Turkish Airlines is absolutely the best! (At least in my experiences so far.) If anyone is travelling to the middle east, I recommend this airline highly.
Right now, I am in Istanbul. The traffic is crazy, the drivers are aggressive and the city is amazing. I am living in a part of the city that seems very old. Some of the streets are cobbled, and even when paved, there is no such thing as a crosswalk, and you wait until the street is relatively clear before you cross. The neighborhood is reminiscent of SOMA in San Francisco, but far more friendly. There are many, many small shops, packed together like sandwiches. On one block you will find a shop for children’s clothes, adult clothes, a Turkish bath (which I might try) a supermarket, a Domino’s Pizza (I kid you not) an electronics shop, and a hardware shop. I hesitate to say “store” because that brings to mind large spaces. These are small, and seemingly family owned, shops and cafes. Many of the cafes have outdoor seating, very similar to the outdoor cafes in the SF financial district. But, these cafes are bustling and friendly. And, in the evening, they light up with festivity: singing with roving musicians, clapping and a general celebratory mood.
One thing I’ve noticed: I have never seen so many men. For every woman I see, there are 15 men. I don’t know if it’s because they are out and about conducting business, or hanging out with friends, etc. But I have never seen so few women and so many men. The men (and women) are very respectful (usually referring to me as “Madame” or “Lady”) and helpful. Although I must admit I should have studied a bit of Turkish. Many people understand some English, and will sincerely try to communicate with you.
I don’t generally like large cities, but right now, I am liking Istanbul very, very much.