Turkey trip leads to new life

MUHANAD ALNAHAS
Last updated 05:00 16/12/2012
turkey
JULIAN FINNEY/GETTY

Istanbul at night overlooking the Bosphorous - a wonderful place for a cruise.

expat
A visit lead to a new life abroad for Muhanad Alnahas.

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Why did you move to Istanbul?

I came to Turkey more than three years ago. I was always interested in Turkish culture and history and wanted to have a closer look. I live in Istanbul but I spent almost six months in Ankara, where I met my Turkish wife, Filiz.

What do you do there?

I came to Istanbul for a visit, I learned the language and I ended up working as a freelancer for a year. After that, I started as video editor with the Turkish national TV.

What do you like or dislike about life in Istanbul?

I can describe Turkey as a Middle Eastern, Mediterranean country with a semi-European system. Istanbul is very crowded and very active, which defines the beauty of the city; however, many crowds leads to so much traffic, which can be annoying sometimes. Wherever you go in Istanbul there is something historical, and the city is full of antiques and items from both western and eastern civilisations. When you are a foreigner in Istanbul, or Turkey in general, people would go out of their way to help; They are very welcoming of strangers and very generous. Plus, the beauty of Istanbul is that you can enjoy it all seasons. Even in winter, almost wherever you go has an outdoor heating system.

What do you think of the food?

I love the food. Turkish cuisine is very rich and very nicely presented. There are restaurants everywhere open until very late. Durumcu in Besiktas is one of my favourites, or Sutis and Mado are very good restaurants and you can find them almost everywhere. Popular Turkish dishes are kebabs, kofte (meat balls), pide and lahmacun (sort of Turkish pizza) and the sarma. There are fantastic pastries too; pogaca, borek and (a must try) simit. Also don't miss Turkish coffee, Turkish tea and the popular Turkish delight.

How does the cost of living compare with New Zealand?

Over all Istanbul is cheaper than Auckland, and it is even cheaper in other parts of Turkey. In general the rent is cheaper and so is the food, apart from red meat. Dining out is cheaper.

What do you do on weekends?

I live on a hill and near my home is Ulus Park where you have a great view of the whole city. Downhill, there is Ortakoy and the famous Bosphorus bridge that connects Europe to Asia. We go there for tea or just to have a walk. Nearby there are Arnavutkoy, Bebek and Besiktas, which also have a lot of restaurants, historical places, and parks.

What's the best way to get around?

In Istanbul there are all sorts of public transportation options: Metro, tramway, bus and minibus, which start from the airport to almost everywhere in the city.

What's the shopping like?

Istanbul is the best place for shopping. You have a huge variety of Turkish-made products, also all the well-known brands, antiques and handmade souvenirs.

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What's the nightlife like?

There are all kinds of nightlife in Istanbul suitable for everyone. If you like a crowded place to party then Taksim is the place for you; Istiklal Caddesi is full of life at all times - it is packed with people and bars. There are also night clubs almost everywhere but the most popular would be Reina. If you're looking for dining options for a quiet night with family or friends there are heaps of places alongside the bays. Istanbul is known as the seven hills city, so there are restaurants and cafes where you have a wonderful view of the city; places like Emirgan, Piyar lotti, Camlica and Ulus. What is your favourite part of Istanbul?

Besiktas where there are a few restaurants and cafes looking the sea; my favourite would be Durumcu and Hakan cafe. There are small shopping centres less crowded and closer to where I live. There is also Dolma bahce, a very beautiful castle/museum and Yildis Park. What time of year is best to visit?

Depends on what you want to see but usually, and like anywhere else, summertime and spring would be the best; spreading from March until the end of August.

What's your must-do for visitors?

A Bosphorus Cruise would give you a wonderful view of the city. You can start from Eminonu or Ortakoy. Near Sultan Ahmed, have a walk in Gulhane Park. There is a restaurant at the end of the park where you can have tea in a semi-traditional way and enjoy a fantastic view of the city.

What are your top tips for tourists?

Egyptian Pazzar (misir carshisi) and Sultan Ahmed are a must visit. The last one is very central for historical places such Ayasofya, blue mosque and many other Ottoman and Byzantine remains. There is a tramway which passes through all these historical places and the Pazzars.

If you learn a few Turkish phrases and words, Turkish people will be happy to see you trying and would help you even more.

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?

Last time I went back to Auckland it was a 22-24 hour trip with transits in Dubai then in Sydney. Due to my work, though, I haven't been to New Zealand for almost two years.

If you know an expat who wants to share the inside knowledge on their home away from home, email escape@star-times.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

- Sunday Star Times

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