It was a little disconcerting to hear about today’s apparent suicide bombing near the Blue Mosque in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul just a few hours before discussing plans for a brief upcoming visit to the Turkish metropolis.
Eleven people were killed in the attack which Turkish government officials say was carried out by a suspected member of Islamic State (IS). The BBC is reporting that at least eight of them were German tourists. At least another 15 people were wounded, many of them German nationals as well.
The old city’s Sultanahmet area is an important tourist hub, home to the Sultan Ahmed, or Sultan Ahmet Mosque, more commonly known as The Blue Mosque. It’s a stunning building, and with a capacity of 10,000 a massive one as well, with this year set to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its completion. These images, above and below, were taken during my last trip in late winter 2012, when tourism, a vital source of income for the country, was still on the rise.
The industry will almost certainly take a further hit after the attack which at least at the moment appears to have targeted foreign visitors. Tourism accounts for about 4% of the country’s economy, and last year generated nearly $30 billion — Istanbul alone accounted for about one-third of that, according to the Wall Street Journal. More than a third of the country’s 32 million tourism arrivals last year came to Istanbul.
Turkey was already facing a $3.5 billion hit in 2016 after Russia applied trade sanctions following Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet in November. Russians provided the second highest number of visitors to the country in 2014 with 4.47 million, after Germany, with 5.2 million.
That said, it’s not going to impact my travel plans. News like this never does. I’ve been looking forward to returning, hoping to explore other parts of the massive city that famously straddles both Europe and Asia. And to make a return visit to the Blue Mosque. I hope it’s reopened by then.
And for the record, today’s Pic du Jour, the blog’s 738th straight, was snapped on 12 March 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey.