According to Wikipedia (here and here), which I know is a shining example of excellent research on my part, there was, on average, more than one “terrorist attack” per day in 2015. These ranged from shootings to suicide bombings. They happened in France, Denmark, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Libya, Kenya, Thailand, Russia, Chad, Iraq, Afghanistan, Australia, Berlin, the Philippines, to name a few. Even Timbuktu. There were five incidents in the United States and nine in Turkey, including today’s incident in Istanbul.
It has been 15-20 years since I’ve been to France, Denmark and Berlin; a few years since I’ve visited Australia, the UK, and the USA.
But it’s been just over three months since I was in Turkey.
Three months ago, I sat on a bench in Sultanahmet Square. I watched families take selfies at the fountain. I watched tourists from many countries and walks of life admire the architecture. I heard German here, an Aussie accent there. I looked over at the Aya Sofia – once a church, then a mosque, now a museum promoting peace and respect. I turn to my left and look at the six minarets of the Sultan Ahmen (Blue) Mosque where only a few days prior, I had pulled my scarf over my head, a show of respect for beliefs different than my own, to visit inside. After completing his sermon, the Imam switched to English, addressing the Mosque’s visitors, preaching peace and respect.
Three months ago, we stood on an Istanbul rooftop. I closed my eyes and let the calls to prayer from all the mosques surround me. I did not understand the words, but I felt peace, inspiration, respect, and passion. I can easily understand how it calls the faithful to prayer.
Three months ago, we played with Syrian children in the streets. We photographed young lovers enjoying their city at sunrise. We fed the cats that wove between our legs in the restaurants.
Three months ago, we sat in an airport, waiting for a flight to take us away from one of the most beautiful, historic cities I’ve been to, full of amazing, fun, peaceful people. Though we all looked forward to the next part of our Turkish adventure, we already missed Istanbul; wished we could return.
Quite possibly, these are memories and feelings tainted by the rose-coloured camera lens of a traveller in a new city for the first time, not there long enough for the colour to fade. Perhaps that’s true, but they’re my memories, my own wish to return, and those feelings have not changed much. I only want to return sooner.