From mouth-watering meals to magnificent views coupled with unrivalled hospitality is how Fatima Sait looks back on her trip to Turkey.
“I can understand why the Turkish community are so proud of their country and heritage.
“It’s a country steeped in culture with a fascinating history. The Turkish people are so hospitable and friendly.” Fatima was humbled by the patience, guidance, concern and care the group received from the tour leaders, principal Mahmut and his wife (Gülsah).
“Add to that the genuine warmth, generosity and kindness of all our sponsors while we were there and I’ve had an experience I won’t easily forget.”
Fatima absolutely loved the refreshing yoghurt drink called Ayran as well as the healthy, tasty meals prepared by the Turkish people.
“If there ever was another opportunity to visit this amazing country, I will definitely jump at the chance.”
Vivian Ford who accompanied teacher Melanie Samuels, found the experience wonderfully awesome.
“The beauty and opulence wowed me and will remain with me. I also appreciated and valued the kindness and friendliness of the group and would like to thank Mahmut and his wife Gulsah for making the experience so worthwhile. If I must single out something it would be the tram rides and the fact that cars ride on the same tracks without any hassle.
And I was deeply touched by the staff of Moses exhibited in the Tokapi Museum.
For Unity Demas, a science teacher at the high school, and his wife Miranda, the visit to Turkey was a first overseas trip and judging from their reaction (and the feverish and prolonged shopping expeditions of these two!) definitely not their last.
“I received much more than I had hoped for in terms of hospitality, the trouble taken to have us as wide and varied an experience as possible,” said Unity.
“The Turkish guides were truly well informed and through them – and I include Mahmut here – I received more insight into the manner in which modern day Turkey looks and works, ancient Turkey operated, the journeys of the Biblical Apostle Paul. I particularly liked the visit to Ephesus and the old Roman ruins with the huge historical significance it has.”
For Unity and Miranda the tour was a cultural experience in the true sense of the word.
Nuraan Isaacs, a former teacher at Star Cape Town regarded the visit to the Blue Mosque as particularly significant from a perspective of her faith.
“I loved the way ancient and modern Turkey lives side by side. The food was delicious and exceeded my expectations. I found our tour leaders, Mahmut and Gülsah very patient and kind. It was a trip of a lifetime and I bring back many fond memories.”
For Najma Mohamed the hospitality of all involved and the kindness overall was very good. “Everybody we came into contact with went the extra mile to make our experiences and stay good and comfortable.
“It was a group of different personalities having to be forged into one tour group, a role Mahmut played so well and patiently. There’s a mysticism about Turkey and the picture of beautiful mosques that literally surrounds you wherever you are, will remain with me.” Seeing the relics of the Prophet Mohamed was particularly moving for Najma.
“The prophet lived so many years before and there we were able to look at a piece of his beard.”
To Cindy Hughes the visit to Turkey was both an emotional and physical journey. She was in awe of the richness of the Turkish history, the overwhelming evidence of an ancient civilisation and the physical beauty of the country.
From the visits to the Sultan’s court, now a museum containing relics like Moses’s staff, the prophet’s beard, the mosques and Ayasofia, the Cistern, Taksim Square, right down to the schools, were really breath-taking. But my most moving experience was the visit to the house where Mother Mary died!”
All in all, Crystal Jongbloed was awe-stricken about the evidence she saw throughout Istanbul, Izmir and especially Ephesus, of the manner in which ancient civilizations lived, loved and worked.
“I particularly liked the visits to churches and mosques: Hagia Sophia Museum and the evidence of two faith-systems living side by side; Sultan Ahmet Camii (the famous Blue Mosque). These are such magnificent structures. I loved the sense of peace and tranquillity that surrounds it. My all-time favourite was the visit to the (what is believed to be..) the last house in which Mother Mary lived. Awe-inspiring!”
Melanie Samuels was particularly impressed by principal Mahmut’s calmness, patience and excellent leadership.
“The itinerary put together was perfect. I loved the variety of the programme. All involved with introducing us to Turkey was incredibly knowledgeable.”
Melanie’s most memorable moment was seeing the staff of Moses and Abraham’s turban.
For Mohamed Khalfe the trip was completely relaxing as we were taken to various tourists sites without any effort on our part.
“ It has given me a better perspective of the country and its people. There were some beautiful sites that we visited especially the Topkapi palace, the Blue Mosque, boat trip on the Marmara Sea and Ephesus that stood out for me. We were also made to feel very comfortable with the people we met which include the sponsors. They seem to be caring people always wanting to give but not expecting anything in return. At times, I think it was not easy for them to satisfy everyone’s needs but I think they exercised a lot of patience to make it as comfortable as possible for all of us given the dynamics of the group. I would love to go back again and explore some more!”