ANZAC Cove, Turkey

Tues, June 25

This morning we woke up to find ourselves in ANZAC Cove in Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula and led by Captain Kent, we had a very moving service to commemorate the landing in 1915.  It was amazing to be listening to the hymns, prayers and readings while being able to make out Lone Pine in the distance.

We were very lucky to be there at all, as not every ship is granted permission to enter these waters.  The tradition of the wreath laying ceremony at sea could not be performed as Turkey had not given permission, so it was done later once we were outside Turkish waters.

The lone pine tree can just be seen towards the left on top of the hill

The lone pine tree can just be seen towards the left on top of the hill

The Captain leading the service

The Captain leading the service

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Istanbul, Turkey

Mon, June 24

By the time we had finished breakfast this morning, the ship had berthed at Instanbul and we caught a glimpse of domes and minarets before disembarking this afternoon for our tour.

We made our way straight to the Topkapi Palace – centre of the Ottomon Empire for several centuries until the last Sultan was exiled to Cairo in 1923.  There are extensive grounds inside the palace walls featuring beautiful Byzantine architecture, elaborate mosaics, courtyards and stately gates. 

We visited the Harem Quarter where 800 concubines once lived.  It has a highly complex floor plan, consisting of several buildings and hundreds of elaborately decorated rooms.  The walls were decorated with the most beautiful tiles, gold leaf and mother-of-pearl.  Interesting that they did not have much furniture as they used cupboards and shelves built into the walls for storage.     

We were given time to browse amongst the fine collections of gold, jade, and various items decorated with diamonds, emeralds and rubies.  The pride of the Imperial Treasury is the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, which, at 86 carats, is the fifth-largest in the world.  We also saw the famous Topkapi Dagger, encrusted with precious jewels.  Unfortunately no cameras were allowed!

We could not leave Turkey without enjoying a carpet demonstration.  Here we were able to see a carpet being made by hand on a loom as well as seeing and feeling all the different types of carpets, whilst sipping apple tea followed by a glass of Ouzo.

Our final destination was the Grand Bazaar (the rooftops of which were in the movie Skyfall) – over 4,000 colourful shops fill this covered marketplace, the largest in the world.  Its origins go back to the 1400’s.  We could only spend a short while here as it would have been so easy to get lost, but it was a great experience and we got the chance to haggle for a few souvenirs.  While we were walking there, we could hear the muslins being called to prayer. 

Given the political protests prior to our visit, we were lucky to catch a glimpse of this beautiful city.  There is still so much more to discover there.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

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600 year old Sycamore tree

600 year old Sycamore tree

Harem

Harem

Istanbul (2)
Harem

Harem

Queen Mother's room

Queen Mother’s room

Carpet weaving

Carpet weaving

Istanbul (7)
Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

Istanbul

Petra – The Lost City

Mon, June 17

 Early this morning we followed the coast of Egypt on our port side and Saudi Arabia on our starboard side, then the coast of Israel and Jordan as we made our approach to Aqaba on Jordan’s southern coast.

Our destination was the awe-inspiring city of Petra, centuries old and located about 2-1/2 hours away through the desert where Bedouins make their homes.  We were so lucky with the weather yesterday and today, where temperatures can soar to the mid to high 40oC.  Both days we have started off with 32oC rising to about 35oC which has been great considering that the Valley of the Kings and the visit to Petra were the two most strenuous days of the whole trip.

The Lost City of Petra was revealed as we made our way through the narrow rock gorge, dwarfed by towering walls.  At the entrance is the remains of an arch, one of its bases is still there.  There is much evidence of towers, obelisks and tombs with inscriptions built into the face of the sandstone and after walking for 2-3 kilometres, we finally emerged into a large square where The Treasury was revealed.  This is an elaborate ancient sandstone building, carved into the rock face and built from top to bottom.  It was featured in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  It is believed to have been built as a tomb during the first century B.C.  

We walked on the remains of the original pavement and saw where channels had been carved into the rock to convey water to the inner city dating back to the second half of the first century B.C.  The city was built by the Nabataeans and flourished until the 3rd century when this civilisation was mysteriously destroyed and Petra was not rediscovered until 1812.

For those who found the long walk difficult, there were lots of seats spaced along the way and carts, donkeys, camels or horses to ride either one or both ways.  With some areas very narrow, we had to listen for the horses hooves in order to keep out of the way of the carts. 

It is summer break in Jordan right now, so there were a lot of children selling postcards.  English is taught in schools and we were amused to hear one very small boy spruiking his wares, calling out “Happy hour” and “Make my day!”’

Jordan is a beautiful country and combines desert with areas of green where the River Jordan flows.  The family unit is very important and we asked our tour guide about unfinished houses as we knew, unlike Egypt, that property taxes are paid before the building is started.  We were told that in Jordan, the second storey is built for the son so they have plenty of time to complete their houses.

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Bedouin tent

Bedouin tent

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