turkish. As a result, shopkeepers will often try harder to get any of us to look at the wares with cutesy comments on our appearances and looks. It’s something I’m not used to. While it still makes me a bit uncomfortable, it’s something that is likely part of culture too. While not usually very aggressive, it is different from home, to say the least.

Life in Istanbul is different, there’s no doubt about it. However, I wouldn’t change my decision to come here. You simply have to adjust a bit and be mindful that cultures differ. And of course, just like traveling anywhere else, especially as a girl, you need to make smart decisions. But that’s already implied, right?

About Christina Herrmann

Christina HerrmannA New York City native, Christina is currently completing her graduate studies at Central European University, in Budapest. A dual German-American citizen, she’s been traveling from a young age and is aiming for an international career in business. After finishing her first Master’s degree, she’ll complete another one at The London School of Economics & Political Science starting in late 2015. You can read more about her travels on her blog.

One thought on “Turkish Mosques: Experiencing Religion in Turkey

  1. Timespanr
    February 3, 2015

    I find nothing about what you are doing, thinking, or expressing to be scary or anything else. At one time the world thought that a women’s place was barefooted, pregnant, and fixing something for a man.
    Since that all has changed, or women like the PM Turkey’s wife will run over them and not look back! Their rude.
    I started this like, born in America, to a German women, I called my mother my Allah rest her sole, who told me, a Christian, about 6 years old, to go and find my religion. This was not an average comment, and to understand it, you have to know something more than “Im a Christian!”
    After 25 years of that, 25 years investigating, for the past 15 years I have been a Muslim by My Choice. I would suggest to you, get a copy of the Quran and first make a Quick read just to understand what’s there, the idea’s, and what is being ask of you. Then, after cover to cover reading, pick the Quran up, and read it for content, understand each sentence, each paragraph and each Surah (Chapter). I frankly, after reading the Torah and the Bible cover to cover annually, typing to sort out what was written to that which was implied, gave up, and became a Muslim. The second favor I did for myself was marrying and Iraqi born, Teacher of the Quran and Classical Arabic which Is my piece of Heaven on earth.
    The most dangerous thing facing you in your future is marriage. Be extremely carely in who you think is a good candidate. In Islam, we suggest that women have appointed a Walli (Marriage Broker) to add a second oppinion, to check around corners and ask question that may not be confortable to you to ask. But need be asked. With your asperations, you do not want a looser.
    Have a very nice day.

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