In Istanbul, the Süleymaniye Mosque, located in the old district is a place of worship as well a testament to great passions that rule ordinary men and emperors alike.
With an angry sun spitting fire over the sprawling Süleymaniye mosque complex in Istanbul, I looked around for a place to rest. However, a kitten mewed in the distance, and I followed its cries.
I came upon a board with text:
…Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love…
This was Roxelana’s tomb. She was the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent. Roxelana had come to the Sultan’s harem as a fifteen-year-old and he would write her many poems, like the one above, often under his pen name.
The kitten mewed again. I turned around and came face to face with a tiny being, no more than a week old. As I bent down to stroke her, a security guard from the complex hurried towards me.
With one hand in a glove, he caressed her rear. Noticing my surprised expression, he said, “Mothers would usually stimulate their kittens to make them…If they are orphaned, we need to massage them this way or they won’t –”
“Poop,” I finished for him.
We both laughed.
I asked him for water, and he pointed me to a carved marble basin with a tap. As I splashed some water on my face, a fountain shyly peered at me, raising its head above the pink rose blossoms.
A cool wind started circling the tombs, and I felt rested. I headed to the enclosure that housed the tomb of Suleiman. As I peered inside, a man in a skullcap took out his mobile and read out a prayer. Suddenly, his voice broke, and tears started streaming down his face.
Startled I stared at him, and he motioned me to pray with him.
I closed my eyes. I thought of him, and of Suleiman the Magnificent and of the different passions that move different men. My thoughts drifted to Roxelana, and words formed themselves into a wish – may we all have an abundance of love and passion in our lives.
After that, I gently moved past him and circled the enclosure.
As I finished doing so, my husband found me.
“Where were you? I thought you ran away!” he laughed.
I put my hands around him and said, “Never.”
We walked to mosque’s rear entrance. A man dressed in a red outfit, with a cap and a gold embroidered waistcoat beckoned to us.
“The sun is so hot. Have some sherbet.”
He was holding glasses in a sash around his waist, and deftly bent forward and filled one from a nozzle curved over his shoulder.
“Here is a cooling rose-hip sherbet from my ibrik,” he smiled.
I took quick, thirsty sips. We bought another glass.
To Roxelana and Suleiman, I said, raising my glass.
(In March, a decade ago, my husband and I met each other for the first time. We quickly got engaged, and on our engagement day, my husband-to-be gifted me a copy of In the Bazaar of Love – The Selected Poetry of Amir Khusrau. Three months later, in June, we were married. This post is dedicated to poetry, passion and love – how people across the world fall in love, jump into the unknown/s, and sometimes survive, and sometimes not. But it is a journey worth undertaking. Here’s to finding and falling in love.)