I have just spent the last few days in Istanbul. I must confess I feel utterly underwhelmed by my experiences. Istanbul is a shade of Abuja with the flavor of Lagos. I think that’s the best way to describe this city. It’s no different from any major developed city: Abuja, Johannesburg etc. But it seems crowded, closed and quite Islamic. In reality though, I can’t compare Istanbul with any of the memories I share from elsewhere in Europe.
First of all, I think my black skin was a hindrance in Turkey. Right from the airport you get a sense that you stand alone; that you don’t belong here. In spite of the aesthetically alluring Ataturk Airport, somehow gaining entry into Turkey seemed designed to be difficult for a Nigerian. The e-visa machines at the airport gave my passport an error message on each of the five occasions I tried to use it. Then I was directed to a passport control line about 50 meters away where guests seemed segregated according to country status not regions. Most third world countries appeared to be in that group and the passport control officers didn’t even bother to look me in the eyes. It’s a shake of the head here, a redirection there and another and almost always unfriendly.
As If the airport wasn’t enough disincentive entering the country, the language barrier inside was a bomb.
Then i felt utterly insulted in Turkye by the taxi driver who just couldn’t hide his disgust that he’s not only picking a black man but also a poor one because my destination was so close to the airport (€5 close).
I wandered endlessly around the city with no one in sight to give me directions in English. It is here that anyone who’s been to the Middle East should applaud the efforts of governments in UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. Though Arabic nations, no foreigner will ever get lost in their cities. Matter of fact, you don’t need worrying about about getting lost or being misunderstood because somehow everyone over there seems to speak fluent English and friendly too. In Turkey, it’s the complete opposite. They don’t bother; they don’t care; they aren’t even willing. The only place that can offer you easy movement is the airport and even there, many officials have a cantankerous attitude.
So, I have been in Istanbul for a couple of days already and now boarding my flight to London and the only place I think I’ve seen thoroughly is all of this hotel I’ve been in. It’s quite strange that black heroes like Didier Drogba and Demba BA are in the fore of many national adverts here. Yet you know you are in a strange place when you are the only black face over a 20 meter radius at the departure lounge of the airport. Where are my wanderlust Naija brothers? Oh yes, I see them sequestered in one section of the boarding gate whilst being scrutinized as if all of their travel documents are fake. They take snapshots of the passports and visas and ask you to wait while they authentic your existence. Probably waiting to get feedbacks from embassies that issued you a visa. One Ugandan lady tendered her Swedish passport and ID card. They took all, unbelieving, and still sequestered her!
I am leaving Turkey now. I have to. There is a reason why this country is in the backwaters of Europe. I didn’t get the thrill I sought here and am sure I will not willingly visit this place again
City Rating: 6.5/10