Michael Totten

A Magnificent City

I didn’t go to Istanbul to write about it. I went there to have fun with my wife Shelly in a lively city that doesn’t shut down on Christmas. Because Muslims and Christians celebrate each others’ holidays in Lebanon, everything was closed yesterday in Beirut.
I will, however, say this: Someone needs to force Hosni Mubarak to spend an entire month in Beyoglu — downtown Istanbul — so he can see more or less what Cairo would look like if it had decent management. Istanbul kicks ass, in other words, and I couldn’t help but compare it to the deplorable state of Mubarak’s broken capital city.
A friend of mine went to Rome earlier this year and loved it, said it was one of the greatest cities he had ever seen. (I prefer New York and Paris, but that’s me.) Then he went to Istanbul. His reaction: “Fuck Rome.”
Istanbul, indeed, is better than Rome. I have to say it objectively ranks up there with New York and Paris. It truly is one of the world’s most magnificent cities. If you find yourself tempted by Islamophobia because of September 11 and all the rest of it, I strongly suggest you go there on your next holiday. I can all but guarantee that you will get it out of your system.
Turkey lives up to its promise and more. It is not just “the Muslim country that works.” It’s in better shape than whole swaths of Christian Europe that sneers at the Turks as “those people.” It is only possible, I think, to fear and loathe the Turks if you have not seen what they built, what they have, and what they’ve done lately.
I have to go back. I need to write about Turkey in the way it deserves.