a day of tombs

I was not where I’d planned to be yesterday. Instead of having coffee with a language and interpreting professor I trekked all over Istanbul visiting the tombs of Islamic teachers. At one point I was pinned between two men arguing their different interpretations of … Islam? Politics? It’s hard to say, except that the air thickened and thinned with waves of tension. I took many pictures… and tried to follow the lessons. I was distracted, somewhat, by observing all the people going about their daily lives (hyper-aware of my days being so out-of-the-ordinary), and wondering why I’m here, what will come of it, where will it take me?
The weight of lonliness grows. It is heightened, I think, by the certitude of faith as I hear the muzzein and watch people pray. I entered one mosque and two shrines today. Stupidly, I forgot my own scarf, even though I did remember to wear my one pair of long linen slacks. Luckily the shrines had spares handy, although the mosque did not and I did not think of it until we had already exited. We entered Üsküdar Valide-I Cedid Camii to see the evidence of a stolen mural. There was a huge plywood gash in the wall one faces when praying in the direction of Mecca. What effect does it have, I wonder, on those who pray under it regularly? I was entranced by the clocks marking the muzzein’s call schedule. Six in coordination, including one to wake up and then five to pray.
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At the first shrine, to Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi (1541-1628), I declined to enter but a man saw me and offered me a scarf. So I put it on and stepped in. The room was full of women and men pleading for Aziz Mahmud to support their prayers and give them strength. Many of them held one or both hands cupped right up against their own torso as they murmured supplications. During his lifetime, Aziz Mahmud expressed the desire for his tomb to be a place where people could gather a sense of strength and security. As we were leaving, I was introduced to Ayse, who is here from California with members of her family. They were all aglow 🙂 with spiritual uplift.
We checked out another shrine, briefly, where I admired the grillwork and got quite close to a minaret. Cool. Then we went for one of the really big guys: Fatih Sultan Mehmed. He’s the one who finally defeated the Byzantines on behalf of the Ottomans. (He overran a lot of other places too, including Romania, 1462 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.) His entryway was splendid, and the ceiling quite dramatic.
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None of this prepared me for Eyup, though. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it inside; they closed up while we wandered in the courtyard. I was stunned as we entered by the size of this tree, the beautiful tiling, and the crowd. It was a live place, not a tribute to the dead (as the others were, or at least, how they felt to me).
The day ended with the moon out my window.

2 thoughts on “a day of tombs”

  1. i am loving the photos you post 🙂
    the moon out ones window is such a lovely way to end the day!

  2. yes, Amanda, the moon is lovely. Some things can’t be photographed. I’m glad you are enjoying the others – more to come!

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