The Syrians of Istanbul and other stories

Syrian Istanbulians

-Istanbul is a gem of a place, it truly is. If you haven’t been; go. You will not regret it. The views are amazing. The culture is immense. The food is divine. The people… well, it’s a pick and mix. You get biggots, you get cold ass gits, you get nonchalant people but you also get some decent folk.

I guess that’s the same for any place though huh? My take on it, based on my own experiences in the few times I visitied Istanbul? Bearing in mind your experience will be different…

The Turks populating the touristy areas / hotels are hella nice to you because essentially they want your buck. The Turks of Bebek and Levent are slightly more “high class” and will now and then show interest in you because they like to indulge in some culture. It helps that they’re the ones that speak English too.

The rest of the Turks I encountered were not so nice. Be it the guard at a mosque who screamed his head off (in Turkish) at a Chinese lady for taking putting her shoes on at the wrong place, or the taxi driver who snapped at me for asking him (in Turkish might I add) if he needed to see the adress for my destination or the dumass woman who worked at the airport who insulted my mother for not following an instruction she gave her in Turkish!

Ultimately, if you work at an airport, or a restaurant or a tourist attraction, I feel like English should be a non negotiable because of how universal it is. Smiling and kindness should be a non-negotioable. And not yelling at people should be a non negotioable.

I was told by a lovely Turkish girl I met in a Starbucks in Bebek that Turks come across as cold because they don’t speak English and thus don’t know how to communicate with you. Fair enough I suppose but I feel that said Turks feel that you don’t need any other language on your hand other than your mother tongue which is just a depressingly obnoxious belief to harbour within yourself.

Thank God I know some Turkish – it made some locals like me a little better for making an effort to learn their language which I got applauded for when I told them it was self taught.

Anyway. I digress.

I wanna take a moment to give a shout out to the Syrians of Istanbul. Because even though I encountered a lot of racism because of them (some Turks treat you like crap because they assume that you being Arab means you’re a Syrian immigrant who’s stealing their jobs and taking over their homes – even if you clearly don’t look like a Syrian) my God do these people deserve a medal.

The Syrians I encountered in Istanbul have fled war, moved somewhere where they’re essentially unwanted and severely discriminated against but did they let that crush them? Hell no. They mastered the Turkish language and worked for the local stores of Turkey, luring in the Arab clintel for their Turkish bosses using a combination of how similar they look to Turks, their newly acquired language, Syrian charm and the famous Arab hospitality.

It also helps that some Syrian men are painfully attractive.

Love them or hate them, you cannot deny that the Syrians of Istanbul are responsible for a significant boom in revenue from the travel industry acquired from Arab tourism alone.

I can’t believe she actually did it

A few years ago, I knew a girl who came to England from Australia to visit her extended family on her winter break. Let’s call her Lubna. Lubna wasn’t conventionally good looking (i.e. not skinny!) but she had wit, charm and confidence.

Lubna missed her ride home so her relatives sent someone, who was a close family friend and happened to be near the area at the time, to pick her up from the airport and drive her to them. Let’s call him Taha. Taha was successful in everyway possible, oozed charm and lets just say life was overly kind to him in the looks department.

Lubna and Taha hadn’t seen each other since childhood but they recognized each other instantly. It was a long journey and I guess they must have had the mother of all catch ups because by the end of the drive, I guess she decided she saw something in him that she liked enough to want to be with him. I guess Taha saw something in her too, not what he usually sees in girls; good looks. But there was definitely something about her. Taha also came with baggage; children from a previous marriage and a poisonous ex-wife. So maybe what he saw in Lubna was a distraction. I’ve no idea.

Taha and Lubna spent most of their time on her trip flirting and I guess it was obvious to everyone they were into each other. She went home eventually and they kept in touch. Promises were made, a summer engagement was planned then a wedding.

The thing about long distance relationships though is you have a lot of space to overthink. And sensing that Taha was wavering and suddenly pining for his ex-wife, Lubna came back for another trip to work things out. But she wasn’t Lubna anymore, she had lost an ABUNDANT amount of weight I guess to fit Taha’s idea of what is desireable. He was impressed enough to decided to give it another shot. But then she went back to. Australia and I guess Taha ghosted her again, giving reasons of religious incompatibality as an excuse, until the relationship fizzled into nothing. Again.

Lubna became severely depressed and because she was a friend I worried for her health. I watch her transform from this ray of sunshine into a messy and muddy puddle of darkness. I remember thinking to myself Taha has ruined her for any other man forever now.

And if you’re wondering Taha was absolutely fine.

A year down the line, I heard that she was getting married. I was shocked. I know people move on. But she was just so in love with Taha that it made no sense to me. I figured she was in her 30s and it was a calculated decision rather than an emotional one. I thought this will definitely end in disaster…but it didn’t.

I met up with Lubna in Istanbul, which is why the story is so fresh on my mind, she has three beautiful children. She’s happy and she speaks so fondly of her husband. Does she love him? I have no idea. But she’s happy and when life gave her lemons she made lemonade, instead of squeezing them into Taha’s eyes which if you know me well, is what I would have done.

And if you’re wondering, Taha is an absolute mess. No wife, he lost all his good looks with age, he is on medication for depression and works like a robot.

I learnt several things from that story; calculated decisions can sometimes lead to positive conclusions. Being dictated by emotions isn’t always a good thing. Not eveything you want wants to be yours. And I guess that men and women grieve differently. Women will mourn the loss of a man for a good while but when they move on, they soar. Men will be absolutely fine after a break up but when said woman is settled with someone else it hits them like a ton of bricks.

31 and 2019

Another year is coming to a close and I find myself a year older and a century wiser… and sadly a few centimeters wider. Damn you birthday cake.

Yaas. I turned 31 this year. But its all good because I am reliably informed I still look 21. I mean I get ID’d everywhere which is a little ridiculous, frankly. But I am told I will grateful for this gift at 40, which, oh dear God, is 9 years away.

As much as I complain about it, I have sort of made peace with the fact that I am old. And if you don’t think 31 is old then, holla at me when you turn 31 and we’ll see if you feel the same.

Its not the age that’s the problem. It’s what you have accomplished by said age that’s important. I am sad to say that for me the answer is not much. That’s why I think instead of resolutions this year I think I will have a word to try and live by. And that word is remarkable.

I kindda wanna be remarkable this year in whatever I do which sounds obnoxious but trust me, its healthy in my head.

If you could be a word this year what word would you be?



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