Istanbul + Aspen = Brain Stretching!

I was honored to be once again invited to participate in an Aspen Institute Conference.    This one was a continuation of the conference in Berlin where the topic was: Risk and Uncertainty: Cultural Apporaches to Risk Management. This conference was titled Leadership in a Time of Change and was held in Istanbul Turkey.

Again participants were from Germany, Lebanon and the US plus Jordan.  There is no real way to explain how amazing the conversations were, both in session and during the social events surrounding the conference.

Each interaction was fascinating:

Sitting next to a human rights lawyer from Lebanon who worked on the Oil for Food case at the UN or an American DC lawyer who also works with a group to free political prisoners.  He was very close to being on Broadway and always gets the group singing.

Having lunch with a friend from Lebanon who is an artist but is also suing the Government to try and stop them from their illegally but consistent practice of placing a babies sect on their birth certificate.  This can be changed but only with your spiritual adviser saying "yes -he wants to leave my religion and I am OK with this".  Of course there is also the fact that if someone leaves Islam they are in very real danger of being killed under Allah’s Apostate. These realities are brought home so much more through personal interaction


We also learned that the women in Lebanon REALLY know how to dance and at the very  least ‘our Lebanese Girls’ were not shy at all.  But evidently guys from Jordan aren't shy either :-)

A few of the people on the tour the last afternoon were a facilitator from the Aspen Institute in the US,  a German lobbyist for IBM and a friend who is a senior staffer with one of the Chancellors in Germany.

One of the places we visited was the Cistern -  some may remember this from a  James Bond Film "From Russia With Love"

This Medusa statue is there too.  All over Turkey you have a symbol of an eye and it is a representative of Medusa's eye which when projected outwards will turn evil into stone. So the logic goes - you have the 'evil eye' and it is good luck because it is looking at OTHERS

. The inside of the Blue Mosque was unbelievably detailed

We also toured one of the few Catholic churches in Istanbul which is on the European side of the Bosphorous.

The day before we had been transported to the networking into nature session by boat.  The homes, palaces, mosques, hotels etc. were very beautiful.

The Ayasofya is now a museum but it was a Eastern Orthodox Church built in only 5 years and finished in  537AD and it was the largest in existence for almost 1000 years!  It was converted to a mosque in 1453 when the empire was overthrown.  In 1935 it was converted to a museum by the first President of the Republic of Turkey.  It is amazing the way this one building has seen the political and  religious history of Istanbul.

Before 537AD there was another church on the site but that was destroyed essentially by hooligans from a chariot race. This brings me to the fact that Jeremy, Vartan and I braved the crazy fans and attended a soccer match – it was GREAT!