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The Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia seen from the Bosphorus Strait

Several years ago I read a book about the Ottoman Empire, one of many that talked about Hagia Sophia. The more I read about it, its history which predates the Ottoman Empire by several centuries, the higher it climb my bucket list.

With just a one day layover in Istanbul starting around 1:00 pm, in which the line to visit Hagia Sophia wasn’t realistic, I made it a point to rise early the next morning to make sure I got to get inside before heading to the airport to come home.

Though the Blue Mosque looks so much more compelling physically, there’s no denying the extraordinary history of Hagia Sophia.

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Bosphorus Boat Tour

Bosphorus Boat Tour Meetup

After waiting a little longer than I would’ve preferred, we were finally on our way to the boat for the Bosphorus Boat Tour. As a mob, we started walking. And walking. And kept walking. And walking so much that Najwa insisted on being carried. So I picked her up [somehow lost sight of Nduku in the mob], but kept walking. And walking.

Apparently Hagia Sophia isn’t quite right on the water.

Eventually we made it [and found Nduku]. And how thankful I was that most of it was downhill. Then it become a mosh pit on the little dock we were standing on waiting for the boat to pull up. Surely there were people eager for the tour, but it was getting later in the day, meaning the temperature was falling, so I’m sure many people just wanted to defrost. Nduku being one of them.

Bosphorus Boat Tour

Fortunately, as the boat was pulling up, obviously not big enough for all of us, there was a call for English speakers since the boat was giving the tour in English.

 

3431Dock

We finally got underway, but many others were still waiting for the next boat.

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Visit to the Blue Mosque

The main attraction in Turkey is the Hagia Sophia. For me at least. When we finally made our way around the corner to visit the historic site, well, about a hundred or two other people beat us to it. It wasn’t so much that the line was so long — and it was hella long — but it was freezing cold and standing still wasn’t going to help.

So, we meandered across the way and greeting us was an even more impressive, albeit less historic, site — The Blue Mosque. Magnificent [and I don’t usually use that word].

Blue Mosque - Istanbul, Turkey

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One More Stop to Dubai Mall Before Heading Home

Before boarding the plane and saying goodbye to Dubai, we went back to Dubai Mall to meet up with Nduku and Mutethya’s cousin Nyiva. I can’t say enough about how huge this mall is. At 12.1 million square feet, it is the world’s largest mall in total area. One thousand and two hundred stores alone is more shopping options than some cities; The Mall of America has just under half the number of stores; Potomac Mills in Virginia, which is probably the largest mall in the area, only has 200 some stores.

We grabbed a bite to eat at [one of a couple] the food court. Dubai Mall has over 160 food and beverage outlets. And though we were 7,000 miles away from Washington, DC, the food court isn’t that much different from Potomac Mills. Even after a week, seeing Arabs lined up at McDonald’s was interesting. And then there was a place called Ribs and Rumps, but I didn’t check out the menu to see what kind of rumps they were serving. And since Dubai has everything America has, of course we’d find Church’s Chicken, but with an asterisk. In an Arabic Muslim country, church isn’t quite acceptable. And since Mosque’s Chicken doesn’t sound so tasty, it’s called Texas Chicken.

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Burj al Arab, Heritage Village, The Souks in Deira, Atlantis The Palm, Global Village — So Much To Do in One Day in Dubai

The day started with a quick trip to the store, but there’s nowhere in Dubai where there isn’t something to gaze at. One of the world’s most recognizable skyscrapers has been duplicated in Dubai, then duplicated right next to it. Not only does Dubai have two buildings styled after the Chrysler Building in New York, they even bought a 90 percent share in the original!

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Dubai Aquarium, Burj Khalifa, Jumeirah Beach Walk — Did I Mention How Uber-Rich Everyone Is?

Nduku has three sisters, each with at least one child. Najwa has a total of seven first cousins if you include my brother’s three children. She has dozens more second and distant cousins since Nduku has 20+ aunts and uncles. Family tree? Najwa has a family forest!

Of all the first cousins though, Alexander is the first one she met. Not that either of them will remember this moment, but it was good to introduce Najwa to her first first cousin. When we landed in Dubai around midnight, Alexander was asleep. The next morning when the cousins met, let’s just say they weren’t as excited to meet as we were for them to meet.

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Spending Valentine’s in City of Brotherly Love

David Gaines and Nduku Malombe at Philadelphia's LOVE sculptureFor Valentine’s weekend, the ladies and I went to Philadelphia to visit the city of brotherly love.

We checked out the LOVE sculpture seen over and over in movies based in Philly. We visited the Liberty Bell, which was smaller than I was expecting, Independence Hall [which was wrapped in scaffolding for renovations], South Street, Broad Street, JFK Plaza and we even went out to Cherry Hill, New Jersey where our homegirl Natalie Bargeron took the time to come visit us and meet Najwa for the first time.

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Christmas in New York

What better to do than a day trip to New York?

 

From Grand Central Station to the Brooklyn Bridge — All On Foot

With more sites to see in New York than possible to do in a day, Chad asked where I wanted to start. So, I said we’ll start at Grand Central station, end at the other end of the Brooklyn Bridge and whatever we see during a very, very long walk, well, that’s what I want to see.


 

Grand Central to the Brooklyn Bridge

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The Grand Canyon

While visiting my dad in Arizona, we took a trip out to the Grand Canyon. Postcards and documentaries don’t do it justice.