Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mardin! (as promised)

Can we put our finger on what makes us love Mardin so? Is it the gorgeous setting on the side of a mountain with the dramatic scenery of patchwork plains spread out before us? Is it the local arts and crafts that are still practiced with masterful skill in the shops and bazaars everyday? Or is it the exotic honey-coloured stone buildings, intricately carved into flowers and geometric designs?

Mardin bazaar, where you can buy anything from a wedding dress to live chickens!

Obviously we love Mardin. An ancient, multi-ethnic, busy town that makes you feel you’ve stepped back in time. Donkeys click-clack through the streets, mosques with unique little pomegranate tops and people who still welcome visitors with a heartfelt “Hosgeldiniz!”

Ablutions before prayers.

Mardin minaret and plateau of farmland that stretches all the way to Syria.

Olive oil soap in the bazaar carved in the style of local mosques.

Time spent wandering the streets and bazaars of this town is well spent. Wood and metal workers create unique little pieces in tiny little workshops, inviting you in for tea and showing you their wares.
Mosques with ornate Syrian-style minarets and ribbed domes litter the hillside. In the evening when the temperature cools, everyone comes outdoors to socialize and children fly kites high above the town. It’s rumored the Garden of Eden may have been located near here, and we believe it!
Above: View from (and of) our hotel, a 500-year old caravansary!
Below: More ablutions...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Istanbul Eats: Istanbul's Top Ten Restaurants

"spinach parcels" - seriously cute, seriously yummy!

One of my favorite websites on the Turkish dining experience is Istanbul Eats. Istanbul was in dire need of an English-language site that discussed the cuisine of our fair city in an intelligent and honest way. Istanbul Eats filled that void with gusto and is a guest blogger at the World Foodie Guide this week. Here is their excellent and informed list of Istanbul's Top Ten. Afiyet Olsun!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Commercial Break: Talismania!!

The sisters are working on a new project!

Mel and I recently took a trip to the Topkapi Palace and spent a lot of time looking at the talismanic healing shirts made by holy men and worn by the Sultan. Inscribed with Quranic verse, the “healing shirts” were believed to be able to cure disease and protect the wearer from evil and harm. The Ottoman sultans believed their shirts would protect them like armor, and often wore them into battle. Since there wasn't any blood on them, they may have actually worked!

From Topkapi Palace (A must-see in Istanbul!)

Modern day talismanic scarves made with love in Istanbul: maroon 'peace' in five languages,

purple and red Turkish flower scarves designed and printed in our living room.

After leaving the Topkapi palace, we grabbed a coffee and talked about the shirts, our eyes rested on two women at the next table. One was wearing a Turkish evil eye bracelet, the other, a funky scarf that is the height of fashion in Istanbul these days. The inspirational discussion began, and before we knew it, we were embarking on our mission of creating good luck-infused and fashionable (and practical) lucky charms: The talismanic scarf!

Off to a good start!

Combining all of these good luck symbols and the idea of the inscriptions of the healing shirts, we came up with funky talismanic scarves - block-printed in Turkish inspired designs. Some have Rumi quotes, and all have their own evil eye hand sewn into the corner.

The evil eye army. We feel the power radiating off these little jewels, I swear.

The project has just begun, we are up to our elbows in carving block prints, printing scarves with fabric paint and sewing the evil eyes in a prominent place of protection. We'll post more pictures here as we go, but we wanted to share this special project with you before Christmas, as these work-of art-scarves are perfect for sending in the post.

The block Mel carved reversed in the mirror so you can read it:

"When I am with you we stay up all night. When we are apart I cannot sleep. Praise these two insomnias and the difference between them." `Rumi

"We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust." ~Rumi

The scarves will be sold in Istanbul in our Sultanahmet living room or at your place of convenience until the end of November,(at 25 lira each) and we'll be in Canada after that, at the Naramata Craft Faire on December 6th, and during a side trip to Vancouver and Victoria just before Christmas. (25 CDN including taxes.)

Contact me or Mel for details!

We really hope you enjoy wearing them as much as we enjoy making them!

Rene and Melanie