Well we did go there on the 22nd of October, our anniversary, and had a fairly majestic experience straight out of an Ottoman sultan’s court.
The place was packed, largely with tour groups from across the world. In fact, we saw quite a few Indians for the first time in our holiday at Turkey. Thomas Cook, SOTC, Kuoni, all the usual suspects were there.
While most were sitting on common tables our travel agent had got Kainaz and me a cosy table for two where he had quite a romantic candle light dinner.
The belly dancers were quite awesome. Their moves defied the laws of gravity, biology and physics. They were quite artistic and heady. They were anything but raunchy. In fact rhythmic and exotic are words I would use. And I must say that I am not writing this to be politically correct or because, more importantly, Kainaz would be reading this. They were genuinely graceful and I really felt like I was sitting in an Ottoman court and enjoying it. Just to highlight the point it would be a polar opposite, pun intended, to pole dances or Bollywood item numbers. Quite poetic. All right, all right most of the dancers were quite pleasing on the eye too 🙂 The ‘highest paid’ belly dancer of Turkey (in the picture below) did live up to her star billing.
It was amusing to see some of our fellow Indians watch the dancers with their mouth open. Their wives steadfastly looked down at their plates. Quite different from Bharat Natyam and Kathakali.
The belly dances were interspersed with Turkish folk shows like Caucasian dances, gypsy sword throwers and so on. They were nice though I am sure the audience’s heart wasn’t in this.
The second half of the show saw one of the most talented performers that we had ever seen. I think Arvind had told us about him. This person was a linguist, singer, dancer, comedian rolled in one…a vaudeville artist who would probably give the best in Broadway or West End a run for their money. He would ask people which country they had come from and speak to them and sing in their native language. Indian (awara hoon), Mexican, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, American, British, Brazilian, Persian, Russian …nothing stumped him. He would respond instantly. He had a good voice too and really got the audience involved.
I am being very honest here when I say that he left a greater impression on us than the belly dancers!
The food? We had quite a nice fare. A bottle of red wine which Kainaz tried out too though she is not much of a wine drinker. A prawn cocktail like fish dish topped with caviar, mint flavoured paneer samosas (!), roast lamb with mashed potato, lovely breads and fruit salad.
A most memorable anniversary dinner.
Some of the other anniversary dinners over the years which I remember include the basement English Pub at Glennaries Darjeeling (we later got locked out of our hotel as were late and froze outside), Sunderban Tiger Camp, Sadri’s Malaysian fish at Langkawi (and our sad faces when we saw the price) and the continental place at Pattaya where we had some lovely risotto and pasta.
– There are other shows in Istanbul. One is called Sultana, 1001 nights. I’d strongly recommend Keravan Serai as it is quite well rounded
– The listed cost is 70 euros per head if you land up by yourself. Our travel agent got it at 40 euros per head. This includes a drop from the hotel, food and alcohol
– Menu is fixed though differs from group to group. I saw that those in the Indian tour groups had salads, mezze, shaslik. They also have vegetarian options
– Alcohol is sufficient, though not unlimited. My definition of sufficient is two glasses per person
Duration: You are picked at 8PM and dropped back at 11PM. Show is for around 2 hrs
– This is close to Taksim