Sunday, May 30, 2010

We are Carpenters

There is a story of an elderly carpenter who was ready to retire.
The carpenter told his employer of his plan to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife, enjoying his extended family.
The employer was sorry to see his employee go and asked if he would build just one more house as a personal favour to him. The carpenter reluctantly agreed. He did sloppy work and he used inferior materials.
It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished his work, the employer came to inspect the house. Then he handed the front-door key to the carpenter.
"This is your house," he said. "It is my retirement gift to you"
The carpenter was shocked. If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.
(Excerpt from: The Power of Giving)

We are all carpenters. We build our life everyday. Whether we do it whole-heartedly with deep passion or not it is our life that we are building.

Life is a journey, in the end we will be held accountable for all the things we did. The day will come when we will be facing Him, alone, to be judged and be rewarded.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

From Turkey to Gaza

As I am writing this, the convoy of eight ships "Freedom Flotilla" are still on the way from Turkey to Gaza. The ships are loaded with humanitarian supplies for Palestinians in Gaza who have been under siege for almost four years.
(The photo on the right shows Ismail Haniya, prime minister of Gaza, inspecting the work at the old naval port of Gaza, where aid ships are expected to dock)

One of the ships, Mavi Marmara has about 560 activists which includes eight Malaysians.
After months of preparation they left for this blessed journey while knowing full well that they might not return.

Let us all pray to Him, The Mighty Al Aziz, The Protector Al Muhaymin, that this honorable mission would be accomplished and all of them would return safely.
However, whatever the outcome is, they have nothing to lose. It's either returning to their family or returning to Him.
They are indeed the chosen ones. How I envy them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Turkish Craftmanship

We stayed for two days in Cappadocia.
On the second day, after the hot air balloon ride we went to visit three places.
The first one was hand made carpet factory. The carpets were made either from silk, cotton or wool.

The silkworm cocoons(left- the white round thing inside the container) had to be 'processed' in a certain way in order to get the thread ( I can't recall how it was).
Yes, the poor worms were inside that white cocoons.
This lady(right) was showing us how to make the double knots, the method used only by Turkish in hand made carpet making, hence you will have a long lasting high quality carpet. Unlike machine made carpet, a genuine handmade carpet takes a long time to finish. That carpet there(right) should be ready in may be two years time.

Then, in the show room, after being served with apple tea and Turkish coffee, it's time to show the carpets. The carpets were absolutely beautiful!
And the ones made with 100% silk were not just beautiful, but they were very very soft.. and silky..of course.
But, just use your own imagination to estimate the prices.Fully hand made, and it took months to complete. Not cheap I must say.

After the carpets, we were taken to see the jewelry. Precious and semi precious stones wrapped in silver. Blue, red, black, green stones... they were all there.
The special one is turquoise. Now I know that turquoise actually originated from Turkey and the word turquoise means Turkish stone or Turkish blue.

Not only the stones were special, the designs were very unique as some of them were fully imitated from ancient Anatolian jewelries.
I was there just to "cleanse my eyes" (cuci mata, that's what we, Malay called it). And yes.. my eyes were totally cleansed all right...

The last one for the day was ceramics.
Before we arrived at the place, I was just thinking that, it's just ceramics, nothing special.
But, once I saw the finished products, I was so impressed. The intricate designs were simply amazing.

The place that we went to belonged to a family, it was a family business which has been around for many generations (eight, if I am not mistaken). It was located in one of the cave houses.

From the carpet, then jewelry and lastly the ceramics.. what I saw was people who took pride in their work. Their meticulous and delicate work requires deep passion. Without passion, it's just not possible to produce such immaculate work.

I felt honoured to have met these people. They've not only shown me their exquisite works of art, but they have taught me about passion, patience and perseverance.

All praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cappadocia - 2

Let the pictures speak.
The lady in the photo was our pilot.
Click on any photo to have a better view.

All praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cappadocia - 1

Cappadocia is an area not a city.
The landscape of Cappadocia came into being as a result of volcano eruption thousands of years ago. What we saw was an area full of rocks in dramatic shape. This area was an underground city where Christians used as a perfect hideout from the Romans.
They lived in their cave houses (right), all connected from the inside. However, most of these cave houses and churches are now empty, whereas in some places it has been turned into hotels and restaurants.
For more detailed information you can read here.

