Istanbul, Day 2

You can never have a bad day when chocolate pudding is served at breakfast! And, we were greeted by this amazing golden view.


I was looking forward to see the much talked about Grand Bazaar. Honestly, it wasn’t as exciting as the souk in Fes, Marrakech and Cairo. The souk in these cities are more rustic and ancient. It felt more like walking through a souk in Dubai.


Love the ceilings of the bazaar though.


Turkish lamps, which I wish I could bring home!


The heart of every souk is its sellers, which I was more than delighted to capture, although I wish I was a little bit quicker to capture their actions.


From “chai” sellers to kebab and pide, they were all smiles. (Except for one selling salami in the spice bazaar who was kinda hostile. Haha)

Here is Okan, our boss, a patient driver and awesome travel buddy for the 12 days in Turkey!


Spice Bazaar was more alive. And when I say alive, I mean it’s really bustling with humans! That’s where the locals go too. While being pushed amidst the crowd, Okan asked giggling, “So, do you feel lucky to be staying in Singapore now?”¬† Hahaha..tough question, my friend.


Love the vibes here more than the Grand Bazaar! The smiles on everyone’s faces, the buying and selling, the colours, scent and smell of spices and coffee beans. My kind of souk!

Olives – for breakfast, lunch and dinner for me!


Just look at those cheery faces!


I bought pomegranate-honey based Turkish sweets from the famous Hazer Baba (not these).


Poor Okan had to carry a few kilos of sweets for us. We would squabble over the bag and he would grab any opportunity to carry it for me the moment I put it on the floor!


Other than the Spice Bazaar, my favourite visit was to Suleymaniye Mosque. The courtyard of the mosque reminds me of pictures my ex boss shared with me of the mosques in Syria ūüė¶ Please visit this mosque and its beautiful backyard.





After lunch, we did our Zohor at Yeni Camii Mosque, which was also under restoration. We decided to give the locals space to pray, so we just did our Jama’ and left quickly.



Ladies’ area are inside (above) and just outside of that room (below).


The plan was to take the Bosphorus cruise but sadly, we didn’t have the rizq as it was a foggy day. The operators rather not depart as there’s hardly any view. So everyone agreed not to even take the privately run ones.

We opt for a relaxing time over Turkish coffee instead. It’s nicer than I thought! It’s almost dark chocolate like. Yummmms.


Tips: If you are not a Turkish coffee drinker (like my mum), I suggest bringing a tumbler with you and prepare your own coffee at breakfast. Some restaurants don’t serve nescafe, only Turkish coffee.

A walk back to our area would be too uphill, so we were excited to take the tram! 

We stopped by Arasta Bazaar, a quieter shopping area where mainly local artists would sell their work. Sorry, no photos taken here! I fell in love with mini spice grinder and bought them as souvenirs. Heavier than I thought! Okan jokingly asked if I was going to sell them.

We said goodbye to our local city guide who couldn’t join us for dinner, sadly.

After Maghrib, we (except parents) went to explore Istanbul.

This reminds me and brother of the pastry shop, El Abd in Cairo.

It was our last night, so we must explore.  



Istanbul, Day 1

We had a long, 11hr flight on Turkish Airlines (great food!). I’m glad we upgraded to the front row seats with wide legroom, especially for my parents., especially Dad who wasn’t used to flights beyond 2hrs.

When we finally reach Istanbul airport, it was a challenging long walk to the immigration counters, and a long queue in the early morning. We had to walk again to find the prayer room for Fajr prayers and poor mum, had to walk back again for the washroom. Not sure why the prayer room near the luggage collection had no ablution area. And of course, in the washroom, the cleaning lady was warning everyone not to take ablution there. Where else, I wonder.

Okan from Aravan Tours¬†must have waited a while for us. It was great knowing that he had visited Singapore, and truly approved Sofra as THE place to have great Turkish food! Reason why I engaged an agency for this trip was because of my parents. I can’t imagine having them to go up and down public trains and coaches. And I am glad we did.

