Alistair Caldicott

Opening Up the Middle East

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Chapter 1 - Welcome to Istanbul

Not for the first time in my travelling life, I became an instant multi-millionaire in the middle of the night. Within seconds of collecting my windfall, I was engulfed by hangers-on, all keen to help me spend my new-found wealth.

Sadly, this was not a Las Vegas casino, but the arrivals lounge of Ataturk airport, Istanbul. With typically Teutonic German efficiency Lufthansa had seamlessly deposited me and my luggage out onto the edge of Europe, the beginnings of Asia.

My financial assets did indeed sound impressive – £100 buying 278 million Turkish Lira - I could comfortably blow hundreds of millions in a matter of days! There were apparently plans to chop all the zeros off and take the fun out of it, which could lead to some rather expensive errors in settling debts if you get your noughts wrong.

More mind-boggling numbers - locals say the population of Istanbul is 17 million – that's twice the size of London and it has a habit of adding another million each year! Which surely makes it Europe's largest city, except that it's not properly in Europe…or Asia. It sits in the middle, straddling the divide, bridging continents.

From Turkey, the journey continues into Syria…

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