DAY 1

We departed at exactly 4.40.am as scheduled. The flight was full and the inflight meals selections were perfect and very tasty. The entertainment system had a great movie great selection.
We arrived in Istanbul 6 hours later where we all finally met Faith- Turkish Airline Kenya Sales & Marketing Executive at the immigration desk. We were 15 representatives from various agencies and were received by Mr. Adrirkadir – Turkish Airline Kenya Country Manager.

TURKISH DO & CO (CATERING DEPARTMENT)

This was our first stop from the airport.
This is an international company with offices in Germany, Vienna and Turkey that provides catering services both for domestic and international flights in partnership with Turkish Airlines.
They also train for inflight attendants as well as the Flying chef who is part of the crew and is responsible for the hot meal as well as assisting the flight attendants.
We were taken for a tour by the station manager within the complex as she explained about their operations and partnership with major airlines such as British Airways.
We had lunch at Gülhane park restaurant

TURKISH AIRLINE TRAINING CENTRE

We were then transferred to Turkish Airline Training Centre where cabin personnel are provided with the required training.
The Centre is quite big and we spent 1hr as the Operation Manager explained about their operations. It is worth noting that all the cabin crew visit the centre for refresher courses after every 6 months.

Grand Emin Hotel – Yenikapı

We checked-in at the hotel at 5pm. We were exhausted and only a couple of us took a walk around the neighborhood to grab some dinner as well as to explore Istanbul nightlife.
The hotel is in a good location, Transportation is easy from the hotel. The bus station “Yenikapi” is 3 minutes walking from the hotel where you can take the bus to Taksim Square.
The neighborhood is busy most of the day; there are many shops and shipment companies around the hotel, yet do not to disturb your stay at the hotel. There are some mini-markets around the hotel where you can buy food, drinks and fruits. There are also some traditional cafes around the hotel.
The rooms are small and have twin beds but the bathrooms are extremely small and an 80kg person cannot fit. The staff or maybe most of them do not speak English and this can be an issue when in need of assistance except the Manager who is only there during the day. The meals are not bad, not of the high quality but it does the job. It is a matter of taste after all.
The Wi-Fi was okay; actually it is not that High-Speed but was fine.

DAY 2

Left the hotel at 9.00am after breakfast with a tour guide. He spent a whole day taking us around and narrating the history of this
great city as well as culture. I must say he is very well informed and his English was perfect.

SULTAN AHMET MOSQUE VISIT (BLUE MOSQUE)

The mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design. The Mosque was built during
the rule of Sultan Ahmet. Besides being a tourist attraction, it’s also an active mosque, so it’s closed to non-worshippers for a half an hour or so during the five daily prayers.
The main west entrance is beautifully decorated and very much worth a look. However, to preserve the mosque’s sanctity,
non-worshippers are required to use the north entrance

NB: Before stepping in to the mosque, you take off your shoes and put in plastic bags provided at the entrance (Free of Charge).
There is also no charge to enter the Blue Mosque. Women have to wear a head covering before entering to Blue Mosque.

HIPPODROME VISIT

Our next visit was the Hippodrome which is right next to he blue mosque. It was first built by the Roman Empire. The arena was used for chariot races and other entertainments. It was the centre of the city’s social life where bets were raised on chariot races. There are several monuments for past leaders.
There are pigeons, classic fountains, old trees, ancient obelisk from Egypt, ancient serpent stand from Greece —–how I wish they could speak, what stories they would have to tell—
The Hippodrome has free Wi-Fi Internet connection, offered by the local government.

BASILICA CISTERN

It is right opposite Hagia Sophia. The cistern is supported by tall marble columns. It was used to store water for the great palace and surrounding buildings. The columns are highlighted with reddish-orange light shining on each of their base. There are drops of water falling from the ceiling. Strangely, the ceiling looks dry. Soft music runs in the air while 6 inch fish swims in the shallow water.
Two columns have Medusa heads for bases. One is upside down and the other is on its right cheek. They would have been under water when the cistern was in use. People throw coins to make a wish. The underground cistern is amazing in size and condition. I was amazed at what was accomplished over 1000 years ago and still standing.

