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The nexus of continents: A culturally rich sojourn in Turkey

Despite rumors indicating Turkish travel is no longer possible, the visa to this country, one which rests at the European, Asian, Middle East nexus, is not difficult to obtain. In fact, the embassy in Cairo is open for anyone interested in a trip.

With breathtaking landscapes and rich historical heritage, a trip to Turkey is likely to leave you refreshed and culturally rewarded.

Boasting more than 10,000 years of history, Turkey encompasses a wide range of ancient palaces, splendid mosques and museums. The country is also known for its numerous shopping centers, including the Cehavahir Mall, Europe’s largest shopping complex and seventh biggest mall in the world. With more than 28.6 million tourists visiting the country in 2010, tourism is one of the country's primary revenue sources.

Some popular tourist destinations that should not be missed in Turkey include:

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, demonstrating the glorious art of Islamic architecture, is arguably the most remarkable tourist attraction in Turkey. It was built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet and was designed to be the first imperial mosque. Both mosques of Sultan Ahmed and Cairo’s Mohamed Ali are quite alike as they have the same Ottoman design. The later, however, is not nearly as large as the former.

The 20,000 blue handmade tiles are the reason behind the mosque’s famous moniker the “Blue Mosque”. There are four pencil-shaped minarets placed opposite each other and two other minarets stand at the end of the forecourt side. A large veranda surrounds the mosque with a spectacular view over vast gardens and fountains.

Hagia Sophia Museum

Opposite the Blue Mosque stands Hagia Sophia Museum, one of the magnificent symbols of Byzantine art. The Museum was originally built as Orthodox Patriarchal basilica by the Roman Emperor Justinian in 6th Century AD and is considered the largest during this period.

After Islamic conquests reached Istanbul, the cathedral was converted to mosque in 1453. Subsequently, some Christian architectural features were replaced by Islamic ones such as minarets. Finally, under the reign of Attaturk the mosque was turned into a museum in 1935.

Bosphorus cruise

For those fond of natural landscapes, the Bosphorus cruise will be the most enjoyable experience in Turkey. The Bosphorus is the strait that divides the continents of Europe and Asia and links the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. The unforgettable tour along the Bosphorus will take you back to the majestic Ottoman era through the sultans’ luxurious palaces and aristocracies’ mansions lining both sides of the shore. Mecidiye Mosque, Maiden’s tower, Rumeli fortress and Bosphorus bridge, the second longest bridge in the world, are among the main sightseeing spots viewed during the tour.

Princes’ Islands

The Princes’ Islands are comprised of nine keys off the Asian coast of Istanbul, located in the Sea of Marmara. The islands acquired this name as princes were sent into exile here during the Byzantine era. Ferries are the only means of transport to reach the islands. No vehicles are permitted so a relaxing day away from the city noise and pollution is guaranteed. A horse-drawn carriage ride, which people stand in a long queue to take, is the most popular thing to do on the islands. The tour, however, is really worth waiting for. You will enjoy a spectacular view from atop the hill.

Here you can also have a fine Turkish coffee cup in a sea-view cafeteria while feeding the flying seagulls.

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