You’re probably getting sick of seeing all my Istanbul postings on the gram, but I’m not finished yet because I’m having a grand time playing around with newfound tools and making it all visually appealing so #sorrynotsorry ! but thanks to the ones who are still showing love because it makes me feel like you appreciate the werk lol love you!x

This is a quick rundown of what our 3days kinda sorta consisted of. I don’t think I ever plan or schedule things to the T, it’s often a rough idea of a few places I’d maybe like to see or check out (I’ll google beforehand to creep) and the rest is whatevers stumbled upon on the way, but there were a couple new places I wanted to share incase anyones ever in town!


Tourist Attractions 

  • Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

Standard (written about here and here)

  • Basilica Cistern

This is the largest of several hundred cisterns that lies beneath the city of Istanbul and used to act as a water filtration system for the Place of Constantinople.  Each time I’ve been to Istanbul I’ve always wanted to go but never got around to it, which is weird because its en route to the Metro and Gulhane Park and literally to the roadside of the Hagia Sophia lol lord knows I’ve walked past it a number of times, but definitely a really neat place worth seeing!

  • Galata Tower

This is another place I’ve been wanting to go for ages and always saw it from afar. I had heard it’s a mission to get to and so many stairs and an uphill climb that goes on for days, but it was neither. A bit of an uphill climb but that’s standard and its definitely worth it once you arrive. A friend recommended to go a bit before sunset so you could catch it whilst at the top of the tower and that was sound advice. Be prepared to queue for a bit, but theres a cutesy tram café to grab a cuppa while you wait! It also gets super crammed up top because you’re only able to do a round of the top and exit, but definitely take your time to appreciate the view and if you have to find a special spot to squat at for a bit, so be it! There wasn’t an epic sunset when we went, but it was beautiful to see everything wind down for the evening and the city light up with the call to prayer echoing from each side and seagulls crying and just ugh. Beautiful!

  • Süleymaniye Mosque

This was actually a random stumble and I don’t know why we’ve never crossed paths before. We were headed to look for something else and saw this beautiful mosque and thought lets have a look and dang! Massively beautiful with a gorgeous courtyard alongside a stunning view overlooking the city. The inside of the masjid donned this burnt-orange carpet and a similar interior to the Blue Mosque, but just super beautiful mashallah! (also I had to creep on this man outside the masjid because old people are just beautiful bless them x)

  • Dolmabahçe Palace:

I never knew this existed, but came across some photos of this intrinsic gate on Instagram, did some research, and turns out it was part of Dolmabache! Mashallah times a million for how beautiful this palace is. The architectural detail and grandeur of this place was magical and cleancut and just made me feel honored to be in its presence if that makes sense lol we didn’t go inside to the museum bit, but the grounds are still someplace worth visiting! Round the back of the palace dons the prettiest pink walls (you guys thought it was a filter didn’t you?!) and a rose garden which we were lucky enough to see in half bloom.

  • Grand Bazaar

Standard; super pretty and loads of wonderful bits and bobs with shopkeepers who speak a million and one languages which is quite impressive lol I strongly suggest bargaining a shitload if you’re purchasing something and if there’s no budging don’t fret at all because chances are you’ll find it elsewhere for much cheaper

  • Istiklal Street

another standard; kind of like a high street if you will with familiar shops (zara, Mango, H&M, Sephora etc.) but also has side alleys which are great to stop at for coffee or shisha and is buzzing at night!


Views

This was probably the thing I was most excited about locating and turning into a reality! After a lot of time spent trying to read suggestions on where I could get the best view of the city (not at any of the rooftop cafes-there are many fyi), a few seemed consistent with this place near the Grand Bazaar where you’re meant to knock on a door and ask for a ‘Mr. Mehmet’, pay him a little summin summin and he gives you access to the roof lol sounds super sketch I know, but one of the sites had a google location to the exact spot and another one had photos of what the stairwell looked like so I figured I’d have a go because why not!

Managed to get to the place, and the stairwell looked like it did in the photos but all the doors were bolted shut and there was no sign of anyone residing; more like storage behind the doors. Knocked on every door lol nothing happened but it was one of those moments where you know you can’t do anything but that motivates you to find another way because you just gotta somehow (my word choice and explanation is not its finest at the moment so apologies x ) SO, I was like Hash, you can scale the wall right, you go up and help me up lol there was one of them bushes growing out of the wall and a broken pipe so Hash managed to use them to get himself up and I followed (not as gracefully and it reminded me I have crap upper body strength), cut meself and lay there for about 5 seconds, but dang. When I got up, it was such a freaking beautiful sight to look at! And I was super excited that we had made it and that I was right (because I was on about it since before we left for Istanbul and Hash was like really, you’re not going to do it, how, blah blah) and just ahh! While we were finding a way to get on, these 2 Turkish guys joined as I guess they were also looking for Mr. Mehmet but helped them get up as well and so the 3 of us had a grand time overlooking the city and taking pictures and enjoying life until Hashmat waved at someone below like a dumb and the man started shouting that he was going to call the police and gathered a group of mandem so we jumped off and that was that!

