Beneath the dust and dirt of western industrialisation and the cries of street traders pushing three hour boat tours on the Bosphorous, there is a melancholy that ebbs through to you, if you just stop and listen. From the top balcony of the
Hagia Sofia I look down onto the sprawls of tourists below. School girls race round capturing teenage beauty pictures beneath 11th century Constantinople mosaics as retired Turkish men sweep the floor of this monumental mosque. As I stop to buy Rumi´s “Life and Works” in the shop, tourists elbow each other to see the colourful books entitled “Turkish delights”. The pull of oriental products are attractive to the weary tourist eye, tired from the over-populated bus and tram journeys to each part of the four cities that exist as one. It´s so easy simply to buy into exotic charm and accept the oriental lure and so many do; just as, in turn, the workers in the tourist industry buy into the western ideal. As I sip on my heavily sweetened Turkish coffee, I ask my smartly dressed waiter in Topkapi gardens why there are so many cats walking around- is it because of the important role they have played in Islam? But he seemed disinterested in this topic and instead started talking about how dogs were a man’s best friend and seemed to have a certain disdain for the feline friends. I couldn`t help but think that these workers for the tourist attractions had little interest in preserving the culture they were surrounded by but instead were fully advocating orientalism whilst themselves romanticising the occident. As I ponder this thought, I see an advertisment for Magnum ice cream, but the colour is white chocolate in the middle of two darker Turkish celebrities. The white ice cream magnum monument seems to be extolled and looked up to like a contemporary Obelisk. I note the difference between this and western advertisements for Magnum that capitalise on the West`s curiosity and desire towards exoticising the east, and consequently the dark chocolate ice cream is preferred. I bought a bottle of water only to be asked where I was from. I told them UK, but they wanted to know exactly where. After I`d mentioned several places to their still baffled faces I sighed and said Manchester to get the usual response - ah Manchester United and then how they had beat them only last month. Sighing, and longing to return to savour the ancient depths of the city that are fully pervasive, but hidden beneath layers of defeat and confused western influences, I sit quietly in the gardens of the archaeology museum embracing the still energy from 8000 year old artefacts and listening to the tiny birds singing from tree to tree. I feel the Huzun, more than ever now.