Category: Culture

A Photo Essay Of The Iconic Ortakoy Mosque (Büyük Mecidiye Camii) In Istanbul, Turkey

ortakoy mosque
Istanbul is a city of cliches, phrases that are easier to repeat rather than trying to explain how intricate and unique it is across 39 districts. Like this Hubble experiment where scientists pointed the orbiting telescope to an empty patch of space only to discover countless galaxies, in Istanbul, Turkey, there are dense patches of photographic opportunity.
Last year during one of the stops of my See It Like A Local Tour, I turned my lens to the Ortakoy Mosque (Büyük Mecidiye Camii) to see what angles I could find of this iconic sight.
interior ortaköy mosque
Built in 3 years beginning in 1853, the small Ortakoy Mosque was designed by Armenian father and son architects Garabet Amira Balyan and Nigogayos Balyan. (The latter also designed Dolmabahce Palace.) Some of the interior calligraphy was done by then sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdülmecid I.
Büyük Mecidiye Camii
The Ortakoy Mosque from the angle above is often what you’ll see in the background of foreign correspondents reports on CNN or travel shows highlighting Turkey.
ortaköy camii
Entry to the Ortakoy Mosque for free. The easiest way to find it is by taking a ferry to Beşiktaş, then hopping a minibus to Ortaköy (Osmanzade Sokak). A 15 minute walk directly from the ferry port is also an option.
Bosphorus Bridge Boğaziçi Köprüsü
To capture this angle, you need to walk around to the sea-facing side.
Aside from the mosque and views of the Bosporus Straight, this part of Ortaköy is one of the best places to try kumpir, a street food, for vegans and carnivores alike.

How To Visit The Star Wars Set Locations In Tunisia

star wars sets tunisia
Parts of original Star Wars trilogy and prequels were filmed across parts of Tunisia. Once production of the movies was done, George Lucas and his production staff decided to leave the sets as they were, in the southern deserts of the country. They’ve sat there ever since, threatened occasionally by the surrounding sands but still accessible to tourists.
Here’s how you can visit the sets yourself, where they are, and the ad-hoc methods needed to plan a trip to the Star Wars sets in Tunisia.
The Set Locations Are Spread Out
There are two major Star Wars set areas, all in the southern half of Tunisia. They are separated by large deserts so you’ll have to plan ahead if you want to see any or all of them. Starting in the west near the city of Tozeur is Mos Espa (shown above) and the Lars Homestead, where Luke Skywalker was raised. Roughly 800 kilometers to the east is Matmata, where the interior of the Lars Homestead was shot. It’s actually a hotel now (called Sidi Driss) where you can spend the night in Luke Skywalkers’ bedroom.
ghorfa complex medenine
Around 40 km from there is Medenine, the Tunisian city whose Ghorfa Complex (shown above courtesy Wikipedia) will be immediately familiar if you recall Liam Neeson testing Anakin Skywalker for midi-chlorians.

There are several other background shot locations like Toshi Station and Sith infiltration landing site, only the most hardcore Star Wars fans might be interested in.
What Was Shot Where
Whether you’re interested in a particular Star Wars prop or simply want to scroll the movies to points where you can yell, “I’ve been there!” here’s a breakdown of where these Tunisian sites appear:

star wars sagaStar Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray]
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How To Plan Your Trip (Depending On What You Want To See)
Starting in Tunisia’s capital Tunis, you need to decide whether you’re more interested in Tozeur’s sites or those of Matmata or Medenine, since they’re in different parts of the country and not directly connected by rail or road.
tozeur oasis
Getting to Tozeur is fairly straightforward and you’ve got two basic options of either a low-cost direct flight or a 6 hour train ride that’s even less expensive. Once there, I recommend booking your accommodation at Residence Tozeur Almadina. Talk to the owner Tayeb (let him know I sent you) to arrange a ride to Mos Espa and the Lars Homestead. You’ll have to negotiate the price of the 40 minute car ride but it shouldn’t cost more than $40.
tunisia car hire
Getting to Medenine from Tozeur is tricky because there aren’t roads between the two. You can either take a bus to Gafsa, then arrange another bus to Medenine from there. (Car hires can also be arranged but are much more expensive.) Going by road is will take a day, so plan accordingly. Getting to Medenine from Tunis is a little easier: from Tunis Central Station, you’ll book to the last stop on the line, Gabes. Once there, you can take a bus to Medenine or through a hotel in Medenine, hire a car to Matmata (if you’ll be spending the night there). Organized tours from all of these cities are another option.
Safety On The Streets
All of the Star Wars sets, for the most part, are only accessible with a car driven by someone who knows exactly where they are. (In case you were thinking of renting a vehicle yourself.) You may be wondering if it’s safe to travel to Tunisia – despite some click-bait headlines, no, ISIS didn’t invade the Star Wars sets. For those of you traveling with people who aren’t Star Wars fans, you might convince them to come along as there’s a lot else to see in this region of Tunisia, like the oasis surrounding Tozeur.

