Day-Trip in Istanbul by Turkish Airlines

(As told by Shahidah staff, Ahmad Zaki Abu)

Last June, enroute to Madinah, Saudi Arabia, I had the opportunity to experience a day tour of Istanbul. This complimentary tour is available for Turkish Airlines passengers in transit in Istanbul. There are 3 timing options every day: 9am to 3pm, 9am to 6pm and 12 to 6pm, depending on your arrival time in Istanbul.

On 3rd of June, I had the chance to go on the 9am to 6pm tour and had a fascinating peek into the classic cultural Turkey which I’ve previously only seen in travel magazines.

Upon arrival in Ataturk International Airport and going through immigration (passport control, not the one for transit passengers), I headed to the Turkish Airline Hotel Desk  (after arrival hall exit, make a right turn, all the way to the end of the hall, The Turkish Airline hotel desk is located right next to Starbucks).

Basically, the Turkish Airlines staff will hold on to the boarding pass to your final destination (in my case, Istanbul to Madinah) and return it just before the roll call when the tour is about to commence a few minutes before 9am.

Before we started the tour, we were treated to a Turkish style breakfast at a restaurant. An introduction to Istanbul that begins from the stomach is always a good idea! 🙂

After breakfast, we dived in straight into the historical heart of Istanbul. Our first stop was Hippodrome, where they used to hold chariot races in the old days. We were then brought to the majestic Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) and spend about half an hour admiring its architecture while our English-speaking tour guide, Ihmet, shared about its rich history.

Unfortunately we did not get to visit the famous Hagia Sophia. As we passed by this historical structure that had witnessed a transformation from a church, to a mosque and finally into a museum, the guide shared the stories of Hagia Sofia which made me even more determined to return to Istanbul next time and visit this enchanting building again.

A short walk up ahead and we were greeted by Topkapi Palace, a must-visit museum in Istanbul that houses precious relics in Turkish history. We felt very privileged as our group got an express entry into the museum, much to the envy of the snaking queue at the entrance. After a brief orientation by the tour guide, we were given time to explore the museum at our own leisure.

At about 1pm, we were brought to Tamara Resturant for a Turkish lunch feast of lentil soup, bread and chicken/mutton kebab, before we resumed our visit to Basilica Cistern, which is a short walk from the restaurant.

The visit to Istanbul Museum of the History of Science & Technology was our final stop, where we strolled past Gulhane Park. We also passed by a bazaar which tempted us with colourful Turkish souveniers and trinklets. As time was on our side, we were given about 20 minutes to explore the bazaar before our bus arrived to bring us back to the airport.

Time definitely whiz by too quickly when you’re having fun and after this peek into Istanbul, I felt even more intrigued by what else Istanbul has got to offer.

Back at the aiport, while preparing for my next flight to my destination, I found myself already planning my next holiday with my family to Istanbul.

Thank you to Turkish Airlines for this short but wonderful experience. I will defintely come back for more!


Keindahan Cinta Dalam Doa

Dalam rangkaian doa ada kekuatan cinta
dalam teguhnya cinta ada iringan doa
aku datang pada-Mu
dibaluti kepasrahan
Engkau jua yang mengetahui
keinginan terdalam di sukmaku
dalam sujud panjangku
kuatur talian doa-doaku
dalam rintihan jiwa sayu
ingin kusampaikan pada-Mu Pengkabul doa

Karya Faridah Taib
Mataf, Masjidil Haram
7.00 malam
:: Antologi Puisi ‘Perjalanan Suci’ ::

Antalogi Puisi Perjalanan Suci

Written by Mohd Khair Mohd Yasin & Faridah Taib

Conquering Mount Kinabalu

In the first installment of the ‘Star Nomads’ series, we are proud to feature our dear friend, Manesa Abdul Karim, a vivacious solo female traveller, who has just returned from a thrilling adventure trip.

As we sat over coffee, Manesa who was still brimming from the adrenaline rush of her trip shared with us her personal account of conquering Mount Kinabalu.

“I am not a fitness junkie, so when I finally decided to go trekking on Mount Kinabalu, my friends were shocked. But the look of disbelief on their faces was partly why I was determined to prove that I can do this once I’ve set my heart on it.

I maintain an active daily lifestyle and I enjoy jogging every afternoon, but that did not prepare me enough for what I was going to put myself through.

Sumini from Shahidah Travels was very efficient in helping me put together this trip. She has been helping me plan my solo adventures for many years now so she knows my preferences, my budget and the necessary arrangements needed for a female travelling on her own. Travelling on your own is intimidating enough so I must make sure that all transportation arrangements, accomodation and daily meals are well taken care of.

I knew I could count on Sumini to help me with the planning because I was very busy with work. We started confirming all travel arrangements and in less than 3 weeks, I was off to Sabah. Easy breezy! I guess it hasn’t sunken in that I was about to attempt a mountain.

After breakfast on the sunny Monday morning of March 16, I finally met my private mountain guide, Kasree Guahil. It wasn’t until I met him that I started to get nervous.

I thought to myself, ”Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m really doing this!”

Kasree briefed me on what to expect for the journey and I was glad I had requested for a private guide so that I can enjoy this trek at my own pace. According to Kasree, the trek up to Mount Kinabalu can take 5 to 6 hours for a person of high fitness level and could take up to 8 hours at a slower pace.

We then went on the pre-arranged transfer to the starting point, the Timpohon Gate, which was at the base of Mount Kinabalu, and was reminded once again to wear our ID Tag at all times as it also acts as our insurance card.

And off we went! I inhaled deeply (more of a self-assurance than a respiratory obligation) and carved my way along the trail. Soon the concrete steps began to fade under the dirt, and I was trotting on stones and roots that have long firmed their grasp of the earth.

