The Istanbullers

"O mighty Bosphorus, the cleft of empires, where east was united with west long ago. Where the Sardiners come to seek their glittering fortunes and watch them shudder and die in plastic containers. The gulls and swifts wheel on the thermals of 10,000 Istanbul vendors as shoe shiners look on with bowed heads and glassy eyes. The trams of Istiklal cut through the biomass like sabres, here is the origin of the profiterole. Silks of the Orient linger in the dusty corridors of the antiques district, caught in the old web of Byzantine. The alley cats emerge from their crevices in the dark and begin their clandestine activities in the lull of the Islamic neighbourhoodsRiot police, the guardians of public prayer grip guns as the carpet showroom showmen scan the crowds for tourists in their pale blue shirts. Chestnuts cooking on hot coals smoke, sizzle and smoulder. On fourth floor backstreet internet cafes, backpackers and taxi-drivers sit illuminated alike. In the side streets of Tarlabasi, courtesans court the curb crawlers, extracting gold from the fangs of fate. The patrons of the table-clothed bars sip black tea and raki while watching the humdrum manifest. Barbarian basement barbers brandish blades against rough cheeks as the shaving foam runs and curdles on the lino. Islands lie between the containerships in the iridescent oil slick, witnesses to this city of seven hills. And I sit here, beguiled, black tea in hand. A ranger in a strange land." ~ O. Z. Bhatia, Istanbul, Summer 2012. 

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