بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
The white bus drive through a narrow lane bordering the old city walls. But this time on the left side was the blue sea that narrow but full of small and large ships. On the other side were white-painted houses filling the hill on which there was a pointed green tower. Small iron bridges are passed by several cars while the anglers take advantage of Sunday to fish. The next destination is Topkapi Palace located in Fetih District.
The bus door opened with a hissing sound now familiar to the ear. Down the stairs of the bus, I found a huge bluish gray mosque that was none other than the Sultan Ahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque. Located further back is a magnificent red building dotted with black domes and tall towering towers. That’s Hagia Sofia. But not those two historical buildings became our destination.
We were walking about five minutes while watching simit salesman, a glimpse of roasted corn vendor, roasted callers from behind a stove with white and fragrant smoke, and the shrewdness of the Turkish ice-cream maker moved the pink cold liquid from one crackers to the other. Of course Farel and his two cousins, doctor Keiko and her two younger brothers, and some other pilgrims were enchanted by the merchants no less shrewd than acrobat players.
The further we walk the more visible gates of Topkape Saray (Topkapi Palace) we see. A large gate guarded by two armed men awaits each visitor. We all had to pass through the x-ray gates while our bags passed a special conveyor. After that it is only allowed to step on the path that takes visitors to the central part of the palace. On the left and right of the white pathway look big trees stand firmly without leaves that fall due to winter. Flowers of various colors look in harmony with the pale green grass that still mixes with the remnants of snow. The bluish Bosphorus Strait appears to our right, complete with ships passing by.
Approaching the inner court gates of medieval European castle style with two tapered towers and hedge fences above the gates; I heard a very awkward scream of a woman, “Follow me o Ladies and gentlemen.” A brown-haired Turkish lady was in command of a group of Indonesian tourists who turned out to be a plane with us. Zeki glanced at her and both smiled at each other.
“You know her, bey (sir)?” I asked.
“Yes. She is in the same company with me. ” Although both have been to Indonesia to mastering Bahasa Indonesia and her culture, but Zeki and the woman’s guide was clearly different in character. Both are fun but Zeki is more serious.
Built by Mehmet Al-Fatih after the conquest of Constantinople, Topkapi Saray is a palace compound comprising a hall, residence of the sultan and members of the royal family, mosque, and academy where the training of elite troops of Yeni Ceri is held. Talented boys from all corners of the Ottoman region were recruited and given Islamic, military, and administrative education and then viewed their respective trends. No wonder if in the future these children entering service as military commander, minister, or administrative officers of the kingdom. The same is true for gifted girls. They are gathered and trained to be court lords skilled in many ways. Later these collected children marry their counterparts.
The first building we visited was a hall that housed the sultan’s throne. The main feature of this building is some white marble poles are joined by the arches are painted brown and white. We passed a small gate just to face the steps of the stairs that led into a smaller room with several windows. Inside was a throne that the sultan used to receive messengers from other kingdoms. The size of a double bed, the sultan’s throne has four pillars supporting the yellowish brown canopy. Under the canopy lay a red sundeck with a long pillow of the same color. I can imagine the Ottoman sultans sitting on it while the messenger from a strange land bowed to salute.
In the direction of the entrance hall is an Arabic calligraphy containing praise to God. Zeki explained that the writing was deliberately mounted on the gate so that every time the sultan came out of the hall he would remember the greatness of God. He have to remember that the power and glory he got all come from God.
The next destination is the museum. Similar to the hall, the museum is also guarded by a large and fierce-looking officer. The difference is that in the hall there is no queue of visitors so here the officer should shout the pilgrims to keep walking and not too long take pictures near the storefronts that store the sword of the Prophet and some friends such as Abu Bakr As-Shidiq, Ali bin Abi Talib, and Amr bin Yasir. The white coat he (the prophet) once wore was also displayed on a black fabric board. There are also pieces of wood that are said to be the remains of the door of the ijabah or allowed (perhaps multazam door in the Kaaba, wallahu a’lam), teeth and hair of apostles stored in small golden tubes, and the former gutters of water displayed on the Kaaba.
In this place we can not linger because the guard continues to glance and herd as the shepherd herds his cattle. Approaching the cikis or exit door I heard so melodious chanting of the Qur’an verses. The makhroj (the way we spell the arabic alphabet) is so fitting and his voice is so clear. “Very good speaker.” I mumbled to myself.
“Oh my God, i thought is a recording.” Doctor Keiko screamed excitedly as she held both cheeks.
I and the other pilgrims turned to her and we were just as surprised when we saw that in front of us. A certain ustadz (religion teacher) in his fifties was sitting at a table adjacent to the exit. White turban wrapped around his red cap while his eyes kept on the Mushaf (book) of the Qur’an. He seemed to be used to the presence of many people and their surprise. He continued to recite the Qur’an through a small black microphone; once again his beautiful voice resonated to fill the room.
“This tradition has been going on since ancient times.” Zeki’s told us, “precisely since the relics were removed from Egypt.”
I imagine how many ustadz were assigned by Ottoman sultans to chant the holy verses in this place. If these relics had moved from Egypt since the time of Sultan Selim conquered the country in 1517 CE, then five centuries of this tradition has continued. Ma sya ‘Allah. Before leaving Topkapi Saray we toured for a moment at the side of the palace overlooking the Bosphorus Strait. The winter wind blew as if to make us fall like trees standing on the grass. I and some pilgrims are busy taking pictures while others look at tankers sailing slowly over the water. High above sea level, Topkapi Saray also gave us the freedom to look at railroads as old as the city walls. Both are now no longer functioning as cars pass indifferently between the railroad tracks and the sides of the strait.
Satisfied looking at Bosporus, we left Topkapi Saray through the palace kitchen that has many pillars connected by white arches. The gray kitchen roof is very similar to a smoked vacuum that is used to hang on a restaurant stove. This is where the Ottoman sultans paid the salaries of the Yeni Ceri or the imperial guard. The sultan first invited them to eat through large round platters. One plate is enough for four people and the sultans have many dishes for their elite troops from Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania and other European nations. When all of them gathered, the sultan will pay them with gold coins.