Karakoy, once home to itinerant sailors, has been attracting a lot of attention in recent years. The section east of Galata Bridge already boasts an eclectic collection of cafes, bars and galleries. However I prefer the largely as yet undiscovered area to the west of the bridge. In the wonderful rabbit warren of backstreets bounded by the majesty of Bankalar Caddesi, the street of banks, and Tersane Caddesi, shipyard street, an older Istanbul remains amongst the chaos of the iron mongers and hardware sellers.
Between these two streets, tucked away behind ramshackle shops sits the Arab Mosque, so called because it was taken over by a colony of Moors expelled from Spain in the 16th century. The building was believed to have originally been built in 1323-1337 by the Dominicans and dedicated to St Dominic. Built on site of chapel dedicated to St Paul it has an imposing tall square tower with pyramid roof. If you have the opportunity, go on Friday after midday prayers. The courtyard comes alive with worshippers and afterwards you can explore the simple rectangular interior in silence.
A few streets along you come to an area jam packed with little shops selling building essentials such as electronics, ironware and cabling. Despite the products it is far from boring. Look out for Perşembe Pazar Sokağı. The name most likely refers to a street market that would have been held here every Thursday. These days it is worth the visit to see the old stone houses dating back to the 18th century. Grotty and grimy and rather worse for wear they are still in use. Take the time to stand on a corner and soak up the industry, but make sure you keep out of the way of the trucks, porters and delivery boys!
When you’ve had enough grab a bite to eat at one of the many hole in the wall eateries.
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