10 places to visit in Istanbul

Are you visiting Istanbul soon and you have no idea where to begin ? That’s understandable as the city is between two continents and has so much to offer in terms of history, food and Art !

Napoleon Bonaparte said: “If the Earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital.” And I had the most imponderable chance to live in this magical city for a little over 6 months and guided a few friends who came over as tourists which means you can trust me when I recommend you to visit:

1. The Bosphorus Bridge:

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I love this bridge as much as I hate its traffic.

Istanbul is the only city on the planet that combines two continents with a bridge. How cool is that ?

Actually there are 2 bridges, the “Bosphorus Bridge” which links “Ortakoy” in the European side with “Beylerbeyi” in the Asian side and the “Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge” which links “Hisarustu” in the European Side to “Kavacik” in the Asian side.

A 3th bridge is on the go and was named “Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge”. It will be put on service in 2015.

2. The Blue Mosque:

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It was built in the early 17th century by Sultan Ahmet and takes its name from the blue tiles on the dome and the upper levels of the interior. My advice is to plan your visit beforehand as the mosque closes to sightseers during the five daily prayer times. 

Make sure to remove your shoes and to dress modestly before going in.

3. The Hagia Sophia:

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See, it’s a few steps away from the Blue Mosque.

It was a Roman Catholic church when it was first built in 537 and it became a mosque in 1453. Then, it was closed in 1931 to be reopened as a museum in 1935. It is a few steps away from the Blue Mosque. The exterior may not look very impressive but wait until you step inside.

You will be in awe.

4. The Topkapi Palace:

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This place is cooler than DisneyLand and way cheaper.

Take a day off and head to the largest and oldest palace in the world: The Topkapi Palace.It is surrounded by 5 kilometers of stine wall, 27 towers, Harem’s quarters, a wide collection of old weapons, jewels, clocks, clothes, etc. All overlooking the sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.

Make sure you wear something comfortable. 

5. The Grand Bazaar:

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A good adventure is more valuable than gold.

The Grand Bazaar covers 61 streets with more than 5000 shops full of glittery things to catch your eye. It dates back to 1461 which makes it one of the oldest and largest indoor marketplaces in the World. The Bazaar features carpets, spices, turkish delights, carpets, mosques, antiques, fountains, Hammams, etc.

This place is seriously dizzying yet worth a visit or two. 

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Sunday Book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

After a few pages, I wanted to live inside “The Goldfinch”. Alright, it happens to me with every book I read. But this time, it was different. I lived inside “The Godfinch” from the very first to page 771 and I enjoyed following Theo Decker as he experienced the world even though he seemed to be running away from something, literally or figuratively, including me, as a reader with a massive imagination.

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“The Goldfinch” is about the loss of a mother and the relearning of what it means, it is about unrequited love and the moral complexities that we face when there are no yes or no answers, no black or white options… Just a lot of shadows !

It is the story of the yearning, despair and loneliness of a protagonist boy named Theo Decker who is 13 years old and who has lost his mother in a bombing incident. Ultimately, it is a fearless examination of what happens in the aftermath of a devastating loss until Theo is in his mid to late twenties.

You will meet many other characters, Boris, Hobie, Pippa, just to name a few, you will also be reminded of Charles Dickens over and over again and you will visit Amsterdam, New York and Las Vegas while enjoying a mesmerizing language, and a breathtaking suspense.

Every character in the book is memorable and really well portrayed as Donna Tartt has an astonishingly keen eye for detail. I can’t really put it any other way; Donna knows a lot about so many things: Art, Amsterdam, New York, Vegas, grief, happiness and english that she will reaffirm your faith in literature.

As usual, I don’t want to spoil the book for those of you who haven’t read it yet.

However, I will say this and run: The main theme in this book is the inexplicable love of Art and how silly it will make you feel once you will realise that you have “real feelings” for inanimate objects and dead artists !

I seriously cannot imagine a single page cut from this very long book and that’s how good it is.

I will end this quick summary/ review with two of my favourite quotes from page 761 narrated by Theo:

“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: We don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.”

“From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it’s a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do ? How do we know what’s right for us ? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: “Be yourself.” , “Follow your heart.”

Only here’s what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted ? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight towards a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster ?” 

