Istanbul: Turkish Delights

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

Image: Ryan Mayer.

Finally our tour is finished. After dinner each family back to their respective rooms; while my only friend in the room was the winter wind of Istanbul. Sitting for a moment while turning on the television that aired my favorite movie, Dirilis Ertugrul (Resurrection Ertugul). “What a nice day,” I said, “The tour is exciting and the congregation has nothing to complain about.” Suddenly this thought wandered at an event happened this afternoon.

We were in a typical Turkish gift shop when the abhi or brother (the shopkeepers) wooed us in an elegant way. When we asked about the typical Turkish baklava or cake, they did not immediately show the intended product or mention the price. They just ask to wait a few minutes until one of the abhi came with a large tray in hand. As the coming of abhi, the delicious scent colonizes the smell, carrying a firm message to the brain, “This cake tastes sweet, let’s buy it!”

“Please.” One of the bespectacled abhi asked us to taste the small pieces of gold. “Turks rarely use sugar, we use honey for taste sweetener.” He continued in English.

Image: Ryan Mayer

He did not lie. This baklava was so delicious and convince me to order, “Bir kilo lutfen (one kilo please).”

Doctor Keiko who from the beginning continued to promote baklava now persuaded me to try a Turkish loqum or sweets. More popularly known as Turkish Delight, the loqum looks like mochi but is more fragrant. This sweetie is usually made in the size of a tart and the buyers are welcome to order how many kilos they wants. The merchant will then slice it on demand and weigh it in front of us. “Ma sya ‘Allah, so delicious…”

Having managed to escape the temptation loqum, I down the row of shelves displaying honey, pomegranate juice, soap, and colorful tea powder. While I was enjoying the aroma of tea and the jasmine of my eyes, I was struck by the unusual scene outside the shop.

A couple in shabby clothes stared expectantly. The man looked in his forties with a shaggy brown jacket and a hat that did not look like a hat. His wife wore robe with a veil that is gray in color. My feeling said that they are Arabs, because Turks rarely dress like that. I immediately left the tea row to the exit.

“Assalamualaikum, how are you uncle (a common tradition in Arab is to call someone elder than us as amiy/my uncle, abuya/my father, or jiddi/my grandpa)?” I asked in Arabic. He looked surprised because I spoke in Arabic.

A smile on his wan face, “Wa alaikumus salaam. Alhamdulillah we are fine.”

“Where do you come from?”

“Syria.” He said as he showed a green shabby passport. I took the passport and examined it. He did not lie.

I immediately hugged him, whispered a prayer, as quickly as a few dozen lira passed into his hands. To this day I can still feel the warmth of his body mixed with Istanbul winter. He cried and prayed for blessings; so did his wife.

When turning around some of the pilgrims led by Mr. Nugie was in front of me. Mr. Nugie asked if they were Syrians? When I confirmed, he commented, “We would like to share but i wonder if he will accept Rupiah?”

I went back to the uncle to convey the intentions of Mr. Nugie and his friends. A smile reappeared on his face while his eyes still filled with tears. I gave the code to Mr. Nugie to get the Rupiah out of their pockets. Some are red (IDR 100.000) and some are blue (IDR 50.000). The uncle’s cries grew increasing as the wife looked up at the sky. Her hand was raised while ers mouth endlessly chants the prayers.

This is the unpaid happiness. To have the ability and chance to share happiness with disaster-stricken brothers and sisters. Sharing what we have to a brother in faith that all this time we may only watch from the media.

عَنْ أَبِيْ حَمْزَةَ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ خَادِمِ رَسُوْل الله عَنْ النَّبِي قَالَ : لاَ يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لأَخِيْهِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ

“Narrated from Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik, khadim (servant) of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam (peace be upon Him), from the Prophet sallallaahu’ alaihi wa sallam, He said,” The faith of any of you is not perfect until he loves for his brother something he loves for himself.” (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim).

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