Merhaba!

Hope all is well lovelies! x

My brother was in town a few weeks ago and me being the bestest big sister in the world decided to take him to Istanbul for a couple days! I’ve been before, around the same time last year actually! but it was a first for him and I’m pretty sure he had a fab time (he better have haha)

Istanbul is pure magic on its own, but finding someplace to stay which enhances that is a tad hit and miss. After my last trip, I really wanted to stay someplace in close proximity to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia; its all kinds of beautiful and hearing the call to prayer echo between both mosques amidst the hustle&bustle of people does things to your heart and soul and having the freedom to walk between the two at any time of day is just an experience on its own which leaves you in a state of blessings upon blessings and I just really really love it!

We stayed at the ever so lovely Hotel Empress Zoe, a boutique hotel situated in the heart of historic Sultanahmet and I kid you not, an approximate 8 minute walk to the grounds of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia! (I was hella excited!) A few minutes walking distance from there you’ve got the Cistern and Gulhane Park to visit, and can easily hop onto the metro if you’re headed elsewhere.

Besides its amazing location, the charming interior exudes a contemporary Byzantine feel which is showcased throughout the hotel. From the rooftop terrace, to the décor chosen in both the indoor and outdoor dining areas, to the intrinsic wood detailing in the bedrooms, it was hard not to feel like a modern-day Turkish princess haha (the most precious and fluffiest ginger house-cat included as well!) Given that the hotel is built from the remains of an Ottoman passage and barrel vaulted room, there is no elevator, however staff are more than helpful in taking baggage up and down the beautiful marble spiraled staircase for you. (yes, I took a shoe-fie on the staircase each day #noshame)

The hotel boasts 26 rooms, 4 of them being suites which include their own marble hamam-style bathrooms. A hamam is a traditional Turkish bath usually hosted in a communal type environment; so to have your own personal one is pretty freaking amazing! Pictured below is one of the suites (room 702) which has got its own stairwell entry and terrace, essentially your own private living quarters overlooking the beautiful garden below. Look at all that light legit just beaming through the windows! ah! I’m a big windows and letting light shine through type of person so totally in love with everything that was going on at this moment! It’s also a lovely choice if you’re traveling with your special someone for that added privacy and bit of seclusion from the rest of the hotel.

Breakfast and taxes are included in all bookings at the hotel; breakfast consists of a traditional Turkish mezze which included Turkish borek and a variety of cheeses and breads and olives and cereals etc. in an open buffet style concept meaning you could always go back for seconds so yes, more than enough food lol

We stayed in a double-room with a garden view and ugh, it was just so beautiful. A large wooden four-poster canopy bed to one side with a tradition Turkish sedir on the other (large couch built on the wall covered in textiles and pillows used for lounging on sleeping) (this was basically the brothers bed lol). Consistent flow of water (hot and cold) in the bathroom and shower was ace as well; the only only gripe I had was that the full length mirrors in the room were both on opposite sides of the window lol so to put on makeup or even take pictures just didn’t happen because it couldn’t as everything was just dark, but that might just have been our room!

I have to say my most favorite part of the hotel would be the attention to detail in terms of the décor and furniture chosen to effectively execute a tactile presence of another time. All the furniture, textiles, pillows etc. are made up of a collection of old Turkish pieces, and its careful curation comes off as effortless; broken pieces of paving, Ottoman marble fountains and antique stone artifacts lying about as though they’ve been there for centuries. The rooftop terrace with its breathtaking view of the Bosphorus glistening in sunlight to your left, with the two mosques to your right was another fave, alongside the sunken lobby upon entrance to the hotel. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous!x

If you’re ever in town, or Istanbul is on your bucket list, make it happen in the new year and get yourself a room at the Empress Zoe (click here). Being a boutique hotel, not only will it exceed your expectations and provide a much more authentic experience and appreciation for traditional Turkish architecture, but promise it’ll make your trip that little more special x

Thank you a million and one to the exceptionally helpful and friendly staff at Hotel Empress Zoe for providing complimentary stay for the 2 nights. All opinions are my own.

As you may already know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, an annual international health campaign to raise awareness and funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure.

Image result for breast cancer tumblr

As per the National Breast Cancer Foundation,

  • One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.

Sudio Sweden (@sudiosweden) has been running a campaign in support of this month where 10% of all profits from any of their pink products will be donated to Rosa Bandet, a Swedish Pink Ribbon Foundation.

I’ve worked with Sudio previously in a post here where you can read up on how lovely their quality is, both in aesthetic and sound. These are the REGENT headphones with pink caps (separate attachment) and they’re also wireless so yay!

