Our second day in Istanbul was spent meandering through the piazzas and pavilions of the splendid Topkapı Palace, epicentre of the imperial Ottoman court for 400 years. The unheralded highlight was chancing upon relics of the Prophet (yes, The Prophet). We gazed incredulously upon bits of His beard, tooth, sword, bow, a heap of soil used for ritual ablution and a clay impression of His foot – all allegedly genuine. Slightly less credible are the rod of Moses (of the plagues of Egypt fame), King David’s skull, Abraham’s cookware, and Joseph’s turban (though sadly not his coat of many colours). We were most disappointed not to see the Ark of the Covenant and a charred twig from the Burning Bush. Naturally we remained suitably deferential to avoid stoning by the Faithful. I suppose it’s no less fantastic than the implausible holy artefacts revered by the old ladies of Christendom.
In the extensive grounds we encountered the phenomenon known as ‘Islamic Chic’. Gaggles of giggling girls wandering about their Ottoman heritage adorned in exquisitely tailored dark hued, figure-hugging maxi coats garnished with sumptuous silk scarves of vivid primary colours. The head coverings, moulded at the forehead into a shallow peek as if hiding a baseball cap beneath, framed their painted faces. Modest and modern, I suspect the look is more a sign of wealth and status than of piety. We finished the day with a flourish by ambling around the excellent archeological museum.
Ol’ Constantinople is simply sublime and just gets better each time I visit. We travelled home that evening wanting more and vowing to return.