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When friends ask for suggestions on places to visit, one of the cities I highly recommend is Istanbul in Turkey. I was in this awe-inspiring land a few years back and would not mind returning to. The only city in the world that straddles between Europe and Asia, Istanbul (and Turkey for that matter) is so vibrant and rich in history and culture. Turkey is a magnificent marriage of the historic and modern, western and oriental, and the common and exotic.

One of the striking features of the city’s skyline is the Blue Mosque or the Sultan Ahmet Camii. Constructed between 1609 and 1617, this mosque is one of the finest examples of classical Ottoman architecture. Sultan Ahmet set out to build a monument to rival the nearby Ayasofya and the unofficial name came from the tens of thousands of blue tiles in its interior.

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Entrance to the Blue Mosque

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Built between 1609 and 1617

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Ablutions Fountain

The opulent Topkapi Palace was the residence of the sultans and the administrative seat of the Ottoman empire for almost 400 years. Construction started in 1453 and was used as residence until the 19th century.

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Topkapi Palace

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The famous Grand Bazaar made Istanbul a renowned shopping destination, but has turned into somewhat of a tourist trap — unless you are shopping with a local. Regardless, it is an experience to go through the labyrinth of stalls selling all kinds of goods. The Egyptian Spice Bazaar nearby is more sedate and less crowded.

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One of the entrances

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Spice Bazaar

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