We have been spending nearly two weeks in the Middle East.
First we went to an unnamed nation, where we met some friends, spent time with them, reviewed the work they are doing, and went to a few local sights.
Then we came to Istanbul, Turkey, where we are staying in Orient Hostel for about a week.
If you enjoy eating tomatoes and cucumbers, then the Middle East is the place for you. In our experience restaurants serve fresh sliced tomatoes and cucumbers every breakfast and at many other meals.
The major attractions of Istanbul are as magnificent as you have heard.
Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), above, was first a Christian church, then a Muslim mosque, and now a museum. Restoration is going on in the interior, so you see gigantic scaffolding on the left in the interior view.
The Blue Mosque, above. so called because of the abundance of blue tiles in the interior. It is properly called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
I was surprised to learn that Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are one block apart, facing each other across a lovely walking area with grass, trees and a water fountain.
One day we took a side trip to the ruins of ancient Ephesus, traveling by plane to Izmir and then joining a bus tour group to Selcuk and Ephesus. The excavated ruins are extensive. The original city must have been a wonder.
The facade of the Library of Celsus. Three arches on the right (although not all three are seen in my photo) lead to another street.
The Grand Theater, or amphitheater, which figured prominently in the riot started by the craftsmen who sold images of the goddess Artemis, as told in Acts 19, part of the Apostle Paul’s experiences on his missionary journeys.
According to tradition the Apostle John lived and served as a church leader in Ephesus. The Church of St. John is at what is now the town of Selcuk, and a marble slab marks the place in the front of the church where John is buried.
It was huge privilege to visit this area and try to imagine the important Christian events that took place here.
I suggest that you add Istanbul and Ephesus to your list of “must see” places!