In the first leg of the climb, I took almost 8 hours to make my way to my resting place for the night, called Laban Rata (3,272m above sea level), which marked the mid-point of my journey up Mount Kinabalu.

As I succumbed to my weariness in the bunk bed of the dormitory, I remember reflecting on the arduous climb earlier in the day. Part of me felt a sense of satisfaction as I had already succeeded in battling half of the challenge. If that 6km uphill climb was a challenge, I cannot imagine the war against my physical limits during the final leg of tomorrow’s climb. Allah please grant me strength, mentally and physically.

Our wake-up call at 2 a.m signalled the start to another long day. We had early supper and after freshening up, we started on the journey to the Low’s Peak, 4,095m above sea level, spanning over 2 km. The early morning cold (approximately 4-8 degrees celcius) stung my skin and I realised that breathing was starting to be quite an effort. The change of air density also served as a reminder of the challenges that lurked.

Never before in my life have I ever felt this electrified. The granite face of Mount Kinabalu becomes almost vertical and pulling myself up using the ropes exhausted me further.

For the first time, I felt muscles in my body I never knew existed. Kasree, the guide, was very attentive and concerned about my well-being and checked with me several times to ask if I was alright.

This is not a race. I do not have to feel obliged to finish this. I can give up now. My kness are screaming and begging me to stop. It is not too late yet. Or is it?

As I reflected back on that moment, I realise that it was more of an emotional battle. In mountain trekking, mental strength was just as important as physical strength. After all my efforts to climb this far, there is no way I can give up now.

My lungs started to burn as I gasped for air with every step I took. As I shivered in the cold, I was really starting to doubt myself at this stage but Kasree urged me on.

Two excruciating hours later, after stumbling over jagged rocks and arriving at the top in darkness, Kasree assured me that I have made it.

In a few minutes, the sunrise greeted us with a congratulatory nod and the satisfaction of completing this hike felt like an enormous cuddly hug from Mother Nature. Happiness would be an understatement in describing the feeling of being able to complete this hike (not to mention the bragging rights I’ve bagged).

Mount Kinabalu

View from the Borneo’s summit

Mount Kinabalu

Manesa at the summit of Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu

Such a small space we occupy on this vast world

Even though I could no longer find the strength to drag myself up to Low’s Peak, which was just a few metres away, Kasree assured me that I have sussessfully arrived at the summit and will be awarded the certificate of achievement.

While I stood and observed the picture perfect mountainous wilderness of Borneo from the summit, I realised what a tiny spot I was occupying in this world yet how big a role I can play to do my part in conserving it. I felt so thankful to the Almighty for this opportunity to witness His majestic creations and for making it here alive.

And then it hit me; I still have to make the journey down, don’t I?

I allowed myself a few more minutes to bask in what could be, a once in a lifetime experience, before letting the dread of climbing down the mountain sink in.

At 8 a.m, we started our descent back to the Laban Rate rest house. I really took my time on the way down Mount Kinabalu as my goal to watch the sunrise from the summit has already been fulfilled. But what really slowed me down was the merciless steep steps that made every step down painful, ruthlessly punishing my knees.

We arrived at the final stop (Timpohon Gate) just as dusk blanketed the Sabahan sky. It may seem a little embarassing to admit that I took almost 10 hours to make it down but hey, at least I made it down alive and kicking.

The sight of the awaiting van was the next best thing I’ve seen after the magnificent view from Borneo’s summit.”

Listening intently to her adventure, Manesa also shared about how she went parasailing the very next day. Wow, there really is no stopping this girl!

Manesa hopes to inspire other travellers to challenge themselves and explore the world in order to appreciate it better.

Thank you Manesa for sharing your adventures with us. We wish you all the best in your future explorations.

Muslim Global Nomads is a blog by Shahidah Travel & Tours. Established in 1983, we specialise in group tours and flexi 2-To-Go holidays to anywhere other than the moon. Get in touch with us today to start planning your next adventure.

5 Reasons Why This Blog Will Be Your Travel Essential

The Essential Muslim Travel Blog

Welcome to the first post in ‘Muslim Global Nomads’, a blog that will supplement you with exclusive travel insights and newly-discovered Muslim destinations in our ‘Insider’s Muslim Travel Guide’ section. In ‘Star Nomads’, join us when we catch up with our dear friends who are avid travellers and constantly trotting the globe. Don’t miss out on ‘A Nomad’s Tips’ as they share their personal tips when travelling.

They will also be sharing (only visually, though) the halal cuisines which they stumble upon along the way in ‘Halal GastroJourney’, so that you too can have convenient access to yummy halal goodness wherever you go (and not just packed biscuits and instant noodles).

Travelling is encouraged in Islam as it allows us to learn about other cultures, understand and makes us more tolerant of others. Travelling teaches us about hospitality, charity and when we have to step out of our Muslim ‘comfort zones’, we learn to adapt and you will realise that Islam has set guidelines and etiquettes in travelling that is practical and far from rigid.

In ‘Ar-Rihla’ we will be uncovering what the Quran says about travel, hadiths and also explore the rich history of early Muslim explorers such as Ibn Battuta who spent 31 years travelling and documenting his travels.

Our team is so excited and we cannot wait to share our travels stories with you. If you too would like to share your experiences and have some helpful tips on travelling, please feel free to email us at

 Muslim Global Nomads is a blog by Shahidah Travel & Tours. Established in 1983, we specialise in group tours and flexi 2-To-Go holidays to anywhere other than the moon. Get in touch with us today to start planning your next adventure.