Here is the exact location which you can always load up onto your maps (Buyuk Valide Han) if you go looking for the view lol it stops you at this 4-way crossroad and theres an arched stone wall on your right with Buyuk Valide Han written on it. Turn right and immediately to your right theres a stairwell going upstairs. Go up the stairs, and to your left there are some rusted stairs (like 6-7 steps) to a closed door. Use those stairs to jump onto the tarped material or whatever it is on your left and take on that wall. I’d suggest maybe going with someone so you can give someone a boost and pull the other up (I’m sure I would’ve found a way on my own), but that’s that! Try not to get clocked, but I promise you’ll love it (both the thrill and the view!)

Another recommendation for rooftops is high rise car parks! Walk in and take the lift to the highest floor, take the stairs, but eventually you’ll get to the highest point which more than likely will make you feel on top of the world! (kind of!)


Artsy Fartsy

  • Karaköy

Someone on Instagram had recommended munch at a place called ‘Batazar Burgers’ which was a super cool place and just the general vibe of the area itself (Karakoy) was up my alley (burgers were good too lol Hash loved it so thankyou!) Lots of street art and cutesy cafes, lunch spots, boutiques and the sort. I’d recommend going here after Dolmabache; we got the metro after Dolmabache to Sultanahmet, and my GPS signaling told me to walk…tell me why we ended up walking all the way back to where we started and had munched haha I was like hey! This is such a cool place, twice in one day well done Saira #winning! Turned a corner and went oh. We were legit right here haha #fail it was a lovely walk though so aadhee.

  • Umbrella [street]

I haven’t got exact directions for this next one, but if you stroll around the same area, or even if you ask I’m sure someone will help you, you’ll come to this alley with umbrellas hanging up top. I don’t think this is the famous one, but it got me excited so yay! I thought we could get a sick photo lol but Hash had just about had enough at this point and even the man in the shop came out with an umbrella to help get the right shot but alas. This is the closest we got to the perfect shot but I love it regardless because of the backstory lol

  • Rainbow Stairs

The Rainbow Stairs are also a cutesy place to check out for photos or just to put a smile on your face. In 2013 a man named Huseyn Cetinel spent 4 days painting the bland concrete stairs in rainbow colors simply to make people smile bless him x Unfortunately it was painted over [by the government], but people are freaking amazing sometimes and volunteers repainted them and they survived! Slightly run down now but put a smile on your face they do! If you’re heading by foot you’ll come across a set of stairs that look super broken and painted over in grey; don’t get discouraged lol keep walking and you’ll see the actual ones further up on your left! (*disclaimer: I just googled a bit myself to be sure and this is the location to the ones I managed to get to; not sure if they’re the exact same ‘famous’ steps but they were still coloured steps..!)


Food

In terms of food and munch, I can’t suggest a whole lot of places to try. wallah guys I’m not much of a food person, especially when travelling lol I love trying new dishes and eating etc. but when I’m away legit a cup of tea and a croissant or sandwich or something in the morning will usually get me through til the evening. I tend to grab and go and/or snack on streets as opposed to sit down places.

I’d definitely recommend Hafiz Mustafa if you don’t know if it by now lol for baklava and Turkish tea. The burger place we tried was good (Baltazar Burgers) Definitely fresh juice from one of the street vendors; the best orange juice ever for some odd reason lol alongside street side shawarma and roasted corn and chestnuts from the side stalls. Also love grabbing pieces of Turkish delight and chocolate mushrooms and Haribos for munching-while-walking because that’s just what I enjoy lol

Actually, if there’s one place you do go to, make sure it’s this one! Last year I mentioned we went to this place which Iman highly recommended and they only did a couple things on the menu but was so good and I didn’t remember the name, but I made a point to note it this time around so here it is: Meşhur Sultanahmet Köftecisi and I’ve got the location down below! If there’s a queue just wait lol and I promise you won’t be disappointed! I suggest a plate of the kofte with the red sauce and a salad lol so simple yet so satisfying!

This was my first time not having Lahmacun which is my absolute favorite Turkish dish (its not a dish) which is flatbread with mince on top. Add a bit of lemon juice and coriander on top, roll it and munch and you’re good to go. Super basic I know haha but I’m typically not fussy when it comes to food!


I hope that’s either inspired you to add Istanbul onto your bucket list, or given you some ideas of where to hit up if you’re ever in town, or even just put a smile on your face looking at all the pretty pictures! Let me know if this is helpful in anyway and if adding locations is something you’d appreciate in future posts; I found it super helpful when I was creeping so I hope I can make your lives a little easier too!

I miss blogging and sharing and I don’t know if you guys miss it as well lol but I’m super open to interactions and suggestions on things you might like to see or read about! Xx

Hope everyone’s winding down for the holidays and super excited for time off; I’m counting down to go home and really looking forward to seeing my family and have warm fuzzies inside lol lots of love, light, and hot chocolate sent your way! xoxo

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