Cappadocia area is very wide. And the best way to view the area is from above. Yes! You have to a bird, so you can have the bird's eye view. That's exactly what we did.
It was an optional tour, and only four of us took the challenge. Me and my husband and two other friends.
It's hot air balloon ride!
It was a dream come true for me..
We were taken to the station as early as 5.00 am ( subuh time is 3.50am, by the way). The ride is only done early in the morning when the wind flow is safe for hot air balloon.

The basket has four sections for the passengers (5 per section), and one section in the middle for the pilot.

You don't really feel the movement of the
balloon unless you looked straight down below the balloon. It went up and down depending on the landscape. Sometimes we were taken in between the rocks so that we can have a better view of the cave houses. The highest that we went were 700m above the land.

It was an unforgettable experience. Subhaanallah..
The spectacular and breathtaking view made us speechless. Most of us were quiet, too absorbed with the surrounding.

The ride lasted about one hour. As the balloon started to descend, the ground crew got ready to pull the basket to the landing platform behind a vehicle to be driven back to the station. We were asked to stand in a landing position by holding to the basket while bending our knees. The landing was really smooth.
After getting out from the basket, we were offered with grape juice to celebrate and presented with a certificate by the pilot.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Istanbul to Bolu to Ankara

After 11 hours of flight, we reached Istanbul around 6.00 am (local time). Upon arrival at the airport we were taken straight for sight seeing in the city.
Besides Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, we were also taken to Topkapi Palace. It used to be a palace for the Ottoman Sultans which now turned into a museum. The museum has several sections and the most special one is the Chambers of the Sacred Relics. It is filled with some relics of Prophet Muhammad SAW such as his swords, letter, tooth and footprint. It was another episode of emotional experience especially when looking at the sacred footprint. It's difficult to describe what I felt, but suffice to say that my tears came yet again.
No photos though since camera is strictly forbidden in the museum.

After lunch we board the bus and went to Bolu ( 270 km) where we spent the night before we continued to Ankara the next day.

On the way to Ankara next morning, we enjoyed the usual scenery of green landscape with fruit plantation. Every now and then we saw small villages with the minaret (red arrow, above).

In Ankara, we were taken to the Museum of Anatolian Civilization exhibiting historical artifacts from ancient civilization which includes tools, jewelry and some model of the ancient house.
After having lunch we headed to another museum.

Our tour guide(left) is a friendly cheerful person. She is also a big fan of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. She would speak passionately about the Turkish national hero. While I have my own opinion about this man, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic, I learn a lot from her about Ataturk's contributions to the modern secularized Turkey.

We visited the Mausoleum of Ataturk(right) located in the middle of a large museum dedicated to him. The museum consists of his personal belongings, well written history and photographs of his achievements, and also his life size wax statue.
The tomb of Ataturk (left) is inside the mausoleum.

Our journey continued to Nevsehir in Cappadocia (about 290km from Ankara). Most of us were sleeping. I was very excited to be in Cappadocia for a very good reason (and you'll agree with me). But along the way we saw a lake which looked so white. From the map we assume it was Tuz Lake. From one, two, suddenly most of us we chatting excitedly and some were standing while taking photos. May be it was our reaction that made the bus driver stop at a rest area near the lake.
Getting down from the bus, we ignored our guide's reminder not to go very far. It was a salt lake!
People come by personal vehicles to load the salt.
Some of us took the trouble of touching the salt and
tasting the water, just to be sure. I didn't even know that such a lake exists here. ( I only knew about Dead Sea in Jordan) never fail to amaze me.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Silence of Hagia Sophia

Ayasofya. Such a beautiful name, for such an exquisite house of worship.
It was a place of worship for the Christians for over 900 years.
Then, starting from 1453, when Ayasofya was converted into a mosque, faithful Muslims prayed, performed the ruku' and sujud, worshiping The Creator.
For a blessed 500 years Ayasofya must have been smiling with joy.

But that day, as I walked slowly inside Ayasofya, it felt cold.
There's a feeling of deep sadness.
No more worshipers here.
Only visitors.
They came with their cameras flashing amidst the voices of tour guides explaining passionately the history of beloved Ayasofya.
They walked upon the floor with shoes on.