It was a lovely, chilly day in Istanbul. We went straight to our hotel, Arcadia Blue for breakfast. The buffet spread was delicious! We had every bite of Turkish cuisine. Arcadia Blue is a cosy, modern hotel with an excellent view of Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque from its restaurant. You can walk to the main square, the mosque and Hagia Sophia. Read my review here.


At 10am, we started our walking tour with Okan and a local guide, Maksut who shared so much knowledge. My parents were surprisingly alright to start the tour instead of taking a rest. Alhamdulillah as we had only 2 full days in Istanbul.

I read so much about Hagia Sophia, so it was surreal to finally see it. It was a tough climb, up the many flights of stairs, for mum, to get this view. So after that climb, my brother sat with her. Lots of restoration was still in progress. At one spot of the museum, you could see a slightly slanted pillar.


Blue Mosque is closed for restoration till May 2018, which shattered my heart into pieces!


Alhamdulillah, Muslims are still allowed to pray in congregation.


So, after lunch, we went for our Friday prayers.¬†It was an opportunity, especially us ladies, couldn’t miss for the world. I cried way too much during the prayers.


Even though we couldn’t see the beautiful prayer hall, we were fortunate to still be praying in the courtyard under His blue sky with the sun, giving us comfort and warmth, in the cold weather.


One other place that I really was eager to see, was Topkapi Palace, which houses holy relics such as the hair from Rasulullah’s (s.a.w.) beard and his companions’ swords. As respect, no photos are allowed in that part of Topkapi Palace.

istanbul5A beautiful recitation of the Quran was heard, and I really thought it was recorded, until I saw the man reciting it behind the divider. Such “nur” on his face. Apparently, everyday, there will be a qari at the museum. The soothing, heavenly recitation brought tears to mum and the load of weariness of me.

It’s a huge compound, with a scenic view at its backyard. My legs were hurting from the long day, and I wondered about my parents. We had an early dinner and was ready to call it a day.

Chapati vs Turkey

Trust me, it wasn’t as easy to plan for a family trip than with your friends!

I almost gave up, but at the same time, adamant that it must happen for my parents. Sort of a treat for them after the brother’s wedding. I had suggested the idea to my family since November 2017. It was only finalised in mid January 2018!

I am thankful I decided to engage an agency for a land tour. Something that I rarely do when I travel on my own. I was nervous about the whole trip – my parents’ health, the long flight, my dad’s first flight beyond Indonesia, the agent whom I’ve never met, and so many other issues. Even more nervous than travelling alone!

I prayed a lot the weeks before; for this trip to be a smooth journey for all of us, including the agent who will be with us throughout the trip.

The adventure started even before we flew off:

Thursday, 8 March, 6ish pm

Mum: I dunno what to cook for your packed lunch tomorrow (sighing).
Me: (lost) Huh? Why do I need to go to the office tomorrow?
Mum: You mean you are fasting? Or are you not working tomorrow?
Me: Nooooo. Why would I be working or fasting when we will all be in Turkey tomorrow? (Brother also wondering if mum was kidding).
Mum: Ya, but our flight will be tomorrow.
Me and Bro: Mum!
Me: It’s tonight! My friend is fetching us in 3hrs?
Mum: Huh? What?! I thought you said the night of Friday? I had plans to go out with your dad tomorrow, to eat ‘chapati’ before we leave. I would miss the food!
Me: Mum!!! Yes our flight is Friday past midnight. That means we have to be at airport tonight!

Frantic. Chaos. I was amused and more nervous than ever.

Bro: Where are you dad?
Dad: At coffeshop, drinking ‘teh tarik’.
Bro: Do you know when we are leaving for Turkey?
Dad: Ya, tomorrow night.
Bro: errrr…no dad, tonight. Tonight like in 3hrs’ time.
Dad: What?!! Ok ok I am coming back!

FYI our flight was scheduled on 9 March (Fri) at 12.05am; which means we will have to check in on Thursday night.