The Sight You Can Only See In Turkey Every November 10, 9:05am

10 kasim
To many visitors the sudden sound of air sirens all across Turkey might come as a surprise, especially given the sight of office workers emptying into the streets and citizens suddenly standing in somber silence. These are the scenes across Turkey at 9:05 am every November 10th, which becomes a nationwide memorial honoring the founder of the country, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who passed away on the date and time in 1938.

Dramatically traffic comes to a halt even on the two Istanbul bridges that cross the Bosporus, drivers get out of their cars, standing for two minutes of silence next to their vehicles. For those of you visiting Turkey on this day, it’s best to get up early to find a good vantage point to witness the commemoration.
Where To Attend November 10th Ceremonies
In Istanbul, Taksim Square or any of the cafe rooftops directly in front of it, are good locations. Additionally, the Military Museum (Askeri Muzesi) and Dolmabahce Palace although busy, are especially worth visiting on this day.
taksim 10 kasim
In Ankara, Ataturk’s Mausoleum Anitkabir is where to be, Turkey’s For Life has instructions on how to get there. Across other cities in Turkey to put on your itinerary it’s best to get in touch with the local tourism board to find out what events might be taking place. My recommendation for a more local look at November 10th in Turkey would be to get in touch with a nearby public school to arrange a visit for the morning. (They’re more than likely to welcome you.)
As The Moment Comes To An End
Wreaths laid, silence is eventually broken by the Turkish national anthem as life slowly rolls into regular pace. No matter when visiting in the year, you’ll notice enough statues and pictures to make you wonder why Ataturk’s image is everywhere in Turkey. Ataturk’s likeness isn’t a look into the past but a reminder; what he created is a path, for Turks today, to determine their own destiny.

Unexpected Variety: The Foods Of Yemen

yemeni cuisine
Yemeni cuisine is as surprisingly diverse as the landscape of a country I visited in its last days of stability. Although the security situation has changed considerably in Yemen since 2013, these tastes flavor a culture that’s often obscured by bomb smoke for many around the world.
The Spread
Yemeni breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables only begin like the photo below from At Hameeda, a completely woman owned and run restaurant near the city of Shibam (northwest of Sana’a). After the first course, plus some lounging, the tabletop is replaced with several new dishes.
yemeni lunch
Rice With Hawaij Spice
Common in many Yemeni foods, hawaij is a spice mix that varies but the primary ingredients are cardamon, tumeric, and cumin. Also varied is how much (if any) clarified butter is used for flavor.
yemeni rice
Fried or poached eggs on a layer of tomatoes spicy enough to make your temples glow with perspiration.
shashouka yemen
Bread heavily buttered with a touch of egg.
yemen bread yemen bread
A spongy flat bread served warm with a cool mixture of yogurt, cucumbers with carrots on top.
yemen lahoh
Yemen’s national dish, it never looked the same twice. Saltah’s main ingredient is a meat (often lamb) in a broth with the strong flavor of fenugreek – an unexpected taste that probably takes more than a few tries to acquire.
yemen saltah
Leham Segar
Minced lamb with tomatoes and onion. The okra isn’t standard but your appetite will appreciate the culinary creativity.
leham segar
Cooked Peas (Bezelye)
Those of you familiar with Turkish vegetarian foods might recognize this green pea dish with a tomato base.
yemen peas
A chicken or lamb broth soup that is tastier than its short ingredient list implies.
yemen soup
A variation of saltah, fahsa is cooked at much higher heat until the lamb meat slides off the bone, boiling inside a soup of garlic, onions. It is then topped off with fenugreek paste mixed with tomatoes (which is cooked separately) so you have a layer of bread dip on top of dinner. Well, at least 6% of a dinner if it’s Yemeni proportions.
yemen fahsa
Still Eating
Going through them all I had so many photos from Yemen of food I didn’t realize how much time I spent eating – all different types of food.
yemeni food yemeni food liver
yemeni potatoes yemeni stuffed peppers
yemeni salad yemeni kebab
You’ll probably notice as well that many of the pictures a selected above are from the same meal or two to show you that Yemenis like to eat. Meals are often largest in early noon, since after 2pm most people take some time to get high on khat. I didn’t even mention the coffee a drink introduced to the world from the Yemeni port of Mocha. Unfortunately much of the coffee crops – and the potential export income it could bring in – has been replaced by thirsty khat trees.
The world’s world’s most neglected tourist destination Socotra Island, hundreds of kilometers off the mainland coast of Yemen, still remains accessible by air but for now, getting to one of the world’s best kitchens will have to wait for a distant future trip.


About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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