Ayasofya lost it's sacred privilege. Lost it's soul.

Could Ayasofya be grieving now?

The house of worship is now a house of display and some parts of the beautiful walls were obviously withered by time. (Some restoration works were in progress).

Suddenly, tears welled up in my eyes. How I wish I could find a quiet place, away from the sight of the visitors and cry together with Ayasofya.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Masjid - 2

The following are three of the mosques in Istanbul that was named after three sultans of the Ottoman Empire, and a museum which used to be a church and a mosque. All these four landmarks are located not far from one another.

The above is the famous Sultan Ahmet Mosque. Popularly known as Blue Mosque for the lovely blue tiles adorning the interior walls. It has six minarets. Sultan Ahmet ( 1590-1617) was the fourteenth sultan in the Ottoman Empire. We visited this mosque upon our arrival in Istanbul.

This is Suleiman Mosque, referring to Sultan Suleiman ( 1494-1566 ), the tenth sultan who is the great-grandson of Sultan Muhammad Al-Fateh. It has four minarets. We saw this mosque from afar when we took the boat cruise at the Bosphorus Strait.

The above is Fatih Mosque that refers to Sultan Muhammad Al-Fateh( 1432-1481), the Conqueror of Constantinople and the seventh sultan. It has only two minarets and it is also the place where the great sultan was laid to rest. It was the one that we sadly missed.

This is Hagia Sophia Museum( or Ayasofya in Turkish). This Byzantine church was converted into a mosque immediately upon the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Muhammad Al-Fateh. Known then on as the Ayasofya Mosque, the Hagia Sophia remained the Great Mosque of the Ottoman capital until its secularization under the Turkish Republic In 1934(it was converted into a museum until today). All the minarets were added after it was converted into a mosque.
It could be considered as the most important landmark of Istanbul for it is very dear to Christians and Muslims alike, and also to anyone who has a deep passion for world history.

Istanbul alone has a lot of history to tell, what more Turkey as a country. I am deeply thankful to Allah that I am blessed with the opportunity to visit this great land that had witnessed the ups and downs of human civilization for us to take lesson from.

I certainly hope that anyone who is planning to visit Istanbul would find this entry to be beneficial and helpful in understanding a small but very significant part of Turkey's rich history.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Masjid

Turkey is well known for it's beautiful mosques. The magnificent Sultan Ahmed Mosque or better known as Blue Mosque(left) is stunningly beautiful and elegant. It is one of the famous landmarks in the world.

When I entered the mosque, it was not just the physical beauty of the mosque that touched my heart, it was more of the memory of the great man who conquered the city of Constantinople, the man whom Prophet Muhammad SAW referred to as the best commander leading the best army.
I mistakenly thought that this mosque was the one named after the great Sultan Muhammad Al-Fateh.
It was only after I reached home and did some more detailed reading that I discovered that there is another mosque, Fatih Mosque (right), which was actually constructed at his order, and subsequently named after him. It is also at this mosque that his body is peacefully resting.
I only have myself to blame for not doing enough research and simply assumed that a guided tour in Istanbul must surely include such a significant place to be visited.
I am sad and disappointed that we missed it, but I console myself by thinking that I have a very good reason to return to Istanbul in the future. I owe him a visit.
And I am happy and blessed enough that I had the opportunity to visit the mosque and the final resting place of Abu Ayub Al-Ansari and Jalaludin Ar-Rumi.

But then I realized that any first timer to Turkey can easily be mistaken by the mosques. They look very much alike to one another, especially the domes and minarets.

In fact, you can see mosques everywhere in Turkey. They obviously dominate the landscape. The city of Istanbul itself has around 3000 mosques.

All through out our journey, we will always be reminded that this is a Muslim land.
It was a scene that is most soothing to the eyes. In the vast land of wheat and olive plantation, thousand hectares of green land as far as the eyes can see, you will see small villages with the minarets.

Turkey is a beautiful country with breathtaking views of the mountains and hilly landscape. When I visited Switzerland, the beauty of the mountains, the lakes, the crystal clear streams rendered me to tears, but it sadden me the fact that majority of the population do not know the The Creator. Whereas in Turkey, the sight of the minarets filled my heart with peace and joy. It signifies that The Creator and The Owner of this beautiful land is rightfully worshiped.

Allahu Akbar..