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The Fine Arts
Diana, a Celebration
La Vie En Rose
Caroline Mak
Serial Painting
Yves Saint Laurent - A Dialog With Art
The Whitney Biennial
Gerhard Richter
Hitting it Big in the Art World
Winston Boyer's Western Landscape
China Rocks Our World
The Streets of Old Beijing
Paintings of Light and Earth
A New Art Gallery in Beijing
New Paintings by Jerome Boutterin
Celebrating Earth Day
Exploring the Century of Light
Gerard ter Borch
China International Gallery Exposition
New Art From Beijing

Interior Design
A Visit with Orland Diaz-Azcuy
Alcantara Presents Starlite CL
Green with Envy
Hedi Slimane's Archaism Project
Paul Vincent Wiseman
In Praise of Impatiens
The Snooze Chair

San Francisco: Vertigo Series
Images of Pastoral Italy
The Colors of Southwest France
At Home in Wyoming
Insider's Guide to Istanbul
Interview with André Rau
Stage - Hedi Slimane Exhibit
Winston Boyer's Western Landscape
At Home and Abroad

Throughout the fabric of time the city of my birth has been referred to by many names. Call it what you will; Nova Roma, Megalipolis, Constantinopolis, Daru'ul Islam or Istanbul, but be assured that this magnificent city located on seven hills, overlooking the Bosporus, bridging Asia to Europe is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places your eyes will ever see. If you watch the sun set behind the silhouette of the city bejeweled by glorious mosques, imperial palaces, monuments and natural wonders you will spend the rest of your life longing to return to that moment of absolute serenity and beauty. Being in Istanbul is being immersed in history. Being in Istanbul is witnessing the might of one of the most important civilizations of all time. The city is a mosaic, and if you go there, you become a part of its story. The Austrian ambassador Busbecq, who arrived in Istanbul on 20 January 1554 wrote "As for the site of the city itself, it seems to have been created by Nature for the capital of the world." The city has changed much since then, but Istanbul is still a wonder to be experienced.

For the tourist that wants to be enveloped in tidal waves of history, Sultanahmet is the place to go. This neighborhood which flourished during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I is home to the legendary "Blue Mosque," St, Sophia and Topkapi Palace. The Blue Mosque, otherwise known as Sultan Ahmet Camii has been named after its exquisite green, blue and white tiling. This structure is unique, for it is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets. In the tradition of all grandiose houses of prayer, once one enters the premises of this majestic, imposing edifice he or she is overwhelmed by feelings of intense spirituality and awe. The arabesques in painted domes, intricately hand painted Kutahya tiles, and colorful glass windows towering over one's comparatively tiny body reminds him or her of a greater being commanding eternity and infinity.

Likewise Saint Sophia is a marvel to be appreciated. In its architecture, splendor, glory, size and functionality it is the perfect example of the East-West synthesis. Although initially constructed by the Byzantine Emperor 1st Konstantinos (323-337 AC) as a Christian house of worship, St. Sophia was later converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet after the Ottomans conquered Istanbul under his command. Given the Islamic ban on painting images of humans and animals, the Icons of the Greek Orthodox Church were covered up during the reign of the Ottoman kings, who also assumed the role of Caliph, the religious leader of all Muslims. However, with the declaration of the Turkish Republic St. Sophia was converted into a museum to end the heated religious controversies surrounding it for once and all. Now visitors from all over the world can enjoy the timeless beauty of Christian religious art while viewing the grandeur and brilliance of the Turkish period additions, preserved with integrity.

Topkapi Palace (Topkapi meaning "Cannon Gate") was erected on the same spot where the attacking Muslim breached the towering fortresses of their archrivals, the Byzantine Christians. While strolling down Topkapi's endless rose gardens, walking along the long corridors of its Harem or viewing the priceless jewels kept in its treasury one can almost trace steps back in time and imagine a life style that once was. In all reality, this ancient life, through shrouded in mantels of grandeur and luxury, was plagued by politics, intricacy and fear. The Ottoman kings were terrified of assassinations or worse yet dethronement, and confined themselves and the people in their court to Topkapi. To make this existence in captivity more bearable they ordered the palace to resemble a mini-city. My favorite place to visit in the Palace is the Hazine where the crown jewels are guarded. To an accessory addict like me the exquisite
Ottoman Collection containing the 86-carat Spoonmaker's Diamond (which was accidentally discovered in a dumpster in its uncut form) and other priceless exquisite jewels that once adorned the swan necks of the Sultan's "favorites" is a dream come true. I gawk at these works of art that represent the undisputed power and immense wealth of an empire that controlled territories extending from Vienna to Persia, encompassing Egypt, Israel, Tunis, Libya and the Arabian Peninsula. However, even the idea of adorning my body with such marvelous gems set in handmade unique designs could not convince me to want to live in the Harem, where each night the Sultan would wander through the 300 room complex picking his "playmates" for the night. Ironically, the number of the supposedly lucky majestic wives waiting for the "god's face on earth" to notice them was so high that many lived and died before their number came up. Nevertheless, polygamous royal relations aside, Topkapi is a definite must see.

