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Showing posts from June, 2011

Home in Cairo

The Jordan-Turkey Dialogue has finished, in terms of our collective time on the ground and in the field, for our reporters, photographers and socio-political analysts. The students all still have some work for me - mostly finalizing their Reflection papers and debriefings; that will give me a ton of work - when I receive 32 such papers (each around 2,400-2,500 words per paper) and have to finalize their grades within a week.

I'm also starting to prepare my first couple of lectures for the Balkans Dialogue, preparing as well for our first days on the ground in Belgrade, and preparing for the financial side of the Dialogue as well.

All in all, a busy time. But it's Cairo, and I'm with my wife, and our days are full of work, albeit at our own pace and in the overall setting of Egypt - a "naturally" slower pace for all.

I've not even been here a week, yet I'm finding things distinctly different from my last visit - February 19-28, and the glory days after t…

Pre-election and wrapping up Istanbul

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Turkey's Parliamentary elections are tomorrow (Sunday). For today's assignment, I put on our Calendar that students should spend the day "getting the 'pulse' before elections." I had no precise idea what I meant when I wrote that, but I knew today would be important somehow. And sure enough, many of us did exactly that - we saw marches, parades; heard (but didn't understand) loudspeakers blaring out messages of who to vote for tomorrow; and some students talked to the "average Mustafa" on the street to ask who they would vote for.

Also, I wanted to repeat our fun walk of last week - to Ortakoy - and invited anyone/everyone to join me. Once again, we had 5 students (3 of whom went with me last week) plus "one bearded guy" (last week it was Rob; today it was Jon) and me. Once again, we stopped in at Four Seasons for some fresh juice (and a "pit stop"). And once again, we ended at the art district of Ortakoy. The picture ab…

Final days ...

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On Thursday, our focus was on art and culture, especially modern art. We had a great lecture from Dr. Aslihan Erkmen, art historian, as well as a visit to Istanbul's Modern Art museum.

Today, the Arabic students and I focused on Turkey and the EU. Plus chocolate ... lots of chocolate, hand-dipped in Istanbul. Plus coffee (what goes better with chocolate than coffee?). No pictures, unfortunately, but I'll let all the Arabic students tell you in their own way how we went from Turkey and the EU to chocolate-heaven, a.k.a., Kahve, my new favorite coffee & chocolate mecca.

And tomorrow (insha'Allah), I lead the group back to Ortakoy (see last week's blog on this trip).

As the days are quickly coming to a close, I'm not sure if I'll be blogging again from Istanbul. We'll see what adventure/experience presents itself tomorrow ...

Our last day at Dogus University

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The A-Team had 2 lectures today at Dogus; and I made a presentation about Northeastern to the Vice President, a few Deans, and several faculty.

We had a brief dialogue with a couple of Turkish students over lunch - the main topic being Sunday's parliamentary elections. We also took advantage of the time with Itir, who mapped out the main parties, the electoral system (the complicated system of proportional representation and the 10% threshold needed for parties to secure full representation).

Eyup Mosque and the Golden Horn

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Another full day for the "A Team" ... we started at a Church/Mosque/Museum - crazy-packed with tourists. Got out of that quickly, then off to Eyup (Ayub) Mosque, a pilgrimage site for Muslims. This is at the "top" or perhaps the head of the Golden Horn, the waterway/inlet that divides European Istanbul from itself.

I'll post the mosaics of the church/mosque/museum soon ... but before turning in, I wanted to post some pics of our day.

