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Friday, 30 March 2012

Peace Project - Istanbul

Thoughts from a grey, wet, windy and rather chilly 2c in Eçeabat not far from Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsular, Turkey.

It’s been an interesting two days. We landed in Istanbul very late on Friday night and hit a traffic jam.  Apparently it’s not an unusual thing, the traffic can come to a standstill at any time day or night for no apparent reason. I know from my own experience on the motorways of England that yes this phenomenon can and does happen, but at 11pm on a Friday night? 

There are a staggering 13.26 million people living in and around this City.  Everywhere is heaving, the Grand Bazaar is wall-to-wall people, locals mingling with tourists. 

There are smells and sights to enthral and take your mind to another world and an amazing array of things to just simply buy or barter for, so much more fun and they expect it.  Everything from peacocks to leeches, gold to pottery, rugs to clothes, spices, dried fruits and herbal teas to knock you out, wake you up or keep you going.  We were both seriously flagging before being offered the cup of the sweetest red nectar, my lips have ever encountered in the form of pomegranate flower tea.  Wow what a difference!
Being swept up by the crowd and moving as one line of human energy, not able to extricate yourself from it by the lure of something that catches your eye as you move past.

The tilt of your head upwards reveals the old Constantinople replaced on ground level by a façade of the new Istanbul.

There was only one place on my list, that is THE LIST that I’d been given, of places to visit in this City

Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya

An impressive building for sure, originally built about 1500 years ago.  They don’t make buildings to last like that these days. This mammoth building was once a church and a mosque but it’s become a haven to the millions of visitors to its life as a museum now.

The lighting reminded me of ethereal lights floating in the great hall at Hogwarts.  

Icons of  Jesus and Mary alongside Islamic texts.  

Evidence of the removal of crosses carved into marble and stone which only exacerbated their status not obliterating them as had been hoped for.

You can’t wipe out a religion with a hammer and chisel; the thought of replacing one God with another is foolhardy.

I asked what I was here for, the answer; “The Prayer”

And so I listened…………………. To all the prayers that had been said within this building’s walls throughout its enormous history.

They were all asking for the same things, some were saying thank you for listening to me, others, giving thanks for prayers answered and others still silenced into submission by their loss and devastation.  God doesn’t care how you come to God as long as you do.  I took this as proof, if at all it was needed. 

In a nano second I was transported back to Eton the morning of the London Underground bombings on the 7th July 2005.

Lu and myself had heard the news and we wanted to help in anyway we could.  I set up a triage in the treatment room of the different sites around the Capital and we split the disaster areas between us to help by sending energy and opening up a clear avenue for those who had lost their lives to pass over and to give support to all those emergency services involved in the rescue and clearing of human and mechanical wreckage.

I had the bus which was travelling to Hackney Wick, co-incidentally a couple of miles from where I was born but I was talking to the now disembodied spirits wandering around in total confusion about what had happened to them after the blast ripped the top off of the double decker bus.  I explained as gently as I could what had transpired at Tavistock Square outside the BMA building and that unfortunately they had lost their lives in this explosion and the quickest way to feel better would be to cross over here and now to this opening they could collectively see but were all too frightened to explore.

They asked, “Where will we go?”  “Back to God or The mass of Universal Energy that we all come from.”  I said.   A young man tanned skin and thick dark wavy hair asked me where he should go, I told him to follow everyone else.  He said “but their God is not my God” “Oh darling, there is only one God,” I answered.  “Then I do not deserve to go, he said and turned and walked away.  I called out to him but he ignored me.

I often thought of this young man and what had happened to him in the last weeks of his life here and what had become of him since that horrific day and in those times sent my own prayers and energy to him.

One day nearly two years later, while recollecting this story to a patient he appeared in my treatment room.  It caught me by surprise to say the least and I asked him if he was ok. He smiled - “I am ready to go now to God, if you can help me”

Why does being human create this conflict?  Any conflict, religious, cultural, gender, the list is endless.
I had come here on this trip with a list of places to visit.  As I said, the list was given to me ‘by upstairs’ with only these directions.
These are the places you have to go to in this order.  Leave the door open for the magic to happen.  Listen to directions along the way and allow yourself to be led to places you may not have gone to. Be vulnerable but aware. Ask at each step why you are here, listen for the answer and all will be clear.

Don’t you just love them?  All they ever give me is puzzles. But they have never let me down in my entire life and I don’t see why that should change now.  So I have my first answer and also my own first question.

A tourist who knocked me nearly off my feet brought me back to the present. I looked around this marvel of architecture and art in the form of mosaics and sculpture.

Hagia Sophia the Church of Holy Wisdom from the year 360 became the Greek Patriarchal Cathedral of Constantinople, then a short spell of 57 years as a Roman Catholic cathedral until 1454 when it served as a Mosque for nearly 600 years. Since 1935 it has served as a museum.

It’s history as a place of worship makes you dizzy with the comings and goings of different factions with the respective religions. As one culture take over another the rulings as to the worship one must follow also changes. Earthquakes, fires and general collapse saw the building restored, rebuilt and added to.   As a museum it epitomises the futility of fighting over a God that exists for all of us.  Mosaics plastered over by Islamic orders with up to 7 layers now restored to reveal beautiful works of art.  

You just cannot brush anything under the carpet or hide it under plaster that was created with so much love and beauty. 

I think the original edit of the prophet said ‘let any woman into the mosque to pray’, again a religion changed the rules to suit whoever was in charge at the time now sees that the Men Only Club is rife amongst most of the Mosques in the world, by only admitting men into worship and pray.  Thankfully this building now allows all and sundry to enter and marvel at it’s history.  And when you stand in front of the outstanding mosaics of the former Cathedral, whatever your religion you have to smile and say how beautiful.

So God in whatever form is now open to all whatever your race or religion. Perfect.

Hungry and very cold, we tried to find a restaurant called 360. The taxi driver sped over the bridge got cranky because of the traffic, backed up a one-way road then backwards up a hill and left us with some vague instructions on how to find it.  I stopped someone in the street to ask directions, would you know it, he had a t-shirt with 360 on it - again some more vague instructions.  We never found it.

But yet another message “360”

The driving is manic they seem to have their own rules of the road.  The saying that was to follow us around was “it’s Turkey, anything goes”

Mel and John
Our hosts for the two days were Mel and John and the peanut that grows inside Mel who will be born in Turkey to British parents.  They have been fabulous friends, guides, taxi drivers and great juicing makers of the abundant oranges and pomegranates..  As we said a sad farewell to them in Istanbul our journey as intrepid explorers starts with a five-hour drive to the Gallipoli peninsular. A million thanks guys!

It’s bitterly cold, raining and the grey skies overwhelm our journey south, the radio becomes monotonous, as does the landscape of rock and flat brown earth.  We stop at an outlet just before we see a sign to Çanakkule. We find the cable we’ve been searching for to link the iPod to the radio in the car, our mood lifts and so does the landscape. There are now trees, green grass and even the water of the Sea of Marmara as we meander through the tiny road that takes us to Eçeabat.

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