TURKEY: Istanbul



The program in Istanbul, Turkey is currently suspended due to safety concerns. KEI will restart the program after the situation improves. Contact a KEI Program Manager for more information.

Istanbul manages to pile history on top of history at every turn. The city was modeled after Rome and built on seven hills along the Bosphorus Strait, which divides the city into a European and an Asian side. As you pass through the ancient city walls history greets you at the ancient mosques, palaces, and markets of Sultanahmet, reminding of the fact that Istanbul has been a world capital for centuries. As Napoleon once said, “If the whole world was a state, Istanbul would be the capital of it.”

Istanbul is rich with both contradiction and contrast: Europe and Asia, ancient and modern, secular and religious, traditional and trendy, advanced and lagging. The Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia and Roman aqueducts of the third and fourth centuries are examples of its historical past. And, the Art Nouveau architecture and trendy shops, cafes and fashion exemplify its role in modern society.

If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.
-Alphonse de Lamartine


Turkey is a bridge between Europe and Asia. Due to its location, surrounded by seas on three sides, Turkey has always been the center of commerce and cultural exchange. Today, Turkey is the center of geopolitics and economics.

Turkey’s cultural uniqueness is the result of centuries of contact with civilizations in Europe, Asia, Africa and Middle East. The diverse heritages, Eastern or Western, Asian or European intermingle to form what is today modern Turkey. Turkish food is a good example, blending influences from all over the world. Oscar Wilde once cited Turkish food as one of the three great cuisines. Whether it be a local kofte (meatball) enjoyed on a busy back street, a seafood restaurant boasting fish caught right outside their door on the water, or a super sophisticated fine dining establishment perched on the top of an Art Nouveau building overlooking the skyline at dusk, the food in Istanbul is colorful and amazing.

Modern day Turkey was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. After Ottoman rule ended, secularism was established by separating religious and state affairs. Latin alphabet replaced Arabic script and women were given the right to vote and serve in parliament. These reforms, as well as many others in all aspects of social life, put Turkey on the track towards becoming a thoroughly modern country.


  • Population of Turkey: 75 million
  • Population of Istanbul: 14 million
  • Official Language: Turkish
  • Currency: Turkish Lira
  • Main religion: Islam
  • Local time in Istanbul: GMT+2
  • High temp in Istanbul: July: 86°F
  • High temp in Istanbul: January: 39°F