AYA SOFIA MUZEUM

From the Basilica cistern we crossed over to Hagia Sophia. This was an Orthodox church that later became a mosque after being conquered by the sultan. It is now a museum. Hagia Sophia means “Divine Wisdom”.
When the sultan conquered the city he covered the Christian paintings/artworks and replaced it with Islamic painting. The Christian features had since been uncovered. Now the museum has both Christian and Muslim artwork – the huge Arabic calligraphic plates on the walls. The Museum has more Christian artwork that proves that the basilica was meant to be a church. The Christian artifacts include the Virgin Mary and the seraphim amongst others.
I loved the candles hanging from the chandeliers, the paintings depicting ancient figures.
It is advisable to go in the morning hours as there are many tourists and entrance queues are very long.

TOPKAPI PALACE

This situated next to Hagia Sophia. It was the home of the Ottomans Sultans and turned to a museum. Sadly you are not allowed to take photos.
We spent hours walking with a guide through this Palace. The history is incredible, the artifacts on display just amazing. It is rich and has lots of stuff which belongs to the Ottoman Empire inside and to the Prophet Mohamed.
The palace is just huge and will make you walk miles around. The rooms were interesting and it was a pleasure to hear the ancient stories about those rooms. Walking through the gardens and buildings of the “Great Gate” gives you a lot of details of the Sultans’ life, their traditions and ways, throughout the centuries. You need a lot of time to visit everything
The huge 86 carat Diamond in the showcase is worth going if only to view the Diamond, and of course the collection of Jewels, probably the biggest collection of jewels.
We had lunch at Tokyapi restaurant situated within the Palace.

GRAND BAZAAR

Grand Covered Bazaar, most attractive shopping center and biggest in the world with nearly 4000 shops selling antiques, jewellery, gold, carpets, leatherwear and souvenirs.
Even with bargaining, the prices aren’t really a deal, and most of the textiles are available elsewhere.
A few of us bought some souvenirs

DAY 3
BOSPHORUS BOAT TOUR

Bosphorus is a natural passage long which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.
The Bosphorus Bridge is truly an amazing suspension bridge, spanning the whole Bosphorus canal. It separates the European part (left) from the Asian part of Istanbul (right). There are two bridges connecting the two parts.
The boat ride is about 2 hrs. The wind at the upper level of the cruise is refreshing, also if you don’t want to be hit by the wind you can just relax in the lower deck, and have some apple tea, or coffee.
It is a nice feeling to wander between two continents. From the boat you will see the palaces and then enjoy the sceneries.
The views and contrast between the Asian and European sides is pretty noticeable and offers you a comparison between the modern society and historic buildings.
I only wish we had crossed over the bridge, seems like fun but apparently its takes hours due to ever massive traffic jam.

TAKSIM

After the bout ride we were dropped off at the Taksim Square at 1pm for some shopping and were cautioned to keep time. As we were scheduled to depart from the hotel to the Airport by 5pm.
It is the hub of all public transportation and municipal bus terminal. It is also a favourite location for public events such as parades. Infact there was a demonstration going on during our visit and it was quiet overwhelming to maneuver within the large crowd. This is one of the most crowded place I saw in Istanbul. It is the center of Istanbul’s Europe side.
Surrounding Taksim Square are numerous high end shops e.g. Mango, international fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, McDonald’s.
The road is always crowded apparently up until midnight. Actually you spend so much time finding your way through human traffic.
We managed to do a bit of shopping and were all back at the hotel by 5pm.We departed for the airport on time. Our flight departed and arrived on time.

Side notes
The trip was quite informative and I got to learn more about Turkish Airlines products and their partners.
• The flights are 100% on time
• In-flight meals selections were perfect and very tasty
• Cabin staff were fantastic
• Entertainment system had a great movies selection
• The hotel had excellent service and very friendly staff
• Istanbul is fabulous city and the city tours were well arranged
Some words have been borrowed from Arabic thus you get to overhear some Swahili word such as
Sigara for cigarette
Ofisi for Office
Shukran – Thanks
Thank you for this wonderful and exciting opportunity.

Report by Catherine – Client Relationship Executive