I marveled at the multigenerational conviviality at the Hippodrome — that long, oblong plaza still shaped like a chariot racecourse, as it was 18 centuries ago. Precocious children high-fived me and tried out their only English phrase: "What is your name?" Just to enjoy their quizzical look, I'd say, "Seven o'clock." As I struggle to understand their society, I guess my mischievous streak wanted them to deal with a little confusion as well.
It's in this environment that, as a tour guide, I would introduce tour members (like my father) to Turkish culture and Islam. I recall well-educated professionals struggling to get things straight. People would quiz me: "So, where did they get the name Quran for their Bible? Could it be considered a Bible?" Turkish guides love to tell stories of tourists who ask, "So, was this church built before or after Christ?"
But all guides repeat to themselves the first rule of guiding: "There are no stupid questions." After all, it's in environments like Istanbul — in countries all around the world — that thoughtful travelers get out of their comfort zones and enjoy the easy educational rewards that come with being steep on the learning curve.
About This Entry
You are reading "Draping Ramadan Lights on My Christmas Tree", an entry posted on 21 December 2009 by Rick Steves.