I flew Turkish Airlines for my trip to Madrid and Barcelona and on my leg back, I had an 8-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey. I was a bit nervous to leave the airport because of timing but I figured if I were conservative I could spend 4.5 hours and get back in time for my flight home. Lucky for me, the entire layover worked out with only a minor incident. My friend and I took the train directly from the airport to the Sultanahmet train stop next to the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Dikilitaş Anıtları 2.
We stopped into some shops and quickly realized that the hustle game is strong. One guy asked us to see his shop and we kept saying no and that we were on our way to the Grand Bazaar. Then he said, “It’s on the way, I’ll show you.” So we followed him into his shop inside a mall, down the stairs and into a rug store with three other men in the room greeting us. One of the men looked like the boss and got up from his sofa to take my hand, kiss it and ask me to sit. We continued to say that we didn’t want to buy anything, that we didn’t have enough money but he insisted that it was only 650 Turkish Lira ($186) and we kept trying to tell him we didn’t have money or space. We moved towards the door and he eventually conceded and let us go free. Phew. Dodged a bullet.
I’ll be honest, between the extremely crowded train and hustling through the Grand Bazaar, I felt a little uncomfortable in Istanbul. Speaking of the former, while wedged between people on the train ride into the city, a man began touching me through his pant pocket. At first, I thought nothing of it, assuming that he was adjusting his britches or trying to get comfortable. So I moved aside, maybe an inch away, to give him some room. He then came closer and began touching me again. So I moved again in case there still wasn’t enough room for him. Then he moved closer and began grabbing at my thigh and butt! I was in complete shock at this point and had no other space to move. My mind was really slow to grasp the reality of what was happening but I tried to act fast and put my arm in between his pocket and my body. This was tough as I was holding on to a hand strap above and clenching my backpack with my feet below. He continued to grab and maneuver himself to inappropriately touch me through his pant pocket. I had absolutely nowhere to go and for the first time, felt the fear of not knowing whether a scream, cry for help, or slap would garner support from the other passengers or would fall on deaf ears in a culture that I had only experienced for a few hours. In another minute, the train doors flew open and I grabbed my bag from between my legs and shoved my way to an open seat, giving the man the worst eye that I’ve ever given.
On top of that, the city itself was flooded with tourists and my friend and I (both with naturally curly hair) were complete spectacles. While roaming the grounds of the mosque and museums, people continuously asked us to take pictures with them. It happened so much that we could barely walk 10 steps without the question. It started out amusing (I snapchatted a good 20 interactions to keep a record on my story) but became overwhelming. We made our way back to the airport with no problem as the city continued living, hustling and bustling all around us.
Where should I go next? Perhaps Morocco.
© Copyright 2016 Akua Sencherey. All rights reserved.