Members continue to enjoy a wonderful series of Probus talks, organised by our Speaker-Finder, Peter
The talks are so important for the Club- they are the centrepiece of our activities, enabling us every two weeks to come together, to meet regular friends and new members – and lots of the discussion is around the latest talk topic.
Our latest talk was about Istanbul, and as usual we learnt a lot about the subject – located half in Europe and half in Asia. Often it’s the little anecdotes that stay in the memory, and the links they make to contemporary life in the UK.
I’ve never been to Istanbul, though many members had, and already knew quite a lot about this beautiful historic city.
• I didn’t know, for instance, that Istanbul (meaning ‘City of Islam’), was only named such in the 15th century, with the Ottoman Empire. Founded in 500BC as Byzantium, it had already been renamed Constantinople when that Roman Emperor became a Christian and made it the capital of his Empire.
• I did know that it’s a city of many mosques, but hadn’t appreciated that, among the wealthy individuals who would pay for mosques to be built, there was competition to build a number of associated minarets (for the call to prayer) to be built.
Apparently the more minarets ‘your’ mosque had, the more respect you gained, with the only limitation being that the mosque in Mecca had to have the most (there were six minarets there). In the case of one of the mosques built in Istanbul, a language problem occurred during its construction, and six minarets were duly built, instead of two! After some consideration, a solution to the dilemma was found – for the rich individual to pay for an additional minaret to be built at the mosque in Mecca!
For me there were a couple of tenuous links to the current day.
• Brexit seems to have put the UK into an Istanbul-like situation. We’re going to be more formally not quite European, and yet not Atlantic /USA focused either. Maybe Boris’s recently proposed bridge across the Channel was a historical reference to that beautiful (UK designed) suspension bridge across the Bosphorus that linked Europe and Asia?
• President Trump’s recent interchange with the leader of North Korea, when he referred to ‘his nuclear button being bigger than Kim Jong Il’s’, doesn’t seem as good an approach to politics as constructing another minaret! (though the towers do look a bit like rockets….)
Makes you think, doesn’t it – our Probus talks always do!