I don’t think I’ve ever owned an over-the-head set and I’ve always been skeptical of them ruining my hijab or turban haha but these extend far enough over the turban and are uber comfortable and don’t look ridiculous!

They come with the usuals and charge into any usb port for wireless pairing; can also use them via direct cable which is included. I can definitely see these accompanying me on flights and travels as they also fold up into a super convenient size which can be thrown into a backpack easily.

You’ve still got a few days left in October, so help yourself to the 10% by using ‘saira’ upon checkout at sudiosweden.com ! It might be a small contribution , but something towards the greater good is always better than nothing at all init x

If you think about it, kids were the more recent people to hang out with God and so we should respect them, value them, not like smaller adults but more like if they were the best versions of humanity.

                                                                        – Jerome Jarre

totally aware that not all of these are photos of children, but I’m so in love with the aforementioned and find it quite fitting. Still having warm fuzzies about all of it, but there’s always that extra something about the people you meet (and smother with hugs) in certain places. That in-explainable tug at the strings of your heart&soul which concludes with a massive drawn out sigh on my part because I want to go back! Until then though, I hope you fall as in love with these as I have xx

I’ve mentioned Nepal on here a few times, namely because it was my first solo trip at 19, still at uni, had never been away from home or mama for that long etc etc. and it’s always going to hold a really special place in my heart! I went back this April, called it my ‘7 year homecoming’ which I’m still in two minds about sharing on here partly because there’s loads of feels attached, and partly because I want to find the time to sit and write in order to do justice to it all, but we’ll see what happens.

While I was home during the summer, mama and I did a clean out of the shed which uncovered lots of memories and things that really needed to be chucked out, but I found this card she had written me when I went at 19. And it gave me warm fuzzies all over again x (you can probably read her writing, but I rewrote it just incase lol)


Dear Saira,

I hope that this trip/journey that you are taking is going to be your lifetime experience and a memory for years to share (I think she meant years to come haha x) I want you to have a great time. Look, listen, you will indeed be a different person when you come back; who knows you might turn out to be a vegetarian! (just kidding, I know you’re looking forward to that burger on your way back) I have invested my dream in you; something I hoped to do when I was at your tender age, but I don’t mind; I think you’re braver and smarter than I was at that time. I just read the Himalayas book (we have this book on the Himalayas which mama loves and she’s always living her dream of going to Nepal via this book) and envisioned I was there. You. You put it all into an action plan. Good for you! Look after yourself. Make the right choices. Don’t forget who you are. We will be thinking about you all the time. I will miss you! More than you know.

Have fun!

Mama


I just applied to graduate a little while ago, after probably the maddest two years of my life in which so much happened and changed all at once. I remember having WAY too much on my plate this once and ready to quit all of it thinking it was so pointless. Which it might be, but it’s been the one constant (besides God obvs.) which has kept me grounded and given me something to work towards all this time. And I’m kinda sorta proud of meself for getting through it! *pats self on back*

The endless cups of tea made by my work family, the million-and-one hugs, boring people with all the super cool things I had just read and was learning, friends reading my papers or listening to presentations long distance pretending they knew what I was on about, mama reading my policy brief on the ‘lost generation’ of Syrian children who no longer had access to education because of the conflict and thinking I was the smartest girl alive (aren’t mamas the best!), the countless extensions requested and granted by professors so I could juggle work and school and life (and traveling lol) etc. etc. etc……! It’s all finally come to an end!! Alhamdulillah times a million!x

If you’re reading this and you know you’re one of the aforementioned, hugs and thankyous to you from the bottom of my heart because you helped in some form or another and were part of my journey x Even more so because I didn’t have mama and my family physically present with me for a majority of the struggle and I probably relied on y’all a lot more than you realize!x

The reason for this post though is that I was having a scroll through my photos and came across mamas card. and although I’ve messaged her about graduation she hasn’t messaged back yet (she’s at the cottage so I forgive her lol) but I kinda sorta found comfort in reading what she had written 7 years ago to this moment x minus the vegetarian stuff and being smarter lol but experiences, memories, and not forgetting who you are throughout the journey xx thanks for always being my number one fan mama x love you longtime xoxo

So much was accomplished and endured this day to the point where I hardly had a second to realize I was leaving later that night.

Our day began earlier than usual as we had to be at the football stadium for around 9am, and headed to the warehouse to load the final 1500 boxes we’d be distributing. Driving into the lot you’d think it was market day what with cars and pick-up trucks lined on the roads, bikes and wheelbarrows sprawled on the side ready to collect their goods for the day.

