While speaking to the helpful staff in charge of the hotel reception, he suggested ‘Little Ayasofya’ among the places to visit in the nearby hood of Sultanahmet. It is not one of the ‘top places’ listed on guidebooks but it is an old mosque and worth a visit, he said. Taking my time to finish the tasty breakfast served from 8am, I am often late in getting to the popular venues which open at 9am. Seeing a long queue at the ‘big’ AyaSofya – the largest architecture of the kind – I decided to move onto the back street towards the general direction where I was told I’d find this ‘Little’ AyaSofya. I have this simple guide map but no guidebook, and I was just wandering about. But there was a sign indicating the little one as I left the square between AyaSofya and the Blue Mosque, and I enjoyed walking down the steep hill where a gentleman in parking staff uniform sitting in the shade with his ticketing machine in hand.
And there she was, with the backdrop of a calm blue summer sea stands the building with half ruin in the back of it.
The photo is of the gate opposite the Little AyaSofya. Photographing was not allowed inside, but it was a beautiful peaceful building. I sat there till those loud-talking European middle aged tourist women to leave, and appreciated the intricacy of the building in silence.
I got to meet those two young kids, studying the Koran in the courtyard. They spoke no word of English and I no Turkish. The young kids are not scared of things and kept telling me something in Turkish but I had no idea what it was they were saying. Turkish seems to be a pretty complex language in terms of pronunciation, at least by watching them read from their spelling book.
As I kept walking on a random direction hoping I’d find something different from tourist-filled Sultanahmet, I got ‘warmer’, or, felt like I was in the area off the beaten track of visitors, as I found some local child park next to bus stop, workers passing by in higher frequency.
Then I came across a steep slope, and left and right they were all in shoe business. Some were selling only the soles, while others had stack of boxes of shoes.
I drew near and asked for permission to photograph. The gentleman behind the table was applying a seal or glue on the pieces that would become moccasin shoes. It is a lot of manual labour here. There are so many businesses doing the same thing as the next shop. I found this in other industry as well, finding shops and shops of hardware near Tophane, lots of kitchenware near the market in Karaköy. But it was like that everywhere. They all made living that way. But for how much longer, I feel sad to think about it.
People are generous and hospitable in this country. As I took my time to capture the men at work, I was offered a seat, and the next question is ‘you want Çay (chai)?’. I hesitate out of habit but takes one gladly. Instead of chai, the young gentleman brings me a bottle of sour cherry juice. Yummy!
Saying thanks and good-bye to the working men, I walked further up the hill, and found myself close to the touristic street leading up to the Grand Bazaar. Up close to it were more shoe shops.
Bazaar (market) shows a reminder of the history but the business is all touristic and there is no slowing down or sitting down without feeling you might get ripped off a tourist price for a cup of tea, while meeting local people on the street and asking to capture their normal day-to-day life comes with a cup of Çay that gets delivered from one of the tea shops that seems to exist around every corner. The question is, as always, what can I do in return to their kindness?