Meeting the Kindest People in the World in Istanbul, Turkey
Updated: Mar 2
Nivaal Rehman | Toronto, Canada
Earlier this year, we went to Pakistan for two months, and on our way back to Canada from our trip, we stayed in Turkey for a week. Going to Turkey has been a dream of ours for a long time. We had family friends who visited all the time, and told us such great things about the country that it became a part of our travel bucket list. We had originally just planned to go to Pakistan, but then we decided that because we had time, we should make this dream of ours come true.
Turkey was everything we had imagined it would be, and so much more. Videos, or pictures could never do justice to the incredible architecture, the festive atmosphere and the kindness of the people that one can experience when they are actually there.
The hospitality of the Turks was the main thing that made us fall in love with this historically rich city, which has housed the Byzantine and Ottoman empires for hundreds of years.
During our first day in Turkey, we arrived at our hotel in the afternoon (after travelling all night from Pakistan), and had a nap until around 9 PM! So as soon as we all woke up, we went out into the street near our hotel to “explore” and eat dinner. The people were lively, there was music being played by the street musicians, and everything was so different from other places we had been to. It felt like we had stepped into a whimsical new world. There was so much to see.
We were walking down the street, trying to decide where we would have dinner, when a gentleman outside this restaurant greeted us, asked where we were from and was overjoyed to find that we were from Pakistan. “We’re brothers” he said to our dad. This was something that we heard from many more shopkeepers, restaurant owners and people all around Istanbul.
It was heartwarming to get this kind of welcome. We decided to have dinner at this restaurant, and had an amazing time! We passed by this restaurant and saw the man who was outside many more times during the week that we spent in Istanbul. Even on the last day that we were there, we met the man and told him what an incredible place Istanbul was, and he told us that he would host us again, the next time we came. It felt like we belonged in the neighbourhood where we lived during our time there. From the bakers at the bakery we used to visit for our breakfast, to the man who sold us fruits, the convenience store owners and the kebab-shop owners, everyone made us feel right at home. We have travelled to many places around the globe, but very few are as welcoming as Istanbul.
We loved roaming the stone streets, admiring the gorgeous buildings, drinking Turkish tea, and listening to the street musicians filling the atmosphere of the city with their beautiful music. Istanbul is incredibly advanced, and modern (their subway system is even more advanced than Toronto, Canada), and yet, it has preserved hundreds of years of history in the form of buildings, artifacts and food. It is the only city in the world which spans over two continents, Europe and Asia, and is truly a melting pot of cultures and experiences. People from all over the world were visiting the city, not only as tourists, but as students, and workers as well. One of the days that we were there, we had lost our way and actually found two university students from Pakistan who were studying there, who helped us find our route back home.
On one of our last days in Istanbul, we spent a long time walking around and trying to find the “Kebab with the fire,” and when we finally found it, we were overjoyed. We found out that this was called Testi Kebab, and it is a meat and vegetable dish which is slow cooked in a clay pot and served with the clay pot burning in front of you! The person who served us at this restaurant greeted us outside, brought us in, and gave us Turkish Apple tea at the end of the meal.
We told him that we liked it so much that we wanted some to take home with us. He walked all the way to a grocery store nearby with us, and found the exact tea that the restaurant uses.
We brought the tea home with us, and whenever we make it, we are reminded of eating in this lovely restaurant in the heart of Istanbul.
Overall, we had a great time, and would definitely visit again! We hope that you enjoyed reading this blog post, and watching our vlog from this amazing city!