Without question, the Goldfinch is an absolute must-read.

According to Hind is 3 years old today

Today, my Blog is 3 years old.

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When I first started in 2011, I began this adventure for the same reason that most other bloggers did, to keep track of things happening in my life, to share my passions, thoughts and memories with family and friends who were following along.

5 months after launching According to Hind, I was voted best female blogger in Morocco at the Maroc Web Awards and in the years that followed, the Blog grew and morphed into what it is today. I met so many people in Morocco and abroad and I gained so much insight into this wonderful blogging community.

At first, I was blogging about a mix of things, I found a platform that allowed me to share my passion for writing with thousands of people on a daily basis. On the same note, blogging is still very personal to me and it will always be. You’re here to read about my travels, my life realizations, my never ending curiosity to know more about people who inspire me through interviewing them and you’re also here on some level to read about me and know more about my life, just as I read other blogs because they’re my daily dose of inspiration.

Turth be told, there’s one thing I wish I would have done a little sooner in my blogging career and that would be to connect more with the community. I just love it when people reach out to me; forging relationships with loyal readers made this whole experience very personal and fun to me.

Thank you so much for reading my articles and watching my videos, thank you for liking my posts and sharing them, thank you for commenting on my different social media tools.

Blogging has opened up a huge world of opportunities for me, I have seriously been blessed through it for the past 3 years and I can’t wait to see where it will take me next.

Here’s how you can help Palestine

The past week has been mentally exhausting to me simply because I have been keeping up with what’s been going on in Gaza, Palestine. However, my mental or physical exhaustion cannot be compared in any way to what all those innocent people are going on through now that you are reading this article.

I have spent hours tweeting about this genocide that seems to find a way to palestinian territories every couple of years and with every horrific picture that took me by surprise, I kept telling myself that I will be able to overcome that same overwhelming feeling of frustration, negative energy and helplessness I have had towards the palestinian conflict ever since I was a child. I couldn’t !

A lot of people choose to simply shut their news feeds down and disengage from it all, even more people change their Facebook profile picture and share quotes, poems, videos and pictures reflecting the current situation in Gaza and wonder how they can help its civilians.

I am here to tell you that you can actually help by turning that feeling of helplessness into something effective that can be summed up in a prophetic saying, that goes:

“He among you who sees something bad should change it with his hand (e.g. proactively-activism, organization, movement ). If he is unable, then with his tongue ( by speaking out against it ). If he cannot do that, then within his heart ( by always disliking what is evil or harmful ) and that is the weakest of faith”.

People from all around the World can actually help by using their talents, passions and abilities.

For some, it could be spoken word through making videos, writing poetry and articles, singing, drawing, photography, you name it. For others, it’s online activism or what I like to call: the Electronic Intifada on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube and for others, it can be just silent prayer.

- For those of us who have chosen online activism, please get informed. Knowledge is power. Being informed will enable you to raise awareness about the Palestinian cause, the real story, the real facts, the truth that you will share with your family, friends, co-workers and worldwide followers on social media tools.

- You can develop a campaign of sit-ins at government offices or other places where decision makers aggregate. In Morocco, a sit-in was held on friday in the capital Rabat in front of the  Parliament.

- Organize a seminar, public dialogue, documentary film viewing, etc and make sure you choose a venue, some influential speakers, and do some publicity.

- If you can translate to arabic, french, spanish, portuguese, german, chinese, japanese, italian, etc. Please join the PCHR mailing list and you will  guarantee that you will keep yourself informed of the real facts on the ground and what they mean for human rights. You can help by becoming a volunteer and translating reports into any language you know.

To find out how to become involved in translating PCHR documents please send an e-mail  to pchr@pchrgaza.org.

- Sign every petition that comes your way that you agree with. The internet has paved the road for our voices to be heard and has turned every single one of us into a citizen journalist. Thus, you are responsible of spreading the news, opinions and share petitions links whenever you come across one.

- Support Peace ! Show the world that the Palestinian people are not  terrorists and that they are fighting for the right to survive in a State of their own. Palestinians have Dignity, courage and patience, no Tanks, no Apache helicopters, or F-16s. They resist and that’s how they defend themselves and fight for their freedom.

They need the support of all humanity now so please join the effort for peace and don’t forget to donate to Gaza.