Lesson 1: Don’t tell your parents the flight details. Tell them the day and time you are leaving for the airport. Just that.¬†


Last night, I witnessed a mother crying over her son’s demise on her birthday. Today while bidding goodbye, we requested for her to continue her du’a, to forgive his sins, and to be “redha” on his demise.

My grandma…we were worried about her as she was hospitalised a week plus before her birthday. Alhamdulillah she was discharged earlier, so we had an early 86th birthday celebration on 28 Oct at her place.

I looked at grandma for the longest time and wondered if this would be her last celebration or will we blessed to have her till her 90s just like my paternal grandma.

While I was booking a cab, dad called my phone and requested to pass the phone to my uncle. I told him to call mum’s phone instead as I was in the midst of cab booking. He wanted to ask my uncle to join him at his workplace Cairnhill Condominium, moreover uncle has retired. He agreed.

Monday, 30 Oct

He came by my place by bus at 4+pm and then took the bike with dad to the condo. He also shared with mum he’s been having chest pain ever since he changed to another brand of cigarettes.

It was raining when I came back from work. Mum worried that both dad and uncle are stuck in the rain. They eventually came home at 8+ if I recall correctly. He went up to our place. Dad asked him to come in and have a hot drink but he insisted on going home. I heard his voice from where I was seated, having dinner.
Mum asked dad why he didn’t drop my uncle at the bus stop. He explained that there are things to carry.

Tuesday, 31 Oct

I reached home at 6.30pm. Najul told me that dad just called mum, crying, cos my uncle fainted at the condo and uncle was taking short breaths. Ambulance had sent him to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. I was almost confident it’s just a scare, a minor heart attack.

I pitied dad cos he must have felt miserable and helpless. Uncle told dad that he was a bit giddy. Dad told him to just sit down and rest. Dad called one of the Indonesian helpers in the condo to get a warm drink for my uncle. He did drink at the same time saying he’s in pain. He “dozed” off but dad managed to revive him. When dad noticed something was not right, he immediately reached out to my brothers who called the ambulance on my dad’s behalf.

While waiting for the ambulance, dad called mum. He was shakened. Almost sure it was bad….judging from his breathing. Police arrived too…questioning my dad and others.

Another uncle suggested we pray for him while waiting for updates. Mum and I were ready to dash out anytime. But at 7.15pm, we got that unwelcomed call…cardiac arrest. He left us. Just like that. My brother had to repeat a few times to my mother. Uncontrollable tears.

Because it happened outside with no medical records, the jenazah had to be placed in the mortuary. We had less than 2hrs before they bring it to SGH for a post mortem. Police came. Investigation Officer came to question my father. An unavoidable procedure for this situation.

To see my usually smiley grandma crying in her wheelchair, on her birthday, over her son’s demise was really heartbreaking. To see her kissing her son…touching hus face in tears. It’s painful to see.

Many came to the mortuary. Everyone cried. Everyone misses his jokes, never-ending teasing and the only tall figure among his siblings.

Wednesday, 1 Nov

Alhamdulillah all went well and this morning we were informed no autopsy was required. Everything was as planned. Arrived at his place 11.30am. We prayed zohor and solat jenazah at the beautiful Masjid Yusof Ishak. It rained after the solat but stopped when we were at Pusara Aman.

I can’t recall the last time I cried this much.

I regretted not talking to my uncle that Saturday. I regretted not passing the phone to my uncle so I could see his face. I regretted not noticing he was too quiet on Saturday. I regretted not walking to the door to see his face for the last time on Monday.

I regretted that I initially didn’t ask him to join for the Batam trip. And when I was ok with him joining, we couldn’t get the same time ferry tickets so he didn’t want to join us. For all that I am sorry.
I’m still trying to come to terms with it. He began his new life as a husband at my home…held his wedding here 20+ years ago.

Who would have known that his last meal would be at my home. That was the last conversation he had with his only elder sister, my mum at my home. That my dad was probably the last closest family he saw before his final breath. That you would miss your long awaited vacation to Boyan with the big family in March.

