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An Ancient Dwelling near the Chora Church

This is an illustration of the dichotomy of lifestyles in Istanbul. We met some children returning from school and all were neat, clean, courteous, and uniformed. They greeted the tourists with pleasant hellos practicing their English no doubt.

Children attend school half-days and then study the remainder of the day. Their course load includes subjects such as calculous as early as 5th grade! On completion of 8th grade they must pass rigorous tests in order to continue their education. All university students must pass difficult entrance exams.

In the old city it is not unusual to see very ancient and dilapidated buildings continuing in use as dwellings. Istanbul is a very crowded city. People flock in from the country seeking economic opportunity there. In spite of the number living in ancient dwellings, all who drive seem to have fairly new autos and trucks. We saw no oil-burners or other signs of age or neglect on the vehicles.

Construction cranes abound in the new city across the Golden Horn from the ancient city. On major thoroughfares there were one or two construction sites on most blocks. The construction was mostly apartments for the burgeoning population.

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Photos by Owen Tyler

A Bridal Shop in the Old City

In spite of the reflections captured in the shot out the bus window, it is interesting because it illustrates a fact about life in a Moslem country. This is one of literally hundreds of wedding gown shops in the old city. In the old city every block in the retail district boasted at least two bridal shops! Our tour guide explained this is because the wedding is the only memorable thing that ever happens to a conservative religious woman. She dreams of it as a young girl. After the marriage there is nothing to look forward to except more babies. In the old city most of the women on the street wore something of the old black costumes, some were veiled and some not.

Life in the new city seems quite different. We saw women of all ages wearing business suits or attractive dresses, riding busses and driving cars going about their business like their counterparts in the western world. Our tour guide described Turkey as a secular Moslem country. That is, the mosque doesn't govern everyday life of the people unless they wish to submit to that regimen.

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Page last updated May 4, 2000.