A-Team (formerly "A-13") and mosque-hopping

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Another great day of discovery and learning-while-walking and experiencing the unexpected. I had a plan, and once again, the primary plan fell apart and the result was even greater discoveries, more "jewels" of Istanbul, more connections with Turkish history, culture, and people. We expected to tour a major complex known as the Fatih (“The Conqueror”) Mosque (named for Mehmed II who conquered Istanbul).That is now under construction.Instead, we discovered two other “off the beaten track” mosques, with no tourists at all!We had one mosque completely to ourselves, and I was able to do another of my “snap lectures,” while seated at the front of the mosque, explaining architectural features, Islamic designs, history, and some politics (always some politics!).I'll be brief and just load up a few pictures. The one of the "A Team" (with me behind the camera) is especially impressive - to a person, each and every one of these great students are smiling and showing …

Ortakoy and beyond - unexpected adventures and discoveries

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The plan was simple - leave the hotel at 9 am, with all invited and with anyone who shows up. Rob was there; so were Jene, Caitlin R., Zamzam, Meghan, and Sawa. The plan started out as I thought: tram to Kabatas(h) station; a walk past Dolmabahce Palace (here's the first surprise - the changing of the guard!); walk to Ciragan Sarayi (former palace; now luxury hotel) [and here's the second surprise - we ended up at the luxurious Four Seasons, thinking it was the Ciragan Sarayi, but thinking wrong J ). At the Four Seasons seaside cafĂ©, I bought everyone a favorite of mine, and of Turks: fresh lemon juice with mint.Then, it was on to Ortakoy arts’ district.
After enjoying Ortakoy and some trinkets shopping, Rob had a new plan - a major "push" upstream, up the Bosporus to a fort/castle he saw during a boat tour last week. Here's where the day took a whole new trajectory of great surprises, and one minor frustration (traffic).

From Ortakoy, we jumped into 2 separat…

Treasure Hunt

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Having a day free of lectures or site visits allowed us all to continue to explore and enjoy Istanbul today. I was determined to do my own Treasure Hunt, which most of the students have done by now. Carlene, Geoff, Lila, and Cal joined me. We started at the Sultan Ahmed ("Blue Mosque"); crowds were enormous, so there was little to enjoy inside the gorgeous "blue" mosque. From there, we walked (according to my own Treasure Hunt plan) to Beyazit Medani ("square") and Istanbul University (see the Moorish arch photo). Then to Suleymaniye Mosque - an even more enjoyable experience than Sultan Ahmet, with 1/10th the crowds. From here, we meandered our way through winding streets, old wooden houses, down into the Kucuk Pazar (bazaar). This "popular" (or local) bazaar had virtually no tourists or foreigners in it. It led eventually up to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. My last stop (solo) was the Yeni Mosque at Eminonu (one of our regul…

Prince's Islands

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Today was largely a relaxation and exploration day. Nearly all of us went to Prince's Islands in the morning, specifically Buyukada (the largest of the Prince's Islands). About half of us went biking while the other half went swimming. Rob Sansone and I led the bikers and Carlene led the swimmers. It was mostly relaxation (after the seemingly endless up-hill biking our half endured/enjoyed). The boat rides, "there and back again" (apologies to JRR Tolkien for that!), were for me the most relaxing. I didn't take any pictures on the island but, to show you (again) the view of beautiful Istanbul from the sea, I'm including another panoramic shot of the Blue Mosque/Sultan Ahmet (on the left) and Haya Sophia (on the right).



Saturday will be a group visit to the Blue Mosque (optional; but Rob, Carlene, and I want to ensure that our students see this, one of the most stunning architectural wonders of the world), plus I'll do my own "Treasure Hunt"…

Commuting to class, across the Bosporous

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Our commute to our partner university, Dogus University (on the Asian side of Istanbul), takes a while. And it takes various forms of transportation - feet, tram, boat, and taxi. But it's worth the haul, especially as we only have 3 such commutes and our last one is next Wednesday.

Today, Itir gave us 2 lectures/presentations. The morning one was on her specialty, Civil-Military relations in Turkey (also her NU dissertation project). Above is a picture of her in class today, under the "ever-watchful eye" of the Founding Father and the 'Spirit' of modern, secular, nationalist Turkey: Kemal Ataturk (literally, father of the Turks). The afternoon presentation was an introduction to the use of cinema to deliver political messages; we viewed a film called "Propaganda", set in 1948 in a small village on the Turkey-Syria border.

The final picture is a panorama of the Blue Mosque/Sultan Ahmed mosque (on left) and Haya Sophia.

Friday, we're "off to t…