We stepped out into the sunlight and Emil hailed a taxi. We slipped into the backseat and he instructed the driver towards a downtown plaza where tourists and locals alike pursued through the open souk.
“I have the entire day planned for us,” Emil said as he took my hand into his. “Now that we’re fueled up we’re ready to start. You cannot make a trip to Turkey without first stopping by the world renowned bazaar.”
“All I heard was shopping. Don’t tease me like that, Emil” I started.
“Don’t get too excited, we’re on a tight schedule. You’ll have an hour before our next venture.”
I heard him speak, but my eyes were busy with the passing markets and crowded streets. Finally, the driver dropped us off at the entrance to the grand bazaar. We stood at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, otherwise known as Constantinople. Intimidated by which direction to take first Emil sensed my bewilderment and pulled me towards the Egyptian bazaar. The fragrance of flowers and aroma of spices and herbs felt intoxicating. Emil navigated us throughout the spice mart and led me to a courtyard full of jewelry stands. Eye popping colors of turquoise and coral jewels glistened in the sunlight.
“Surely you’ve been to a bazar before. You’re Egyptian, haven’t you been to Hank Khalili?” Emil asked.
“Yeah but this is different,” I said. “It’s magical.” I reached out and ran my fingers over the handmade carpet on display.
“OK Princess Jasmine, we don’t have time for a magic carpet ride.” Emil chuckled, gently squeezed my hand and guided me towards the exit.
The area was comprised of about sixty streets interwoven like a maze loaded with sights, sounds, tastes and smells designed to make you lose all sense of time. Not a clock in sight. It was like the Tower of Babel as far as language went.
Suddenly, I heard the adhan (call to prayer), cry out over local Turkish music and voices of old men quarreling on the porch of a cafe, I could barely make out Emil’s voice as he came up to me. I put a three carat diamond ring down and switched over to a sapphire bracelet without flinching.
“I did a little bit of research on you, Jehan Golsen,” Emil began.
“Hm. Did you?” My fingers grazed over a pearl necklace.
“And your middle name is Turkish. In fact, your entire maternal lineage is Turkish.” Didn’t know if I should have been creeped out or flattered at his due diligence.
I then grew concerned but played it off and smiled.“Yeah … and?” I had done my own research and found nothing on him.
The shop owner was wondering about now since I hadn’t even attempted a purchase. Emil placed his hand on my shoulder and steered me away from the glass counter-top as he continued to speak, “Your maternal lineage hails from one of the oldest royal dynasties not just in the world, but in Turkey.”
“Right, so you can call me Queen Jehan from now on,” I smiled, while puffing up my hair and adjusting my ivory fedora, which is where my crown should have been. He laughed at this and took my hand as he led me down another street to an iron wrought gate. Where were we going, I wondered.
Emil held the tall gate open for me, “A princess first.” I passed through onto a cobblestone alley, where we were met with blue tiled columns of an ornate Blue Mosque. “Wow,” I gasped and placed my hand over my mouth.
“There’s more … right over here, what does this plaque say?” Emil asked.
“I can’t read Turkish, Emil.”
“I’ll translate for you,” Emil stood behind me and placed his hands atop my shoulders. “OK, the title reads, Ibrahim Pasha Fuad Al-Manasterly-”
“Oh my God! Emil that’s my-“ I was moved at the sight of my ancestry and a sadness welled up in me.
Before I could finish my sentence Emil continued, “Your maternal uncle is mentioned in this plaque.”
I looked closer and ran my fingers over something more worthy of my attention that the bling I’d touched back at the bazaar. Now, this was worth my journey. How had he put the pieces of the puzzle together? Perhaps, I may have mentioned that my mother’s lineage hailed from Turkey, but to know the extent of my family history and find a piece of my ancestry in stone, now this was beyond me. No guy had ever put so much thought into surprising me. I had no words to give that could illustrate my immense gratitude.
“I want you to know, you come from greatness. This lay-off is just a minor obstacle, but it doesn’t define you. Don’t let this knock you down. Being great runs in your blood.” Emil wiped a tear from my face. “Are you OK? This is the longest you’ve gone without verbally insulting me,” he chuckled.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just so, touched! This is the most thoughtful thing anybody has ever done for me.” I hugged him tightly and reached up to whisper into his ear. “Thank you,” I pulled away just enough to catch the joy in his deep blue eyes.
He seemed amused and curious all at once,“I guess I know a bit more about you than you think.”
“Well, I can’t say the same about you.”