I’ve got so much to say about my trip to Istanbul and Cairo, that I thought it would be best to start with a broad recap and then delve into some of the more detailed stuff I’ve been busting at the seams to share with you all. Literally dozens of blog post ideas on the docket. It’s going to be great, trust me. Consider this a bit of a teaser of what’s to come!
Days in Istanbul: 4.5 (cumulatively)
Days in Cairo: 5
Hours in the air: about 25
Hours spend in-transit: who knows, a heck of a lot!
Facial products used in-flight: 5 (all completely necessary, I promise you)
Airplane meals consumed: 7 (and I slept through one, grrrr). Turkish Airways’ food was surprisingly quite good, very high on the edible scale as far as airplane foods go. Thumbs up to Turkish Airways in general, I was very pleased with their service.
I mean, it’s hard to think of what wasn’t a high, I had such an amazing time, it was truly one of the best vacations I’ve had in ages. I had so much fun with my family, both immediate and extended in Egypt, Istanbul was as stellar and breathtaking as I had built it up in my head to be for over six years of desperately wanting to visit, and the warm sunny weather was an amazing reprieve as the temperatures start to drop in Boston and I brace myself for another soul-crushing winter. One of the higher of vacation of highs was of course my cousin’s wedding, the impetus for us all going over there. The wedding took place in the garden of a former Ottoman palace turned hotel at the base of the Pyramids. It started in late afternoon and as dark enveloped the garden, the Pyramids lit up, basking in pools of light until late in the night. It hasn’t fully hit me how much of a once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience that was. In addition to the unparalleled setting, the wedding itself was beautiful, the food was great, the DJ was great, and we all had a blast.
One low was definitely the terrorist attack in Ankara, one of the worst attacks in Turkey’s recent history. It happened while I was in Istanbul, and the loss of so much human life is such a tragedy. I felt extremely safe the entire time I was in Istanbul, but I couldn’t help but think that attacks such as these, in addition to the devastation they incur, also serve to perpetuate fears and misconceptions about the country that dissuade travelers from going to visit and experiencing its beauty.
So as you all know, I didn’t post anything on the blog while I was travelling, in part because I didn’t have time because I was living it and didn’t have time to stop the fun to write, and in part because even if I did have the time, my internet access was too sporadic to make it easy. While I didn’t have the hours or service to post blog articles while I travelled, I was fairly active in posting pictures of my discoveries on Instagram, as they happened. Here are my most popular Instagram posts for Istanbul and Cairo (lots more to come so keep an eye on my Instagram account!)
This picture I snapped in downtown Cairo, an unusually green and quiet side street off of the hustling and bustling Tahrir Square. I used to pass it every day on my way to work when I lived there, and I couldn’t resist taking a pic. It used to be a bit dingy and filled with street vendors but one of Sisi’s initiatives has been to clean up the streets, remove the street vendors (who often spilled out into the streets themselves, blocking traffic) and relocate them to a new bazaar. Love him or hate him, I must admit the streets were noticeably cleaner and calmer.
Favorite food consumed (Turkey):
This is a MAJOR toughie. I love eating in general and my dietary approach to the trip was say yes to everything, deal with the repercussions later. It’s hard to say, but I think my favorite food was the Turkish baklava I had at Moda, in Istanbul. Baklava usually isn’t my absolute favorite- it’s a pretty common Middle Eastern dessert so I’ve had my fair share of it growing up. It’s tasty, but it’s very sweet, and usually not in my top favorite dessert options. I’ve had lots of fresh baklava in Egyptian patisseries, in Middle Eastern restaurants and bakeries in the US, and lots at work, brought to us in the suitcases of our Turkish clients. HOWEVER, I had the luck to happen to stumble into Moda bakery on Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul and holy shit, it completely changed my mind about baklava. This was baklava on a whole other level. It was mind blowing. Sweet, soft, melt in your mouth baklava like I have never experienced before. There was also pistachio durum, which I had never eaten before despite my years of Middle Eastern sweet consumption. Pistachio durum is another baklava-like roll, but with no phyllo, it is just a sticky sweet mound of mashed pistachio. OMG. It was literally life changing, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Moda is a Turkish chain, so there very well may be some artisanal non-chain baklava makers that are even more incredible, but I was pretty happy to try Moda’s wares. And now I’m dreaming about their sweets again.
Favorite food consumed (Egypt):
I adore Egyptian food, so going back to Egypt was more about eating a lot of comfort foods that my Egyptian family makes better than I can for myself at home than making new culinary discoveries. (I’ll write about some of my favorite must-eat Egyptian cuisine in a later post.) One of the things that I found most intriguing about cuisine in Turkey was that it used all the basic building blocks of all the Egyptian foods I know and love, but put it all together in a slightly different way. My favorite from this trip to Egypt was not a food, but a drink. At my cousin’s wedding, guests were greeted with elegant glasses of fresh juice upon arrival. They had fresh-squeezed guava, orange, lemonade with mint, and strawberry juice. I’ve never had straight strawberry juice and it was pretty amazing. The strawberry nectar was just the right balance of tart and sweet, and had small chunks of actual strawberries in it. Despite this, the consistency of the juice was not a smoothie, it was definitely a juice. I’m not sure how they made it and whether they added the strawberry chunks after they squeezed the juice or what, but it was delectable. Because we were family, we arrived to the wedding earlier than most of the other guests- I think I had four glasses (and probably 10000g of sugar) before the guests arrived, and spoiled my appetite for dinner later, god knows I probably consumed a bushel of strawberries in delicious juice form (no pics because I was literally guzzling it as fast as I could, how ladylike). It was so worth it.
I had a bit of an eventful visit to the Pyramids with my sister. I’ve been to the Pyramids a bunch of times, but it’s one of those places that just never gets old. It takes your breath away every single time. This time, my dad, sister and I made the obligatory trek to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx, as we usually do. My sister is seventeen and decided that this time, she really wanted to do two things: go inside the Great Pyramid and ride camels through the desert. I don’t want to spill all the details because I’ll write about it in greater depth with lots of pics in a future post, but let’s just say that the day involved me suspended in the air hanging off the side of a camel, and my sister having a full blown panic attack inside the pyramid.
Overall though, we were really lucky in that we had no immigration disasters, our flights were all on time, and all our luggage made it to each location. No one got food poisoning, got a cold from all the plane cabin air, or lost any important belongings (that I know of).
I want to go back right now!! Already plotting and scheme my return. What’s next on your travel list?