Hurghada: Vibrant city of culture  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Egypt took a pasting from the media this year; as well as the rioting. Actually, most of Egypt is completely safe. Unfortunately, the media painted a picture of what is in reality just a few specific areas. Even Tahrir Square ; the site of previous demonstrations, is a diminutive part of Cairo: a city with a total population of over 18 million.

On the Red Sea Riviera sits hapless Hurghada where the weather is glorious all year round and you can watch the sun mellow into an ever-changing blaze of neon flares as the the skyline melts to the horizon from the comfort of your own balcony. The third largest city in Egypt, its tranquil beaches and incredible diving spots are a world away from more troubled areas.

Hurghada started life as a sleepy fishing village, up until relatively recently; about 15 years ago. Foreign investment and the craving for winter sun has led to thriving nightlife in what's now a fun-loving scuba central. However, walking through Hurghada's own national park at Al-Mahmeya, you're transported to another time completely as you pick your way to peace.

Wandering the streets of El Dahar; Hurghada's downtown old city, a flavour of its Bedouin past fills the air with bright, cultural street festivals , which happen throughout the year. Again, steeped in history: the modern, more urban  Bedouins participate and try to engage visitors to teach them of the various Bedouin traditions. 

Mostly rich poetry recitals, whirling sword dances provide entertainment; harking back to bygone days. Workshops to teach traditional tent knitting playing Bedouin instruments captivate and entrance visitors with the friendly attitude and intense commitment. Traditions such as camel riding and camping in the deserts can also be arranged on expeditions to take a short breather from the

With its own airport and excellent transport links, the whole Hurghada area is comparable to the Sharm-El-Sheikh of the past and as such commands a more vibrant and community based life.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Istabul's marvellous history

Steeped in history, modern day Istanbul is as shrouded in legend as Byzantium was back in 657BC. Majestically straddling two continents: Istanbul is a marvel of architecture. Gazing upon the city is enough to lapse into the slow pace of days gone by. Its persistent minarets climbing like dawn's rosy fingers to an azure sky; resplendent palaces hugging the water's edge and exotic gardens boasting opulent Pavilions beckon visitors in their droves to this unique city.
Here, we have a whistle stop tour through Istanbul's recent incarnations: leading it to be the jewel it is today.
Legend dictates that Byzas, son of King Nisos from Megara (near Athens) founded Byzantium in 657 BC when he sailed northeast across the Aegean Sea. Having consulted the Oracle at Delphi to ask where to found his own city, the Oracle said he'd find it "opposite the blind". He had no understanding of this initially, but coming across the Bosporus, he realised. On the opposite, eastern shore was a Greek city named Chalcedon, which is modern day Kadıköy. The blind were thought to be the city's founders; who had neglected to notice the finer location of Byzantium: only 3 km away. Byzas swept in and built his city there on the European coast; naming it Byzantium after himself. It was primarily a trading city, due to its location at the entrance of the Black Sea. The Byzantine empire later conquered Chalcedon, across the Bosporus on the Asiatic side.

New Rome and Constantinopolis

Siding with the wrong party during a struggle for the throne in 191 AD, and after a two year battle, it was occupied and razed by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. New city walls were built and new buildings adorned the port area.

By the 4th century AD the Roman Empire was pretty sizeable, and the capital Rome lost its central position. Istanbul was coined Nea Roma or New Rome. Unlike its antecessor, the name didn't really stick.

Famously named after Emperor Constantine the Great who settled on Constantinople's site, due to its strategic positioning between the two continents. Constantine established a Christian city to replace Byzantium. Due to his position of power, most people named the city Constantinopolis, after him. This name persisted into the 20th century, throughout the Ottoman and Turkish era. 

Under Constantin, numerous churches were built across the city, including the Hagia Sophia which was the world's largest cathedral for over a thousand years. Other improvements to the city undertaken by Constantine included a major renovation and expansion of the Hippodrome. Constantinople's location ensured its existence would stand be preserved; for many centuries, its walls and seafront protected Europe against invaders from the east and the advance of Islam.  During this era, contrary to Istanbul boasting cheap property in Turkey, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in the world, at times.

Contemporary culture and ancient history fuse to make modern day Istanbul one of the most eye-catching, trendy cities the world has to offer. Having long since had regal status: housing four of the biggest Western empires over the years, modern Istanbul is a city of culture and multiculture. With many developments offering investment property in Istanbul, the Eurasian city is an increasingly popular spot for Boutique hotels and second home owners. Its vibrancy, mixed with a relaxed atmosphere makes Istanbul a fantastic option for those considering buying a second home in Turkey.
Higlights of Istanbul lie in its very diversity. Today there are as many Ottoman minarets as contemporary art galleries, exquisite boutique bars and restaurants vying for your attention: making it a city with an indescribable and incomparable energy.

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