Upon entering the stadium (I use the term stadium lightly; an indoor pitch really, so a small stadium?), I felt this massive hot heavy feeling on my heart which made it stop for a second and it wasn’t the crying type of of hotness but just this sudden pang of something. An overwhelming-ness maybe, or my entire being in a state of ‘wow’, but essentially a scene which stops you dead in your tracks to take it all in.

People were lined all around the pitch, men on the right, women and children on the left, waiting for us. Once we were sorted, a system was established where half of us would be told how many boxes each person was to receive, we’d walk them out of the stadium, let someone on the truck know, he’d pass the boxes to the second group, we’d pass the person onto the box-bearer who’d then carry the load to either a parked car or taxi or to the end of the road where some waited in the blistering heat for a ride to come collect them. Many of the men were physically able to carry their own, but many women had come with strollers and children and just had too much to handle on top of finding armspace to carry this heavy box someplace.

 

Extra hands were required and I guess it’s one of those moments where you don’t know what you’re truly capable of until you’re placed in a certain situation. Wallahi I tried to lift those boxes before for more than 10 seconds and I know the limitations of my own strength which is pretty much non-existent, but there was also no way I was going to watch another woman struggle with this load and her crying baby, so I had a go at it. Honestly the worst that happened is me being super sore the next day and receiving hugs and kisses and prayers, which is a freaking no brainer and I’m a tad proud of pushing myself beyond what I thought I couldn’t do.

Word had got round that we were in the area which resulted in so many unregistered people trying to make their way inside and pleading with each of us for a box or some food, showing us ID that they too were Syrians and just as eligible I suppose, but unfortunately there was really nothing we could do for them. They were definitely directed to the SKT Turkey team who gave them more information on how to go about registering etc. but saying no in that moment and having to leave people empty handed who are just as much in need is kind of a shitty feeling. Which isn’t anyone’s fault at all but just ugh.

It was a super special moment though, watching it all unfold before your eyes whilst physically being a part of it all and seeing your work and intentions from day one materialize into the final product, the culmination of it all and you couldn’t help but feel your heart expand with an overwhelming amount of joy and love and satisfaction in that you helped make this happen x

Once we were finished, a football match had been organized between SKT volunteers, both local and overseas, against the local SKT sponsored teams who are coached by the goalkeeper of Syria’s national football team. Fam. Those boys annihilated us. Mashallah mashallah mashallah. We played against both teams, the younger and older boys, and lost both terribly haha but they were all so amazing and talented!

The remainder of our evening was meant to be spent at the SOH where the kiddies had put on a show for us and we got to have dinner together which was super special x prior to that had a quick stroll through one of the markets and creeped on some people as per usual lol

I don’t think I want to get into all the feels of those final hours and moments spent with the kiddies and sneaking upstairs to learn Syrian dabke with the mums and listening to their stories because I’d rather they remain etched in my heart and soul for the time being x but there were lots of tears and hugs and kisses and a blanket of sadness in the air for all of us xx

9c71bbc7-8c94-4b26-ad30-5793fadce539-1

I’m sure I’ll get round to a post-deployment posting once all of this has been mentally and emotionally processed and I’m able to wrap my head around it all. Also want to do a portrait series of all the beautiful faces I captured so keep a look out for that. The post on how to go about volunteering with SKT is also in the works, alongside a special debut posting by the real Qes Ahmed himself haha so yea definitely stay tuned inshallah!

I want to thank and hug each and every one of you who’ve followed this deployment with me and have been keeping up-to-date with my blogs and other social media platforms. All the prayers and love and well wishes you sent were sent back your way ten-fold and it makes me so happy that so many of you are interested and wanting to make a difference to help and care about raising awareness about the plight of others for the sake of humanity x A massive thank you and hug to Qes and SKT Welfare for inviting me to join their cause and this deployment and allowing me to showcase the wonderful things they do on the grounds in Reyhanli for the Syrian refugees, and inshallah I hope to head back with them in the future! All of this truly came about after I creeped on Hasnain’s (@torynainz) instagram and then Qes’s (@qes321) whilst they were on deployment last Eid and fell in love with all the goodness they were doing lol definitely didn’t think it would result in my being invited to join so thanks a million and one you two! Xxx

ef173dbb-cb72-48a7-a710-5dcf105ae9d6-1

If you have any comments or questions at all etc. please please feel free to send myself a message or even SKT themselves as either of us would be more than happy to help answer or get you the information you need!

As always, lots of love, light, and endless happiness sent your way inshallah x ma salama xoxo