Muslimah Traveling to Turkey: Hidden gems of Istanbul and Bursa

During my one week visit to one of the top Muslim-friendly destinations in Turkey with many exciting new places, new people, the cultural heritage, and most importantly the historical timeline. I posted a lot of inspiring pictures on my Instagram account of all of the wonderful places a Muslimah can visit in Turkey and I was overwhelmed by the number of messages I received!

The basic gist was this:

Reader: “Wow! It looks amazing! I’ve not seen this part to Turkey”

Me: “It’s beautiful, definitely worth a visit!”

Reader: “I never knew there was so much more to see, is it safe for a Muslimah to travel solo”

Well, you see! Even for me, Turkey was an eye-opener. Before I booked the flight I had no idea about this beautiful country and what I will be expecting from the locals in Turkey, but surprisingly it has now become one of my favorite countries that I have visited so far. As a Muslimah, I didn’t know what to expect as the western media wasn’t always glowing and made me sometimes wonder if I could still pray in a mosque as a tourist in Turkey and if there were any ladies only beaches available during my stay.

Turkey is a country where history meets adventure and where you will be thrown away by the beautiful landscapes it has to offer. Since my trip to Turkey, my perspective changed. Well, I was truly blown away by how friendly the locals were and how safe it was for a solo Muslimah to roam around the streets of Turkey.

Turkey has something different for everyone that is packed full of life-changing adventures and yet traditional enough to be interesting!

Around Istanbul, mosques offer prayer facilities and where every Turkish city announces the central tenets of Islamic faith and reminds Muslims that it is time to pray. As a solo Muslimah, you can participate in prayers in any mosque where they will provide a robe if needed and where they will provide separate rooms for women to pray. The hotels also provide prayer facilities and will have a point toward Mecca (Qibla) compass to show the direction of prayer.

As I was traveling in Turkey, finding halal food wasn’t a major concern as it is a Muslim country. The heart of Istanbul offers a variety of cuisines from Asian, Indian, Lebanese, European, and traditional Turkish food. Not to mention the fantastic views you can also experience while dining as most restaurants offer a terrace view of the city which has been one of the highlights of my holiday.

If I ever needed directions in the city, there were always volunteers around to help tourists find their way in Istanbul. They will be in bright-colored t-shirts that say “here to help” and will provide a detailed map of Istanbul with all major attractions. They are fluent in many languages, especially English and they will provide you with background information to help you make the most out of your visit.

I have put together some recommendations for Turkey, which is a reason enough to start looking into booking your next flight or even experiencing Turkey during its holiest month of Ramadan.

Here are some recommendations on food you MUST try in Turkey!

1. Salep

You truly have not experienced the taste of Turkey until you have tried salep! It’s absolutely delicious, filled with a rich, silky, and creamy taste of middle eastern flavors.

Salep is a hot milk drink based on a powder of an orchid flower and sometimes garnished with nuts and cinnamon. Salep is not only valued for its delightful taste but for its health benefits and was introduced by the Ottomans which is why it can be found in cafes of Istanbul.

2. Kanafeh

You must take the time to try this popular this Middle Eastern dessert! Made with a thin layer of semolina dough, soaked in sweet syrup and layered with cheese. It’s creamy, melts in your mouth, and the cheesy and gooey texture is absolutely impossible to refuse.

3. Turkish Ice Cream

Get ready to be pranked and tricked by ice cream man’s hilarious stunts! You can not miss them as they will be setting up shops in their traditional ice cream carts, ringing their bells, and you will be sure to see the crowds laughing away.

This traditional Turkish ice cream is completely different from the regular smooth ice creams you know. It has an elastic texture and a unique flavor, thanks to salep which makes it creamy, stretchy, and sticky at the same time. It’s definitely worth the hype!

4. Turkish Barbecue Platter

This Turkish cafe is situated near The Grand Bazaar as you walk past the entrance following the road down and a few minutes walk away from all major attractions. If you’re a meat-lover, then look no further. This traditional dish is combined with Turkish meat that is seasoned with spice and sizzled to perfection.

Their portion sizes are humongous and you can eat to your heart’s content. Wait, it doesn’t end there, they offer complimentary Turkish tea and baklavas on the house. This is one of the hidden gems of Istanbul that I loved.

If you’re visiting Istanbul, here are a few things you DON’T want to miss!

1. Bursa Tour

Turkey has so many magical spots the world doesn’t know about, and Bursa is one of them.

A beautiful Green Mosque is quite different from others with a fantastic green exterior decoration of marble work. Take a stroll down the historical silk market with colorful lanterns, textiles, and souvenirs. You will truly be blown away by the multicultural atmosphere, and you will find a hidden treasure in every corner.

Behind the Green Mosque, make sure you visit the green tomb of the fifth Ottoman Sultan famous for its beautifully decorated tiles or the breathtaking views from on the top of Uludag mountain by cable car!

How to get to Bursa?

Hotels or private companies will offer this tour. Packages usually include pick up/drop off at your local hotel, a chance to try a cup or two of their popular ottoman tea, lunch, and all major attractions with an experienced tour guide.

2. Galata Tower

Roam around the historical building and see some spectacular views of Turkey while you walk up nine stories of Galata Tower. As you reach Galata Tower be sure you catch the lovely blue views of Bosphorus, it truly is breathtaking and full of untold history.

Although be aware of the crowd and ques, so go early to avoid delays as it’s such a popular sight!

Take a step into the Galata tower cafe where you can enjoy the shade and the cold breeze that it offers, especially on hot summer days. Soak up the views and watch the seagulls as they fly and enjoy a cup or two of Turkish tea or coffee.

How to get to Galata Tower?

Well, it’s as quick and easy as catching the tram. It will drop you off within a 10-15 mins walking distance to Galata tower and it will only cost you as little as 5TL from the city center. That’s right, cheaper than a taxi!

3. Taksim Square

People who know me would know that I’m obsessed with modest clothing and Taksim Square is a MUST GO as it has a little of something for everyone. Walk down the streets of Galata Tower whilst admiring the lively architecture and traditional street music.

This is where you will find all the high street fashion, quality clothing, outlets, and many mouth-watering restaurants filled with spices, herbs, and a taste of Mediterranean cuisine.

4. Hippodrome

This magnificent ancient Hippodrome is an iconic landmark that still stands tall in the middle of Sultanahmet and next to the Blue Mosque. Hippodrome was the heart of Constantinople’s political and sporting life, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

Don’t forget that’s only a small taste of what Turkey has to offer. There are many other famous landmarks in Turkey that are filled with lively adventures and spectacular views.

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