New Mosque, Istanbul

New Mosque, Istanbul

The New Mosque, or Yeni Cami, is one of the most famous architectural landmarks in Istanbul. Situated on the Golden Horn near the Galata Bridge, it sets an imposing yet calming backdrop to the vibrant Eminönü quarter. A paradox? Sure. Much of Istanbul is.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 398th straight, was snapped on 13 March 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey.


Belly dancer zills, Istanbul

For Sale, Belly Dancer Zills

Dancer not included.

The zills, aka finger cymbals, pictured here are the standard tourist fare version, with a single hole in the middle. If you’re serious, or even semi-serious about learning to belly dance and wanting to produce sound with the cymbals strapped to your fingers, don’t buy these. Because they’ll be almost impossible to control. There is a version with parallel slots in each cymbal. Buy those.

Consider yourself warned.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 358th straight, was taken in Istanbul on 12-Mar-2012. Snagging this one from its virtual pile reminded me that I have about 1,000 images from that visit to Istanbul that I haven’t even begun to edit, process or organize. If that was the only group of 1,000 that I needed to catch up with, life would be a dream. But it’s not, so drastic measures need to be taken.

The goal?

To cull that down to a gallery of 35, 40 tops. A spring cleaning project.

In the meantime, check out this post, Light In Babylon: An Istanbul Street Music Quickie, one of the most visited posts on Piran Café. It features four portraits of the Light in Babylon band members, available via a creative commons license. And links to some of their music, too. Enjoy!

Container port, Cartagena

Wonder how much illegal migrants pay those who traffic them?

Prices vary, depending on destination and means of transport. From Turkey to Greece for example, it’s about €1,600 (US$1,966) via inflatable boat, €2,400 ($2,950) by fishing boat and €3,200 ($3,932) on board a tourist boat. The cheapest is by land, about €800 ($900) to Italy or Austria if they’re squeezed into a container on truck.

That’s according to a secretly recorded conversation shared by France 24 Observers in which a human smuggler describes his trade. From a transcript of the recording:

Right now about 80 percent of our clients are Syrian, the rest are Iraqi, Iranian or Afghan. They rarely have a specific destination – we send them to Italy or Austria. They may then choose to go on to other countries on their own. Prices vary greatly between human slingers – it really depends on how much money the slinger himself is willing to spend to secure passage for his customers. If a slinger wants to spend very little money, well, there’s more risk the customers will be caught. And if the client gets arrested or died, who cares? They’ve already received part of the money up-front, so they never lose money.


Most of our customers don’t like the route that goes through Bulgaria, because the police are very violent there. The situation in Bulgarian refugee camps is awful, and in some cases the authorities try to send the refugees back to their home country.


There are always risks – after all, they’re doing something illegal. For example, a smuggler might put 45 people in the back of a truck and drive for 12 hours – and the passengers can’t open any windows. There have been cases where people in trucks are crushed between the loads inside containers, when the driver suddenly hit the brakes hard. I even heard that some smugglers that take boats to Australia will dump containers into the ocean if they find out they’re being tracked by the police.

That’s an accurate account, writes Sam Sarabi, an Iranian journalist and former Human Rights Watch adviser who works on refugee cases on Turkey. He welcomes attention to the issue and plight of migrants seeking refuge, but says there are unintended consequences as the situation continues to spiral.

Governments are cracking down on human smugglers, and this has a secondary impact – smugglers are now sacrificing human lives to escape arrest. I don’t think that government should close their eyes on human trafficking, but they need to think of ways to avoid such a situation.

More of the transcript is in the post, From Syria to Europe: A human trafficker’s tale, which also includes audio of the entire conversation.


Pomegranate juice stand in Istanbul

Pomegranate Shopping, Istanbul

I dreamt of pomegranates last night and woke up jonesing. There weren’t any reasonably good looking ones at the central market this morning, so I’ll just have to satiate my thirst and desire with this photo.

Unlike (apparently) many others, I enjoy the Zen quality that peeling pomegranates by hand provides. It’s not really that much work or that time consuming. That said, here’s an option that quite a few of my friends swear by, which they claim, takes less than 15 seconds. Check it out.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 230th (!!!) straight, was taken on 14 March 2012 at a street stand in Istanbul, where I bought a pomegranate that I thoroughly enjoyed peeling and picking by hand in a small park near the Bosporus. The birds liked me, too. :)


Delicious, with a big pinch of salt

There is a filet of sole in there somewhere.

Jake’s Sunday post challenge suggestion this week is delicious. That was easy to find because it was one of the few pics in my flickr stream tagged with the word.

I thoroughly enjoyed this last March at a restaurant in Istanbul – sole baked in salt. Succulent, perfectly cooked, with just the right hint of saltiness. Delicious! This was the first time I tried it, but it’s not a process unique to Turkey. I’ve seen it on menus in Spain, Italy, France and Greece. Jake: Anything similar in or around Manila?

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Shoes ( #Frifotos )

How strange, when your father’s wearing women’s clothes and platform shoes, that a pair of loafers looks incredible.
- Moon Unit Zappa

I’m the most utilitarian shopper and consumer when it comes to shoes. But these, resting peacefully in a large crate in a small bazaar near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I found oddly appealing. These boots below, from the Grand Bazaar, not so much. But they’re all colorful, which is this week’s #Frifotos twitter theme.

The quote? It just brought on a chuckle since I couldn’t remember the last time I thought about Moon Unit Zappa. I hope she’s doing just fine.