Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We spent the greater part of the day battling the notorious Istanbul traffic. On my visit here some 16 years ago, we stayed within the vicinity of all the major attractions & moving about by taxis was fairly easy, at least as I recall it. But today was sheer madness.

We set off at 10am for a gathering at Ayub Sulaiman Square where the Turkish, Arab & other foreign press was in presence. Interviews, speeches, mingling, chatting or just plain hanging around took us to just after 1 pm & upon the Zohor azan, we made our way to the closest mosque, Sultan Abu Ayub Al Ansari. Ayub Al Ansari was the prophet's companion, whose house the prophet stayed in when he arrived in Madina. He died in jihad at the age of 80 & lies buried in this mosque which was built in 1510.

Right after we took off for the cemetery where the matyrs of the Mavi Marmara were buried. This was a most poignant moment. There were 2 graves, side by side. Their tombstones had their date of birth but not their date of death, in accordance with Islam that states that the matyrs do not die though we perceive them to be.

It was clearly emotional for many. Buried here are two strangers, yet they live in our hearts. We know them not, yet they're dear to us. They're our sons, our brothers who sacrificed the ultimate for the very cause we were here for. Prayers were offered, in congregation and in silence. There was no sadness, but a quiet dignity to the whole affair, a solemn respect. Many touched the tombstones as they filed past. It was surreal, yet so real.

And what was to come after leaving the cemetery compound while making our way to our vehicles? But makan of course! Sandwiches & juice. And I thought life in Malaysia revolved around food.

And then it was off to quite possibly the worst drive I've ever been on. For the next 4 hours, we seemed to be driving without any destination, though in essence we were driving through the city to create as much hype as possible & to show solidarity with the Turks, that the international community is with them. But the drive was just awful. Traffic was at a standstill at times, the saving grace being the show of support shown in the streets by almost everyone as our convoy passed them. Thankfully Azura & I weren't driving today as our van was left behind for some minor work & were instead being driven. But it was still draining.

It ended with dinner of course & fine dining too. And now we're all trying to get as much rest as possible before heading off to Ankara tomorrow morning. In spite of today Istanbul remains one of my favourite cities & I only wish it didn't have to end so soon. Adieu & till we meet again, Insha Allah.

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