Book Review: Longing for Istanbul

February 14, 2022
Book Review: Longing for Istanbul

Whirling dervishes, women weaving silk threads into priceless rugs, strolling through the Grand Bazaar, the aroma of pungent spices, and the remarkable minarets of the Hagia Sophia.

Do these images overwhelm your senses, making you long to visit a land where its location, history, and traditions blend eastern and western cultures?

The Republic of Turkey is one of seven countries that straddles two continents. A peninsula surrounded by three bodies of water, including the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Aegean Sea. It serves as a bridge between Asia and Europe. Istanbul, a large seaport city, once known as Constantinople is located prominently on the Strait of Bosporus. It is here that the ebb and flow of tides have come to define Turkey’s unique multicultural character.

A culture holding on to ancient traditions while embracing western ideas and struggling to make a perfect fit. The geography, history, and blending of cultures formed Turkey’s identity as well as its’ relationships with the rest of the world. Since the ancient times of the Roman Empire and Byzantine era when Constantinople was the capital of the eastern Roman Empire, there was notable world expansion and the shaping of the republic we know today. Another important influence on Turkey was the invasion of the Ottomans beginning in the 1300s and lasting 600 years.

Ms. Morrow asks the reader to share in the voyage without judgment and understand the complex, yet fascinating country that is Turkey.

Islam became the dominant religion during this time and is reflected in all aspects of daily life, architecture, and the arts. The Ottoman Empire officially ended in 1922. Turkey was declared a republic on October 29, 1923, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) became the country’s leader. He served as Turkey’s first president from 1923 until he died in 1938, implementing reforms that secularized and westernized the country.

Lisa Morrow, an author, and travel writer has written several books about Turkey, including “Waiting for Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul,” “Inside Out in Istanbul: Making Sense of the City,” and “Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries.”

Book Review: Longing for Istanbul

In her most recent book, “Longing for Istanbul” Ms. Morrow shares heartfelt personal essays of life in her adopted land and an honest introspection of her years there. As with any relationship, she is open about the struggles and conflicts of assimilating to a new culture, learning a new language, and following social mores. However, she also beautifully describes her new friends and their importance, her endless curiosity to learn daily about the country and its people, and her sheer delight in visiting villages throughout Turkey.

Ms. Morrow also amuses the reader with stories about a bumpy, uncomfortable ride through the country relying only on a Turkish-English dictionary for communication. She shares observations from a traditional Turkish wedding, learning to belly dance, and the significance of smashing of pomegranate on New Year’s Day.

Istanbul has given me more happiness and contentment than I ever dreamed possible. You are my çeyiz, my dowry box.

Her vivid descriptions of a visit to a mosque and the significance of its architecture along with how she reinvents holiday celebrations not only enlighten but make you feel as if you are on the journey too. Likewise, you will feel the tension and fear during the days of an attempted coup as well as the frustration of questionable legal proceedings while negotiating with land developers.

Ms. Morrow asks the reader to share in the voyage without judgment and understand the complex, yet fascinating country that is Turkey. In the last chapter, Ms. Morrow writes a love letter to her adopted country. She writes, “Istanbul has given me more happiness and contentment than I ever dreamed possible. You are my çeyiz, my dowry box.

When I open it up all the wealth contained in my memories flows back to the source. Thank you for giving me the key.”

“Longing for Istanbul” is an enjoyable read of one’s shared memories of living in a land rich in natural beauty, history, traditions, and embraced by multicultural experiences.

Longing for Istanbul Book Review.
Author Lisa Morrow.

Follow Lisa on, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Photos credits by Lisa Morrow. 


About Marianne Casey

I am freelance travel writer and photographer who enjoys all types of travel and exploring new places. I have sailed on 20 cruises and especially prefer special theme sailings. Also, a lighthouse enthusiast who is particularly interested in the history and preservation of these monuments and have traveled the United States, Canada, Caribbean and Europe visiting them. Follow me at and Facebook and Instagram.

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