IstanbulTourist Info

Fun & Interesting Facts About Istanbul

Join in the fun with some interesting facts about Istanbul that most tourists might not know. From marble medusa-heads to the power of minarets and offal ingredients, there’s a joy to be had by learning all these wonderful things before you visit.

Did you know that Turks honk like mad when there’s a wedding or a football match? Have you ever wonder what the five pillars of Islam or what that smell is in the Blue Mosque?

If so, just keep on reading until you know all the fun facts about Istanbul before you visit.

Medusa Heads

Many have heard about the 336 marble pillars of the Basilica Cistern, and its and its function as an underground water reservoir capable of storing 80,000 cubic meters of water. But only those who came to the see the cistern in person know the existence of two ominous items that relate to its wet environment.

Inside are two Medusa heads carved in solid marble. One is upside down, the other on its side. These medusa heads came from another place and weren’t planned as an original part of the construction.

You might even recognize now when re-watching movies like Dan Brown’s Inferno, Skyfall, and the Water Diviner.

Animal HQ

When combined, the population of street cats and street dogs in Istanbul bubbles to an astounding 255,000 thousand. You’ll see them on market squares and other places where restaurants operate.

Animal rescue in Istanbul condones the act of euthanasia to control the population, so in some places you the animal population has ballooned. The authorities also have ingenious solutions to cater to these like putting public animal water stations and food stations near restaurants or tourist locations.

Though ownerless, most cats and dogs are in pristine form with shiny coats and a healthy demeanor. With the numerous restaurants around, there are always leftovers for them to eat and the locals take very good care of them too.

Six-pack Power

While the Blue Mosque has some competition in the most popular mosques in Istanbul, it is undoubtedly, the only mosque that has six minarets.

If you have a few years to explore all 3,000 of Istanbul’s mosques you’ll see that none other than the Blue Mosque have more than four minarets. Some in fact, only have just one or two.

The minarets aren’t just ornamental prayer towers, they hold great religious significance. That’s why how many minarets exist can be an issue for the pious. And for this reason, the Blue Mosque stands above all with its six minarets that tower over Istanbul.

Why does it have six minarets? The most famous story is that an architect misunderstood the orders for building it. The architect supposedly heard the word (alti) meaning six, rather than (altin) meaning gold, and built six minarets rather than gold minarets.

Honking Out Loud

It’s useless to complain about the clarion honking of cars in Istanbul. People accustomed to living within the city have practiced the art of expressive honking. This means that sometimes, pressing that horn button of a car is more than just for scolding other drivers.

Take weddings for example. During wedding days, the bridal vehicle honks so much to signal that a wedding will be happening. This is discernible from normal since the honking is clamorous and continuous. You’ll also notice a familiar sound when the big three football teams Besiktas, Fenerbahce, and Galatasaray win their matches.

Progressive Buls

The majority of those living in Istanbul follow Islamic teachings. And since it’s Islam, you might expect the people to be very conservative about their behavior and dress codes. But this isn’t the case.

Though the Muslim heritage is strong, locals can wear what they want. It’s common to see them wearing western clothing and buy the latest fashions in the malls of Istanbul. Furthermore, they’re always ready to mingle with tourists of different races.

For example, you’ll rarely see local women wearing a hijab in Istanbul, and tourists often wear much more revealing clothes than in other parts of the Middle east.

However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain forms of social etiquette that still need to be followed, as there’s are still may do’s and don’ts within the Turkish culture.

Mosque’ito Hours

If you’re wondering what that buzzing noise that appears throughout the day, it’s mostly the time when the mosques announce it’s time to pray.

There are 2,944 active mosques In Istanbul, so no matter where you’re staying you’re likely to hear Allahu Akbar (God is Greater!) coming across the loudspeakers throughout the day.

Prayer, called Salah, is one of the five pillars of Islam, which has five ritual calls per day.

  1. Salat Al Fajr: Dawn to sunrise
  2. Salat Al Zuhr: After true noon until Asr.
  3. Salat Al Asr: Afternoon.
  4. Salat Al Maghrib: After sunset until dusk.
  5. Salat Al Isha’a: Dusk until dawn.

Offal Ingredients

Some Turkish cuisines view food waste as a sacrilege, and for this reason, there’s a dynamic range of unique delicacies.

In Istanbul, you’ll find many restaurants that have sirdanci on the menu. The dish is made from a sheep’s stomach that’s stuffed with rice and other spices then boiled for 8 hours in cumin soup. The cumin helps to neutralize and cleanse the sheep’s stomach, while the other spices provide a deep flavor that adds in a nutty taste.

Another local favorite is kelle tandir, which is a seasoned dish with strikingly tender meat made from roasted sheep’s head. When it comes to offal cooking, Turkish cooks also know how to prepare them in a way that fools your mouth. At times, if you simply don’t know what’s in it, you’ll enjoy it that much more.

Tourist Feet

During the tourism high-peak in the summer, you might notice that that the Blue Mosque smells a little bit like feet.

The scent, however, is not from the locals, but rather it comes from the numerous tourists who must remove their shoes before going inside.

Most visitors simply do not understand they’ll need to take off their shoes when visiting a mosque in Istanbul. After a long day of touring, their feet are not as fresh as they once were.

Even though visitors wear foot coverings and the mosque is meticulously cleaned several times a day, the odor sometimes persists when the tourists rampage through the turnstiles all day long.