Istanbul Cats and Panda

Istanbul Cats and Panda

You know the world is a small place, and every soul, no matter their size , has a life that is precious, even though known only in it’s own neighbourhood.

However the internet has introduced many small souls to the outside world. One little one became special to me if only for a brief moment in time, which I’ll never forget.

Having seen, in 2017, the excellent film Kedi – about 7 unknown street cats in Istanbul , I did research the city and became acquainted with a few humans who lived there. One such person was Instagram @nurdogansengule

Nurdogan Senguler of Les Arts Turcs ,
who also maintains a Facebook page ” Istanbul Cats ” . Nurdogan had posted a photo of a black and white cat known locally in his neighbourhood as “Panda” . Panda is seen sitting in front of the street patio of Fuego restaurant with their photogenic sign ” Hello Istanbul, You’re looking gorgeous today ” I suppose the photo made an impression on me…..a restaurant with ambience and character. AND bonus, a cat .

About a year later I landed in Turkiye’s largest city October 28, 2018. October 29 was Republic Day , National Cat Day in some countries :, I got to meet Ayasofya’s world famous cat Gli , and a very special artist featured in the Kedi movie – Elif Atalay. The days were simply awesome in the midst of this history , architecture , delicious cuisine and hospitable people – WHO LOVED THEIR STREET CATS AND DOGS.

October 31 was just such a day with a long walk to the Grand Bazaar – another world where you can literally get lost for days. The return to Sultanahmet for a night time view of 1700 year old Ayasofya – ( Hagia Sophia ) , on the large expanse known as the Hippodrome – where ancient chariot races were held around obelisks from Egypt that are ca 3000 to 4000 years old. The 4 bronze horses ( a Quadriga ) of St. Mark were taken from here to sit in a museum in Venice .

Walking across this dark , now cobblestoned, Hippodrome with a few street lamps , as is common in Istanbul , a black and white cat crossed my path. As usual I try to get the cat’s attention, to offer a few strokes of affection. Some Japanese tourists came by and took some photos with the cat , Nothing new in Istanbul, home to a “million” street cats.

But then it hit me – I have seen this cat before. In a distant land called Canada, on a home personal computer , I had seen this cat – must be Panda ??? , posted by Nurdogan.. A few photos in darkness – poor quality – but my evidence. Had I met Panda ??? totally by chance walking across the Hippodrome in far away Istanbul ???? What’s the chance ? ( I had taken Statistics and Analysis in University ) . Not a very big chance to be frank.

It was late, so the next day I sent my photos to Nurdogan – is this Panda ??? He confirmed yes it was. just WOW.

Now I have my own photos and Nurdogan’s photos to compare and it is obvious.
Today is March 8, 2024. 5 and 1/2 years later. Facebook feeds daily…. Elif posts her art and a photo of a black and white cat. Again something, a look thats familiar. This time it is bad news , here translated from Turkish:

“””We lost “Panda”.Ms. Filiz, who works in @narsbrasserie restaurant, has been preparing food for her for years. She couldn’t eat solid food because she had jaw cancer. Every morning, before the street was full, I would love her and chat with her. But now this street will be deprived of this beauty. “””

So Panda is gone . Cherished by those who knew her in that neighbourhood. In this amazing city where no one owns these street cats, yet they belong to everyone. I am sure Hanim Filiz especially feels the loss, and I understand.
For me, Panda will be a lifetime memory of a chance meeting I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams. Rest in Peace Panda.

Christopher Evans