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.

Merhaba!

If you follow me on snapchat and Instagram, you’ll know I’m currently headed to an ickle place called Reyhanli in the south of Turkey to do some volunteer work and help out with whatever really. From what I know and have seen/creeped, a majority of people in and around the area are victims of the Syrian crisis, potentially refugees, and there are loads of cute children whom I want to hug endlessly! *(you’ll more than likely get a more detailed description of what I’m doing once I get there!)

The organization itself is called ‘SKT welfare’ based in the UK and they operate on a 100% donation policy which I love love love. I went to uni for Intl. Development and loved every second of what I learned, but the hypocrisy of some NGO’s and charitable organizations who raise loads of money for those in need but fail to deliver it in its entirety is always mind boggling. (err Grenfell Tower, where’d it all go?) but anyways, I’m super excited and looking forward to have that ‘on-the-grounds’ experience and just share whatever I can offer to do my bit for humanity really. I wanted to go into development to save the world (so so naïve lol), and I remember feeling super overwhelmed one day after class and went to chat with my professor just kinda feeling defeated and hopeless in that nothings really going to save the world because it’s all been going on for such a long time lol. He gave me a much needed reality check and said something along the lines of it being impossible to save the world but each and every one of us has a human obligation to do whatever we can within our means to help. Be it for the environment, the well-being of others, sharing a freaking smile even. It’s like this unsaid obligatory price we pay for being a blady human citizen of this lovely world, and it makes sense to my heart x

I feel like this is turning into somewhat of a white savior complex thing, even though I’m not white, but Alhamdulillah times a million for everything I’ve been blessed with because in all honestly it’s definitely a privilege that many in the world don’t have. Not only me, but many of you reading this are also super privileged; you’ve got a roof over your head, food to eat, family, the opportunity to get an education, go to work and make money etc. etc. etc. and that’s so much more than some people. My morning has been a bit shitty and just all over the place so I was complaining to some friends and one of them goes Saira it’s okay, you’ll be okay, you’re blessed. You have a passport to come and go as you please, you have the chance to travel and come back to a job, you can afford the Starbucks you’re complaining about, so don’t worry lol and she’s so right Alhamdulillah! I know it’s natural to winge about stuff I suppose lol  (I’m usually not a winge-er) but that got me feeling all kinds of ways about the word ‘alhamdulillah’ itself and what a freaking beauty it is in terms of reminding us to be ever grateful and thankful to God for all of it. The good, the not so good, the inconveniences or super special moments. It all happens for a reason and they’re all blessings on blessings based on this genuine faith in your heart that it’s what’s truly meant for you x

I’m staying for about a week-ish and the plan is to blog every evening about the day, bit of a travel journal if you will. I’ve never committed to a schedule like this for my posts haha but inshallah I’ll make the time! Currently in Istanbul with ages to go til my next flight and in need of water and a corner to sleep in so going to get on that.

Also, fyi for future plans to Turkey. If you need a visa (Canadians we do!), wallahi just have your cash exchanged beforehand to avoid the hassle of bank machines that don’t work, currency exchanges that are closed, unhelpful counter people etc etc etc lol $60USD or 50Euros. No Canadian dollars, and only British pounds if you’ve got a British passport lol dumbbbbbb (the only currencies I actually had on me..) and yes it’s possible for an ATM to run out of USD bills. Only use the e-visa machines on the ends if you’d prefer that route because the middle ones will have your transaction go through and completed only to freeze and restart minus a visa printout…(don’t worry mama I sorted it out) This isn’t my first time to Turkey (last years trip here) so I should know this, but alas.

If you’d like to make a donation to the organization or simply zakat to whoever might need, feel free to send me an email or message on Instagram and inshallah I’ll get it to whoever x Keep us in your prayers xoxo

Merhaba!

A long weekend was randomly gifted to us a few weeks ago so Miss Iman and I ventured to Istanbul where we met up with her mama dearest. I’ve been to Istanbul a couple times before so wasn’t too stressy about itineraries and cramming a whole lot into 3days, but it was such a lovely getaway and the weather was beautiful, that perfect chill where its not too hot and not too cold but a blanket scarf provides the right amount of cozy warmth lol that kind! Being able to just stroll around and have a change of scenery was super refreshing alongside the endless amount of food consumed haha baklava (Hafiz Mustafa is the one!) and Turkish delights and chocolate mushrooms and tea and mmmmmm so so good lol

We initially almost missed our flight thanks to my sleeping in and Iman literally barging into my flat thinking I had died lol (sorry love x ) and then got scammed by a taxi driver upon arrival which wasn’t very fun, but alhamdulillah not too many incidents after that! Stayed in the most ideal location, a 5 minute walk to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia which made my ickle heart super warm and fuzzy and content with life, especially when hearing the adhan at prayer times. The Blue Mosque is one of those places which leaves you in awe no matter how many times you see it and being in such close proximity to it was beautiful. I decided to be adventurous one morning and head out for Fajr prayers but chickened out last minute because I didn’t want to get kidnapped lawl. but I made it for jumah which was such an experience! I’ve written about my love for jumah in other countries and masjids etc etc etc lol so I won’t get into it again, but one of those heartwarming happy chappy soul feelings which was beautiful x if you know me you also know about my obsession with taking photos and looking for particular angles and such lol but I also love taking photos of  old people and children and went a bit stalkerish both at jumah and during the trip in general but I think it resulted in some beautiful photos which I’m super proud of! does anyone else ever take a really cool photo and think it should be framed in a cafe or someones living room?! (its probably just me but still!)

We munched at this place (I’ll have to get the name from Iman), that do only about 3-4 items on the menu because a) it’s their speciality and b) they’re that good, but dang son. so worth it! In Sultanahmet, I want to say right across the Aksaray metro stop..?!! (I’ll find out and stick it in someplace lol it’ll be a lot easier!)

Also did a Bosphorus cruise which I’d recommend; gives you some beautiful views of the bridge and the Galata tower and the city from a distance! There are a number of boats parked by the water who offer tours and trips so super easy to find and do! Spend a lovely evening in Taksim where we witnessed Tunis beat Libya (go Tunis go!) Taksim at night is a beauty on its own full of people chilling out over a shisha or walking and just essentially having a good time, so definitely worth experiencing if you’re ever in town. The Grand Bazaar was epic! I absolutely love souks and bazaars and anything of the sort which allows you to haggle; I just think it’s proper form and generally expected in such an environment lol but found some lovely pieces of jewellery and earrings so yay! Someone had asked on instagram about what/if there was anything particular I purchase from each country and yes I do! always a magnet and a piece of jewellery (specifically a pair of earrings or a necklace!) I love love love ethnic bohemian jewellery that’s slightly representative of each country and the whole rustic look and vibe they give/add to me collection and wearings so that’s always a must! I’ve also started to pick up either a postcard or a print (painting or a picture) as well which then go on my wall or fridge!

Tourism has generally died down quite a bit in Istanbul compared to what it was due to recent attacks which I presume left people a bit frightened and hesitant to make the trip, but anything can happen anywhere in the world at any point and it’s just one of those things that’s truly out of your control and you’ve got to make a decision as to what extent you’re willing to risk your safety or travel plans etc. We never felt unsafe or uneasy walking about on our own and people were generally nice and helpful so teshakular Istanbul and I’m sure I’ll be back at some point in me life inshallah!

I truly hope you enjoy the photos as much as I do and as much as I loved taking them haha I’m really chuffed with meself in case you hadn’t gathered! Headed home in a few weeks inshallah so yay for seeing mama! Hope all is well wherever you may be and you’re spreading smiles and love and holiday cheer to the world! xoxo

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