If you could just take a minute, please if you could be kind enough say a prayer for my beloved maternal uncle, Allahyarham Sapiee Bin Nik and also for our family (especially my grandma). May Allah bless his soul and place him amongst His beloved ‚̧ “Every soul shall have a taste of death…” (Ali Imran:185)

Your (grand)nieces and nephews miss you.


The Last Minute Trip ‘ 18: Hong Kong

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Fulfilling a last minute request (2 – 3 weeks before) by my dearest friend to go on a girl’s trip was one of the best things I did this year. Destination changed from Taiwan to HK due to the monsoon season and the short 5 days we have. And for the friends who know me well, HK was never on my list as it’s just a city just like Singapore.


Alhamdulillah, the trip really taught me that it is not the destination, but the person you are sharing the journey with. You can be travelling in the most amazing country but if your travel partner is the most difficult person, you just can’t wait to take the next flight out!

So, off we flew on 21 October! Cathay Pacific flight was full but surprisingly a pleasant one.

Day 1, 21 Oct

Similarity #1 – we have a bad sense of direction (ok, she’s better). HAHA!¬†I can’t recall how many times we circled the same area, when Wanchai88 hotel¬†was just there right in front of us. (Read my review here)


Friends warned me that hotels are small in HK, but alhamdulillah the room we had was smartly designed. When two people can pray at one time and there are space for luggages, that is spacious enough!

Food fuel #1: Islamic Centre Canteen @ Osman Ramju Sadick Islamic Centre, Wan Chai

I left it to the travel partner to chose all the dim sum. Not disappointing at all. It was comforting to wash all the dim sum down with a hot cup of water cress honey. Must try!


Our bus ride adventure started when we were looking for our IG-worthy location we saw, “Sai Wan Swimming Shed” (Mount Davis). We gave up after we went uphill and downhill.¬†Similarity #2: we won’t risk our safety for IG/FB shots!¬†

This is just what we got. Not even close.


Heading to Ladies Market was more of ticking it off our checklist. We couldn’t think of any other places to get souvenirs. I think we were there for less than an hour ūüôā Similarity #3¬†– we are not shoppers, but foodies!

Food fuel #2: Ebenezeer Kebab 

I love the spicy sauce on my platter of meat and fries!


Symphony of Light – what light show?! Hahaha. Do not waste your time waiting for this “show”. Perhaps it happens only for special events. We did had a good girl’s talk over a cup of coffee in a cold weather. Great wind down. Reminds me of my frequent me-times during younger days at Fullerton and Raffles Place.¬†Similarity #4 – coffee is our perk-me-up!¬†


Day 2, 22 Oct


Heard much about the Central and Police Married Headquarters (PMQ). We went up (and down) the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, Central-Mid Levels escalator.


Different vibes indeed. Even met a very nice lady at Jamia Mosque along the way. Love the many beautiful surprise spots ūüôā


We saw a couple of Middle Eastern restaurants but were unfortunately non-halal.


Love the artwork! 


Jamia Mosque

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PMQ features their local designers from apparels to bags to shoes! So expect not to pay a low price. You are paying for their creative work, guys!

Ma’s Restaurant:¬†Shop A, 21-25 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Kowloon

This became our favourite place despite the crowd. The food is more expensive but it is so worth it (yes, including the quite long bus ride to and from hotel due to traffic)! Save the best photo for later.

We had a long day, clocked in greater miles of walks equivalent to a few weeks of walk at Botanic Gardens hahah! “Zoning out” over a cup of mint tea and coffee, and just people watch was definitely our kind of thing.


Day 3, 23 Oct

We were up early for Disneyland! One place that I can’t imagine myself to be in but well, I enjoyed myself surprisingly. The timid me even took the scary rides! If there is a long queue, get the fast pass for Iron Man Experience and Hyperspace Mountain.

You will spend at least a day at Disneyland. So bring your prayer garb and mat to pray at their prayer room which is located next to Explorer’s Club (halal).


We went Indian for dinner at Aladdin’s Mess. It was a filling delicious meal of briyani and naan. The masala tea could do with more milk and spice. I love a spicier chai.


