[Friday 3 June update: just now got internet going at my house. Here's what I wrote last Sunday, before all the madness with the flotilla emerged. Needless to say it's been busy.]
I got here safely, albeit tiredly, on Thursday afternoon. I'm not sure when I'l get internet access in my apartment, so I've been keeping ideas in my notebook for things to write up when I get the chance. I was considering turning them into longer pieces, but I rather like the idea of contextless paragraphs - since I'm still getting used to the time change (I accidentally overadjusted and set my biological clock to somewhere in Central Asia, so I'm re-acclimating now), these disjointed paragraphs are a pretty accurate representation of how I got through this weekend.
Sitting in an outdoor cafe in an alley under the Bosphorus Bridge with friends in town for the long weekend from Embassy Riyadh, drinking tea, smoking shisha, and laughing in sheer, silly delight at the colors and sounds around us. So different from Saudi Arabia! We could never do this there.
I CAN SEE THE BOSPHORUS FROM MY APARTMENT!!
First call to prayer - I feel like I'm back at home, even though I would never call Riyadh home. I'm in my element here.
Seeing the skyline lighting up with fireworks commemorating the 557th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of the city. Seeing billboards around the city wishing the people a happy anniversary.
Young boys diving into the Bosphorus in their underpants while people play backgammon at the waterside cafes around me
Walking down the western bank of the Golden Horn, coming across a flotilla of apparently old-school wind-powered ships, with masts and sails and the whole nine yards (nine yardams?), from a dozen different countries, each crew speaking Arabic, Indonesian, Polish, Dutch, German, Russian... the ruse was revealed when I saw the nuclear logo on the side of the Polish ship, and when I saw them set sail as a group towards the Black Sea an hour later, sails still furled.
Warships, cruise ships, cargo ships, sailboats, fishing boats, ferryboats....
Seeing two giggling teenage girls sharing an ice cream, one veiled and in a knee-length cloak, the other in a miniskirt, both texting frantically and eyeing the guys walking by
My oven is somehow a microwave at the same time??!
Not being screwed over by a cabbie - what a glorious feeling.