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My Life in Syria: Diary Entry 54

Marah, a teenage girl from one of Syria’s besieged cities, has been sharing her stories of life in the war. With her mother and siblings, she has now left Syria, stopping off in Turkey before embarking on the next stage of her journey – the precarious crossing to Greece by boat.

Written by Marah Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Ever since I heard about its exquisite natural terrain and its gorgeous ancient buildings, I have always wanted to visit Turkey. And now, in the most unexpected of times, I finally got the chance to enjoy the beauty of this country.

Turkey was the first stop on our long, illegal journey to Europe. We stayed with some relatives in the European part of Istanbul, and I immediately fell for this magical city where East meets West. We first visited the Eyup Sultan Mosque, a masterpiece of decoration and construction, which includes the mausoleum of Aby Ayyoub al-Ansari, one of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions. We then took chairlifts to the Pierre Loti Hill, from where we enjoyed the spectacular view of the Golden Horn waterway. After we had hot drinks and Turkish bread, we headed back down to the coast, where we watched the ferries, boats and ducks. The view amazed me and I felt neither the time passing nor the cold weather.

The next day, my relatives took me to Taksim Square, which is a major tourist and leisure district, famed for its restaurants, shops and hotels. It also contains a monument that portrays Kemal Ataturk. We then walked in Istiklal Street, which houses various boutiques, cafes and stores, and has a historic tram. We also visited the Galata Tower, and from there we went to the Eminonu neighborhood, where we saw a beautiful bridge teeming with fishermen and great seafood restaurants. We then took a ferry to the neighborhood of Uskudar, on the Asian side of the city, and we spent some time in a park with a beautiful view of the Bosphorus.

My relatives also took me to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, to Hagia Sophia – which was a church and then a mosque, and is now a museum – and to Gulhane Park and the gorgeous castle next to it. Everything I saw was utterly spectacular. We then walked a little, and entered a covered bazaar that reminded me a lot of the al-Hamidiyya bazaar in Damascus.

I do not even have words to describe Turkey. It has everything from beautiful natural terrain to amazing architecture, delicious Syrian-like food, fish, chocolate and even dolphin exhibits. I am dazzled by this country and I wish that I did not have to leave.

As much as I enjoyed this tour, I was still preoccupied with my dangerous journey to Europe. I kept asking myself, “Is this the last place I will ever visit? Tomorrow, I will get on a rubber boat and head to Greece. This beautiful place might be the last that I will ever see, or it might be the beginning of a new life and many new beautiful places…”

I am scared of tomorrow’s journey. I am not scared that I might die in the sea. What scares me is that I do not know what to expect and I do not know what’s in store for me. Is it heaven? Or is it hell? Wish me luck on my coming journey.

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