Day 4, 24 Oct

The Peak – it can get really crowded. We were there very early before 10am I think, before the mall is open.HK Photos4

Yick Fat Building – Had a tough time finding this place. Maybe it’s just us! Anyway, this place has been featured in a number of movies, including Transformers.




Famished, we took a bus down to Islam Food at No. 33-35 Tak Ku Ling Rd, Kowloon City, Kowloon. They have another outlet nearby but smaller.

islamfoodWe prefer the dim sum and spicier noodle from Ma’s Restaurant. The spicy noodle here reminds of Maggi Curry.

Ma’s Restaurant¬†– to end off our last night, we had dinner here again. We were dressed down – no sneakers, just sandals; and took the camera load off me! Never felt so good.

mas1Day 5, 25 Oct

The only itinerary for the day was to have our final dim sum at Islamic Centre Canteen, just a few bus stops away.

Will I come back to HK? Yes, with good food and great travel partner! If it’s not for you babe, I think I will probably never have travelled to HK. I am glad we made it happen.




I remember joking around with my grandma  days before her passing, years back. That is also exactly the last memory I have with her younger sister this year. 

My grandaunt left us this morning at 8.15. The one whose face, giggles and her conversations with us in the Bawean dialect reminded me so much of my beloved grandma. 

May Nenek Duria (my nenek toa payoh/nenek lontong) be placed amongst His beloved. May my only paternal grandaunt in Bawean be granted good health always. May Allah take us when He is most pleased with us.

Matters of the Heart


Day 2 in the beautiful month of Ramadan. I pray that everyone is in good health and had a great start to this amazing month of ibadah insyaAllah.

Honestly, the last¬†couple of weeks were challenging. The heart was sort of…in turmoil, caused by no one else but myself.

You know one (or many) of those moments when you are angry, ok another time, impatient, oversensitive, ok again and suddenly depressed and disappointed? Needless to say, I hated myself those few days (although I must admit, I do blame it on PMS sometimes. Hahaha)

BUT, I’m truly grateful¬†it all happened. That episode made me understand why Islam emphasises on choosing your companions wisely.



“The people around you are your worksheets. You just need to do some corrections.” Uh huh….that was exactly what my friend, D, said, to describe the people around me. Must be her teaching background. Hahaha!

D went on, “Remember what you said to me just last Friday? You said, ‘I wish I am as patient and forgiving as you are.’ There you go!”

In less than 24hrs after I made that “wish”, Allah presented me with a worksheet to test how patient and forgiving I am. Of course, I was terribly disappointed with my performance. What do I expect? To learn something without a test?

“For all you know, YOU are the answer to their prayers. To be more independent like you, perhaps?” I see it now, D. Recently, an ustazah shared that you might be praying for yourself to be more giving so Allah make you meet more people who are in need of your assistance.

“Keep doing the corrections. You’ll get the hang of it.” InsyaAllah.

I revealed that I’ve been saying the zikir “Ya Jalil” and “Ya Lateef” religiously, intending them for particular people in my life. I realise I actually need these 2 beautiful names for my own heart, probably even more than those people I intended it for.


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THE 3 Ts

Meeting this other dear friend of mine, S, will always involve emotional conversations about life, loved ones and death. And most of the time, having her to see me crying in public.

1st T: Tests 
Her (S) sharing always reminded me that no one is spared of tests. Even things which we see as positive such as wealth is a test in itself too. Even for the most jovial, ever smiley person.

“Babe, don’t be too hard on yourself. We are not perfect. You regretting and realising it now, shows that you are learning something out of it. The knowledge you gained doesn’t go to waste. You just forget.”¬†

We must believe that these tests are tailored for us so we can sail through them with His divine help and support from friends and family. If we can’t get that support from others, the Ya Wakil, is sufficient for us.

2nd T: Tawakkal
For all the effort we’ve put in, heart and soul, we will be given the credits we deserve. Never give up on asking and keep on praying. You’ve done all you could, so now leave it all in His hands. Have faith in Him.

