Documentary Travel Photographs of Istanbul Turkey

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Istanbul’s Two Worlds

by Robert Leon

Istanbul’s Ottoman epoch of mighty sultans living in opulently ornamented palaces with ambiguous beauties veiled in harems is a culture overthrown a long time ago, but a part of this culture seems to live on. Istanbul is an intensely hectic city living a double-life identity with contrasting worlds that intersect Eastern and Western cultures. The traditional Muslim world contrasts with the contemporary European people’s world, the later who live and look like they could be in any other large Western metropolis with the exception there’s a backdrop of the traditional Ottoman period.

Muslim women who cover themselves in black with only their eyes showing and who pray in mausoleums contrast with European influenced women who bare their legs wearing slick fashions. There are men who smoke the traditional Ottoman narghile in antique water pipes and other men with long hair smoking Western brand cigarettes.

The ease of global access brings foreign cultures with different influences into the city and so some of Istanbul’s youth follow the global village’s media influence. They become like the common denominator of popular youth culture found on the streets and in the night clubs around the world. Other youth follow their Muslim or Eastern culture and contrast with their Western counterparts.

Young Istanbul musicians play loud vibrating rock music that gushes out from the clubs into streets lit by gaudy neon in the zone of Beyoglu, a popular night-club district. It could be any European city if not for the wailing Koran prayer chant that floats eerily from the mosque towers and echoes through Istanbul immersing the city in a surreal Ottoman period. Banging rock music and wailing prayers mix together the cultures of two contrasting worlds – the East and West. Two distinct cultural faces simultaneously combine in Istanbul to form one dynamically alive and unique city with two worlds.