One of the most enjoyable things to do with your significant other or friends, in my opinion, is to travel. Experiencing new things and places with your loved ones creates lasting memories and deepens bonds. There are many spiritual locations located all throughout the world for lovers and friends alike. Each week, I will introduce a spiritual destination that would make a perfect romantic getaway or a fun trip with your girl or guy friends.
This week’s featured travel destination is Istanbul, Turkey.
Istanbul, also known as Constantinople, is the most populated city in Turkey. The city contains a plethora of historical and cultural sites and attractions. Istanbul is the world’s fifth most popular tourist destination, and given some of its history, there is no surprise as to why.
Istanbul contains many mosques and worshiping centers, however two of the most visited and well known are The Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. The Hagia Sophia was an iconic holy center, initially constructed as a christian church, but later converted to an imperial mosque by the Ottoman Empire. In 1935, the mosque was secularized and opened as a museum to the public. Hagia Sopia is the one of the few surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, containing beautiful mosaics and marble pillars throughout. The Blue Mosque is a stunning pieces of architecture built many years after the Hagia Sohpia. The mosque is filled with over 20,000 blue-tinted decorated tiles, hence the name. People of all faiths are welcome to enter the sanctuary but the interior is reserved for those at prayer to Mecca. The Church of St. Savior in Chora is also another sacred and notable worshiping site I should mention.
The previous home of the Ottoman imperial family, Topkapi Palace is one of the most visited attractions in Turkey. The Pavilion of the Holy Mantle contains sacred Relics from reveled leaders such as Prophet Mohammad, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and King David. The Palace also contains an Imperial Treasury that houses gifts of jewels, porcelain, silver, and gold, from all throughout the world.
One can view the whirling dervishes perform a sacred dance, or ritual at a Mevlevi Sema Ceremony. It symbolizes the journey of the soul to God and the transformation of the self. During the ritual, the dancers wear a costume that includes a tall camel’s hair hat, representing the tombstone of the ego, a wide white skirt, representing a shroud, and a black cloak, representing spiritual rebirth when shed.
Istanbul is a city of great history and beautiful architecture. The mentioned sites above are just a few of the many amazing things Istanbul has to offer. Regardless of your faith, it is a place where all can connect with their spirit, and appreciate the freedoms of worship many of us have today.