Istanbul; rich with culture, vibrancy and authenticity is a unique city which resides in both Asia and Europe, divided only by the Bosphorus Sea. Two thirds of the population reside in the European section, a commercial and historical centre, whilst a third of Istanbul's population reside in the Asia side.
The beauty of the transcontinental city includes the grandness of Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque, the remarkable history residing in the Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace and the rich aroma from the various spices and Turkish delights at the Grand Bazaar and Spice bazaar, that welcomes millions of tourists every year.
However Istanbul has recently received unwelcome media attention, when several British nationals were believed to be travelling to Syria via Istanbul. Earlier this year, in late February, three young girls were believed to have fled their homes in London with the aim of travelling to Syria through Istanbul to join ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The girls were from an East London school, aged 15 and 16. As soon as they entered the city, airports and border agencies were put on high alert and the world's eyes were on Turkey, in particular Istanbul, to provide the news or whereabouts of these girls. Soon enough, days after the girls were reported missing, they were spotted on CCTV footage at a bus station in Istanbul.
The girls, Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase were believed to have fled the UK in order to become jihadi brides in Syria. This scary and shocking revelation had not just the UK, but also the world stunned as to how three young girls could travel to another country without anyone's knowledge to get involved in such dangerous activities. To date, the girls have not been found.
Liaqat Ali, Director at Royston and Lund Estate agency, travelled to Istanbul a week after news of the London girls came to light. He reported that the questioning he and his family were subjected to, at the airport, was appropriate and normal as any other international airport, but the only small issue they faced was the mistaken identity of his daughter's name, which was flagged up on the computer at passport control. "The issue wasn't a problem, as they need to be certain who they let in, but the problem was their lack of communication to inform us, about what was going on and why there was a delay. To the contrary, you were left to second guess what was happening "said Mr Ali.