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Under leaden grey clouds, our yellow cab moves freely along the edge of the Bosphorus, its inky black waters delivering dozens of fishing boats back to the harbour at Besiktas.
Minarets stretch lazily into a brooding sky, while amateur anglers, collars pulled up against the early morning breeze, dangle bait over the bridges across the city's Golden Horn. Istanbul may be a city of 14 million souls, but at 6.30am on a cool autumnal morning, there's not many of them around. A few hours later, it's a completely different story.
"Isn't it something?" smiles Murat Duran, as we peer out over a view that would take the breath away from even the roomiest of lungs. "It's our Times Square, our Piccadilly Circus."
We're 18 floors up and the Ceylan InterContinental's Director of Sales and Marketing is gesturing in the direction of Istanbul's Taksim Square, where it seems all of Istanbul's citizens are trying to cross the road at the same time.
From our elevated vantage point, the city's famed landmarks vie for attention. From the Blue Mosque, Aya Sophia and Topkapi Palace in the distance to Taksim Square below our feet, and the busy Istikal Cadesi thoroughfare taking visitors down to the banks of the Golden Horn, it's almost as if this patchwork of history has been spread out in anticipation of culture-hungry travellers--something Turkey has worked hard to attract over the past decade.
After years of under-achievement, the Turkish government initiated a process of integrating the Turkish economy into the world market system through radical economic reforms that included the promotion of direct foreign capital investments. State-funded ventures have given way to a new culture of private enterprise and, with economic growth and unprecedented levels of foreign investment, Turkey is fast becoming a major force in the global economy.
Turkey's recent all-round progress looks set to continue. The country is going through strong economic growth that has strengthened the currency and reduced inflation from 90 per cent to just 7 per cent. It is one of the last countries in Europe not oversubscribed with products and services, which, in turn, leads many companies to enter a market that was considered highly restrictive until 10 years ago. Dubai-based Emaar Properties, for example, has entered into a $700 million real estate joint venture with Atasay--Turkey's largest gold jewellery exporter--with the initial investment to be followed by a further $5-10 billion over the next few years. The European Investment Bank, the EU's financing institution, is also set to open a representative office in Turkey, allowing it to organise its activities in neighbouring countries from there.
This economic boom has led to many infrastructural improvements across Istanbul, including the construction of a new metro line, an improvement in the road network, and the appearance of impressive new retail outlets, such as the newly opened Kanyon Mall. The mall recently welcomed a 791-square-metre Harvey Nichols store. The brand is making its Turkish debut and joins other fashion houses such as Lacoste, Thomas Pink and Calvin Klein in hot-footing it to …