Thursday, December 20, 2007

Nobody's business but the Turks: 1

We were in Istanbul for the 2nd through 6th nights of Chanukah, and due to various distractions in both the real world and the blogosphere, I'm just getting around to blogging about it now. Some quick takes to get started, and a longer post (here and on Jewschool) about Turkish Shabbat coming later.

  • This series of books looked strangely familiar...

Yes, it's the Choose Your Own Adventure series! That's The Cave of Time on the right (or, as any English and Hebrew speaker knows, The Tunnel of זמן). And who could forget Who Killed Harlow Thrombey? ?

  • This year is Rumi's 800th birthday, and lots of commemorations have been happening in Turkey and around the world, including this whirling dervish performance which we saw at the main Istanbul train station, once the terminus of the Orient Express (which, we were surprised to learn, never actually went to "the Orient" - it didn't even leave Europe!).

EAR will post at some point about the spiritual side of the whirling ceremony, but in the meantime I want to focus on the physics. I was very impressed that the dervishes' angular velocity is completely constant. Even though spinning around is made up of a series of discrete steps -- move one foot, then the other foot, then the first foot again, and so on -- they made it look like it was continuous, as if they were standing on a rotating platform. You don't notice that they aren't unless you look at their feet (since the rest of their legs are hidden under the robes). This must seriously take practice. And they only whirl to the left - I was waiting for someone to call "SWITCH!" in the middle, but that never happened. The dervishes are also much younger than one might have expected.

  • Pulp Fiction be damned - in Turkey, they have a Quarter Pounder and a McRoyal! Perhaps this represents Turkey's dual status, perched between Europe and the Middle East. (No, I can't tell you anything about the food itself at McDonald's - we only went in to use the restroom, or tuvalet.)

  • Thoughts inspired by visiting the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, home to lots of really old stuff: In a final peace agreement, the Temple Mount shouldn't be under the control of Israel or the Palestinians. Leave the Dome of the Rock, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Kotel (i.e. the actual wall), and turn the rest over to disinterested archaeologists (perhaps from Scandinavia), and dig the whole thing up. I bet there's some really cool stuff under there.
  • Does anyone know what the number means?

This is in Taksim Square, but reminiscent of the clock in Union Square. The URL in the picture is of no assistance to those of us who don't speak Turkish.

  • Ok, I'm sorry, but this has to be fake:

That's the Obelisk of Thutmosis III in the foreground, with the Blue Mosque in the background. But come on. If the obelisk has been outside for 3500 years, how is it still so smooth? Shouldn't have somehow eroded? Are there any conspiracy theories about any sort of funny business?

  • In the airport bathroom:

  • Christianity and Islam have had some difficult relations for the last millennium or so, but this snapshot from the Grand Bazaar shows that capitalism heals all wounds:

You might recognize the guy on the left. The one on the right is Muhammad. (First-year Arabic is already paying off!) Before you point out that it doesn't look like him, recall from recent events that there are some issues with visual depictions of Muhammad.

Similarly, meet Mary and Allah:

  • At first, we thought this mosque had once been a synagogue:

(Aside: Note the stores on the street level. You don't see that so much with places of worship in the US.)

Later we figured out that the six-pointed star is a common motif in Ottoman Turkish art:

These pictures are from the Topkapı Palace, seat of the Ottoman sultans.
  • Yes, that was a lowercase dotless I. In English and most languages that use the Latin alphabet, lowercase i has a dot and capital I doesn't. In Turkish, dotted i and dotless I are two different letters, each having its own capital and lowercase form! Crazy! As a result, while waiting for the flight home, I amused myself endlessly while watching the LED display switch back and forth between English and Turkish -- that is, between "TEL AVIV" and "TEL AVİV". Dot goes on, dot goes off! Dot goes on, dot goes off!
  • More later.

1 comment:

  1. what about those of us who routınely never dot our I's when we wrıte ın handwrıtıng? It's a habıt ı pıcked up from a Spanısh (not Turkısh!) teacher ın hıgh school. Hey, thıs ıs fun... now we just need an accessıble dotless lowercase J, too...

    Tunnel of זמן LOL