Istanbul, a wee bit off the beaten path

Basilica Cistern

One of my favorite places in Istanbul is the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, also known as the Kariye Camii or the Chora Museum. The surviving structure is mostly from the 11th century, but when the original church was built on this site in the 4th century, it was outside the city walls. Chora means country in ancient Greek. It’s a relatively small church and although pleasant enough, there’s nothing outstanding about the architecture. The real reason to visit is to see the 14th-century mosaics and frescos that cover the interior walls. Continue reading

Ramadan Kareem


Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Quran during this month and so it is the holiest time in the Muslim faith.

The primary practice of Ramadan is fasting, one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Healthy, observant adults refrain from eating and drinking (also smoking, gum chewing, sex, cursing and any less-than-upstanding behavior) from dawn to sunset. The idea is to enter a more spiritual way of being, to know gratitude, compassion and self-discipline. More prayer and more charity are also part of Ramadan observance. Continue reading