Historical artifacts or religious architecture may not tickle your fancy, but whatever one's interests might be everyone can find something to their liking in the Grand Bazaar, otherwise known as Kapali Carsi (pronounced "char-shi"). Hand made carpets in intricate ethnic designs, tapestries, gold and silver jewelry, leather clothes and accessories, hand painted ceramics, luggage, spices…you name it and you can get what you seek for a fraction of what you would pay in a store or boutique. The origins of Kapali Carsi can be traced back to two large warehouses that were converted into a market in the immediate aftermath of the establishment of Muslin rule in 1453. Over the centuries numerous workshops and small stores were built around this area, slowly expanding and morphing into the world's largest covered market. Bargaining in Kapali Carsi is a must because every person who happens to walk into a store is first appraised by the shop owner and then quoted a price. Apparently, these expert merchants can recognize signs of one's buying power immediately, so I suggest you leave your diamond studded Cartier Divan and Hermes crock tote in the hotel before heading over. Internationally traveled author Cherie Glaser goes one step further and recommends that "when the carpet shop owner asks you where you are from, go to great lengths to explain that you live in a rented apartment, lost your job two weeks ago, have to support your mother-in-law, wife, mistress and eight children by each, and are looking for a cheap rug to cover that hole in the floor that you can not afford to repair." In any case even if you are not a buyer, with its endless labyrinth of colorful shop windows, traditional Turkish coffee houses, restaurants emanating delicious scents of spicy delicacies and lively crowds Kapali Carsi is all that you have imagined the Orient to be.

Once your trip to Kapali Carsi is complete I recommend that you pay a visit to Beyoglu, the area starting from the historic neighborhood around the Galata Tower (built by the Genoese) running up to Taksim Square. Beyoglu (referred to as "Pera" by foreigners) used to be the epicenter of the city's social life, highlighted by ballrooms, theatres and shopping. In the mid to late 19th century "Grande Rue de Pera" was the centerpiece of the Art Nouveau Belle Epoque and to this day the avenue is significantly reminiscent of a life of luxury and excess. My favorite place to visit in Beyoglu is the St. Antoine Church, which closely resembles the Notre Dame in Paris, but is much smaller. Beautifully decorated, this house of prayer draws tourists from all over the world. Once you are done praying I suggest you reward yourselves with scrumptious profiteroles from the Inci Patisserie, which has been creating its delicious deserts with secret family recipes since French-speaking gentlemen attired in top hats and tailcoats roamed Beyoglu. If you are not a desert person head out to Cicek ("chi-chek") Pasaji, where you can have a glass of Raki (traditional Turkish hard liqueur made out of poppy seeds) and fresh fish caught in the waters of the Bospourus while watching the gypsies' belly dance.

Foreigners that visit Istanbul for the first time are quite literally awestruck by the beauty of the Bosporus, which connects the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea. The turquoise green water that runs through the city renders one speechless. Hence it is no wonder that the sultans and pashas of the Ottoman Empire built their waterside residences on both sides of this natural wonder, where they still remain as a reminder of the rich history that precedes us. Whether sitting in a shore side café or having brunch on a yacht, this breathtaking scenery dominates all activity. To experience the full effects of the architecture and natural delights of Bosporus I recommend taking a private boat cruise or having five o'clock tea on the Terrace of the Ciragan ("chi-ra-an") Palace Hotel. However seeing the Bosporus only during the day is not sufficient. Once the buildings on both sides are lit up illuminating the dark night like fireflies having dinner in a restaurant in Reina or Laila is an unparalleled delight. Both of these places are eating and dancing venues rolled into one. The upper crusts of Turkish society as well as international jet set dine in Reina and Laila and continue painting the night red in the after hours. However please take note that gaining entry to these exclusive clubs is extremely difficult. You not only have to make reservations in advance, but you also have to pay close attention to the way you are dressed-I am sure this will not constitute a problem for the readers of Fashionlines-I have heard of many instances of when people have been denied admittance because they looked like they would "disturb the social harmony inside."

I could go on writing about Istanbul forever, but take it from me you really have to come here and see it for yourself to understand what people mean when they refer to this city as the "cradle of history." Book your flight now, we are waiting…

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