3rd T: Time
S might have passed a similar test, in a much shorter time frame than I have. But like she said, her tests after that are even more challenging. To be able to handle her tests with much patience and positivity, is truly admirable.

Everything happens in His time, not ours. You would achieve the triumph, sooner or later, but never, never. Amin insyaAllah!


Allah places all sorts of people in our lives. Some hang around for a while, usually leaving a mark or a learning trail longer than their stay. Some stick around longer to remind you of what you can be and to guide you spiritually and emotionally.

Alhamdulillah for the tests, the triumphs, the wonderful people in my life, who struggle as much or even more than I do. For always consoling me and telling me it’s ok to struggle, that I am doing fine, and reminding me of Allah and His many blessings.


I pray that you and I are always surrounded by beautiful companions who will catch you when you fall, to console you with words of encouragement when you think you’ve failed terribly and lest you forget, will bring you back to Him.

InsyaAllah my score at the next worksheet will be better. I’ll struggle but I’ll try. Ramadan Kareem everyone. Take care of your hearts and souls.

Meant to be

This appeared on my FB memories, posted by Yasmin Mogahed: 

“When Allah (swt) decrees that a door in your life is to be opened, no matter how hard you try to close it, no matter how far you run away from it, it will remain open until you walk through it.

When Allah (swt) decrees that a door is to be closed, no matter how many times you knock on that door, try to break it down, or cry on your knees in front of it, begging it to open again, it will never be opened.

Grieve in front of the closed door if you must. Stand there for a time and look at it. Memorize its shapes, its lines, and its indentations. Hold your hands over your heart and press down to calm its quickened, pained rhythm. Then know‚ÄĒknow beyond the shadow of a doubt, know in your heart of hearts‚ÄĒthat when you trust Allah and walk forward, He will open a more beautiful door for you. You will walk through it and perhaps you will even praise Him for having closed the past door you loved so much.

He is al-Fattah, the Opener. May the doors He opens for us always lead us back to Him.” By Asmaa Hussein

Pearl of the Orient – III

Woke up feeling all energised from the night’s laughters. After a hearty breakfast, I set out to continue exploring the street in Penang.






I alighted few stops away so I would walk a longer way to just burn my breakfast to fulfil my other food desire – Roti Bakar (toast) with half boiled eggs at the famous Roti Bakar Hutton Lane.


Buttery toast that melts in your mouth and perfectly half boiled eggs. Yummmmm



Pieces of art on the walls.



My friend recommended the Camera Museum. There was no one else so I had a personal tour. Impressive collection!


I took the bus to the beach too but didn’t alight as it was raining heavily. So no photos! But because of the HOHOwe beach route, I met 2 friends from UK and US. I spent most of the time with the British man who has been staying in various countries like Bahrain, Iran and currently, in Chiangmai.

He was looking around for a place to stay When he asked for my age, he said “Well, I’m glad I am older than you are. You have a tougher life than I did at your age. People stopped communicating. They only look down on their phones.”

Hunger kicks in again for late lunch. I was disappointed that Sup Kambing Hameed Restaurant was closed throughout my stay. I was tired of eating rice so I knew I had to have this Butter Naan with tandoori chicken served with mint sauce. This was at Hutton Lane too.


I think like most travellers, I walked the whole of Georgetown. The next trip, I hope that I will be able to taste the Sup Kambing and explore the city at night. I heard the night market serves great food too! And I will definitely hop on their public buses instead.

The solo trip was surprisingly therapeutic. I had the me time I’ve been yearning for. Walking through Georgetown reminds me of my younger days walking from Arab Street to Mustafa Centre, discovering good food. ¬†Though I must admit, eating is best with company.

Most importantly, thanks to a soulmate’s reminder, zikir kept me occupied and safe in His remembrance. A 10-minute walk from St Giles to HOHO bus stop is a few hundred selawat. I reflected on the countless times of just doing and thinking nothing back at home when I can gain more credits from zikir. May I make that a habit!