Tag: Istanbul

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Terrorism in Istanbul’s Historic District

 

This morning, a suicide-bomber murdered 10 people — and wounded another 15 as of this writing — in Istanbul’s Sultanmahet district. The dead apparently include Turks, Asians, Germans, and Norwegians. While there is nothing definitive yet, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the attack had “Syrian roots” and the Deputy Prime Minister said, according to one source, that the “suicide bomber is a 28-year-old of Syrian origin.” Though this neighborhood has been targeted by Kurdish and far-left terrorists before, the targeting of tourists, size of the explosion, and the government’s reaction all point to ISIS as being the more likely culprit. That said, all the usual caveats about early reporting apply.

The explosion happened next to the Obelisk of Theodosius, a 3,400-years-old, granite Egyptian obelisk brought to the city in the 4th century. It’s roughly 60 ft (18.5 m) tall and — despite three dozen centuries of exposure to the elements — its hieroglyphs look like they were carved yesterday. The obelisk sits on a Byzantine base of different material with relief carvings that adds another 20 ft (6m) to its height.

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The Obelisk of Theodosius. Photograph by Tom Meyer, March 2015.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Book for the Beach

 

EscapeFromSmyrnaThirty-one years ago this August, I gathered my things, mailed off a multitude of books, and flew on Swissair to Istanbul with a Compaq computer under my feet about the size of a small sewing machine. When I arrived, I loaded two taxis with my stuff and made my way to the Dutch consulate, which was located in the headquarters of the old Dutch East India Company on Istiklâl Caddesi (la grande rue de Pera) in Beyoğlu – where I was slated to stay for a week or so in a hostel run by the Dutch Archaeological Institute while I sought housing.

I had spent six weeks at Princeton taking a crash course in Turkey, and I had read whatever I could get my hands on. But I was a neophyte. Fortunately, I knew a graduate student from the University of North Carolina who was working on a dissertation while in Istanbul; and through him, I had been introduced to a couple of archaeologists who were old hands at dealing with life in the city inaugurated as Byzantium and later renamed Constantinople. So the next evening, I dined in the apartment — nearby in Cihangir — that Charles and Marie-Henriette Gates shared with their two young daughters; and they helped me find an apartment from which, through one window, one could see the Bosporus.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Erdoğan: the Putin of Turkey

 

ErdoganAs some of you may know, I was a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs from 1984-86 and was based in Istanbul. I learned to speak the Turkish language adequately (but never, alas, quite fluently), and I traveled far and wide in Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus in those years. Between 1986 and 1992, I returned every couple of years for a month, and I went back again in 1998 and 2002. I once knew the country well.

I mention all of this because, in the last few days, I have made brief forays into Istanbul, the region south of Izmir, and the region of Antalya and Alanya on the south coast. I left Jerusalem on 27 July; flew to New York, Detroit, and Portland, Maine; spent one night at my wife’s parents’ home in Whitefield, Maine; and flew on the 28th from Boston to Istanbul via Amsterdam. There my wife and I boarded the Regent Seven Seas Mariner and I took up duties as a shipboard lecturer on a Hillsdale College cruise. If this itinerary seems mad, it is because it really is mad. I was not invited to take up these responsibilities until 17 July when I was already in Jerusalem about to start my teaching stint at Shalem College; and, given the troubles at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv, the itinerary I followed was the way to go.

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