Biting into a sweet, gooey date as I sipped my Turkish tea was the perfect welcome to the Ajwa Sultanahmet Istanbul. It even overtook (just slightly, because of my stomach’s rumbling) the fancy car service that transported me from the airport to the hotel.
The gorgeous Ajwa Sultanahmet Istanbul is exactly that – gorgeous. The stunning architecture is what catches your eye as soon as it is in sight – regardless of the time of the day as either the sun is hitting the walls, making the gold shine strong and the white stone appear to have flecks of pink and blue; or the entire hotel is a glowing building, standing out completely on the corner of the street. The hotel is what I’d imagine a Turkish princess’s first ‘home away from home’ to be. A beautiful grand entrance, stunning and ornate decor – featuring only the best artists’ handiwork – and a private hammam to indulge in a cleansing scrub.
The interiors of the hotel are even more decorative, with the furniture being a mixture of locally-made designs, as well as some from Damascus. The chairs and cabinets feature beautiful Mother of Pearl details and each floor showcases Azerbajani (or Azeri) artwork on the walls. If you take a liking to this kind of design, be sure to visit the nearby shops which double as art galleries – they sell the different pieces of furniture, as well as Persian rugs.
This stunning artwork continues within the Ajwa hotel rooms; my bathroom door is open as I walk in so I am immediately greeted by beautiful blue patterned tiles and rose gold finishing. Mother of Pearl is present in the furniture and that’s probably all I focus on as, afterwards, my attention was very much so diverted to the large bed that was calling my name. There are 48 Deluxe Rooms (of which I was lucky to secure one) but if you’re looking for something slightly more swish, the hotel offers a Presidential Suite and even separate guesthouses if you’re travelling in a group.
Breakfast at Ajwa is an impressive display. You can opt for the buffet which offers an array of treats: eggs, courgette and spinach fritters, Turkish sausages; pides; labneh – the works. Alternatively, you can order a la carte, including the traditional Turkish breakfast spread…which pretty much includes every item on the buffet and more. I’d definitely recommend a sunrise breakfast as the panoramic view from the restaurant is so pretty – you can see a mixture of the Old City and the Marmara Sea.
Lunch and dinner are served on the same top floor, in the Zeferan restauarant and the Azerbajani chef cooks up a feast every meal time. Whether plates full of grilled meats, salads and ‘shakh plov’ (a local rice dish) or Sultan’s stew (lamb with aubergine purée) and yoghurt soup; one thing is for certain – I did not go hungry here.
With the Old City right on your doorstep, you’re minutes away from impressive and historical sights such as the Blue Mosque, the Haiga Sophia and Topkapi Palace. The hotel concierge was only too happy to fix me up with a tour guide – I have been to Istanbul before but you learn so much more about the cultural spots with someone who knows all about them. For example, my guide told me that there are over 21,647 tiles making up the Blue Mosque (so named because of the dark blue titles on the interior design and, over time, the name changed from Dark Blue Tiled Mosque to Blue Mosque). Another interesting fact I was told, was that it took 10,000 people to build the Haiga Sophia over five years – and it took 13,000 kg of gold in expenses. My jaw definitely dropped at this point.
A trip to the famous Grand Bazaar was a hectic but fascinating experience, as I loaded up with spices, ceramics and jewellery. It’s easy to get lost inside – and it’s no wonder as the Grand Bazaar is home to five mosques, two fountains, 67 roads, 40 doors and even a school.
After a busy day of walking the streets of Istanbul, nothing is more appealing than a trip to the hammam I mentioned earlier. The Afiya Spa at the hotel is something everyone should definitely experience. I had received the traditional Turkish treatment before but the hammam room at Ajwa was by far one of the most beautiful I’d seen and well worth a visit. The Turkish Bath treatment takes place in the spa and after a menthol steam room session, I enjoyed a thorough scrubbing. It wasn’t as harsh as I’ve had this treatment before which is fantastic, as you can really relax as you’re getting exfoliated and becoming the cleanest you’ve ever been. Seriously – the cleanest I’ve been in my life.
A magical stay that I would definitely recommend for anyone wanting a boutique hotel experience while being footsteps from the majority of Istanbul’s best gems.