Frequently Asked Questions
Who can come on the program?
The program is open to anyone and everyone. You do not have to be a university student.
The most important criterion is “fit.” There are lots of tours out there, with very different orientations. This Illuminated Tours are intended for people who are seriously dedicated to experiencing the richness of a Muslim culture, and want to learn by immersing themselves in the history, literature, religions, art, spirituality, and politics of a place.
Do I have to be enrolled at a university?
No. The Illuminated Tour is a free-standing educational tour, and does not require university participation.
Do I receive academic credit for the trip?
No. The program has no official relationship with any university. That is part of why we are able to offer it as a reduced cost, by not paying university fees.
Do I have to be in the United States to participate?
No. We have had participants from many different countries. If you do not wish to start in North America, you can meet us at the beginning date in Istanbul.
Is there an age requirement?
We have had participants as young as eight years old, and friends in their 70’s come on the program. Children have to be accommodated by their parents/guardians. There is a fair amount of walking involved, especially in Istanbul. Participants have to be fit enough to handle that amount of walking.
Do I have to know Turkish?
No. There is no Turkish requirement, although learning even five words of Turkish will go a long ways towards letting you enjoy the famous hospitality of Turks.
Is there a religion requirement?
No. We have had Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, Zoroastrian, Agnostic, Atheist participants in this program. We do spend a good bit of time exploring the varieties of the religious traditions in Turkey, and a respectful and open spiritual demeanor in a variety of faith settings is one of the most important qualities needed for participation.
Do I need a visa?
You should obtain a visa PRIOR to arrival by going on the E-Visa website from the Turkish government: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/
I am a vegetarian. Will I have a problem?
No! Turkish food is delicious, and quite varied. There are amazing varieties of vegetarian cuisines.
In addition, for non-vegetarian friends, there is a whole world beyond the usual kabobs—including regional specialties, seafood, and more.
What kind of places will we be staying in?
Very nice ones! Due to about fifteen years of relationships with a variety of Turkish hotels, we are able to negotiate very reasonable rates in some of the most desired hotels in Turkey. All of our accommodations are four-star hotels.
What is included?
The program includes: your hotel stay for the entire time in Turkey, your breakfast/brunch every day, your bus for traveling throughout Turkey, about half of all the dinners, all the admission ticket costs, 4-5 hours of on-site lectures by Omid Safi on various aspects of Turkish history and Islamic religion, a licensed Turkish tour-guide outside of Istanbul. All accommodation rates are based on double-occupancy.
What’s not included?
Typically, your lunch and some dinners. Your drinks and snacks. Obviously, any souvenir shopping you might want to do is also not included.
Also, since the participants come from different origins, and those airfare costs vary considerably, international airfare is not included. The cost is the "land-only" portion, covering your expenses in Turkey.
How much “free” time do we have?
I will try to make sure that every day there will be about 4-5 hours of unstructured time to give you an opportunity to explore these magical cities on your own.
Any clothing requirements?
In most sites, we will wear long pants. In religious sites (churches, mosques, synagogues, shrines), we will not wear shorts. Women will cover their hair in the religious sites.
What have the experiences of people before been like?
Good question! Check out the “Testimonial” page on this site, to hear from a few dozen participants in this program over the last dozen years. Here is the link:
When do I have to pay?
The full payment has to be made by Middle of March.
What’s the refund policy?
We have to make arrangements in Turkey for airline and hotel reservations, and as such, require an advance payment for the program. Therefore, all participants will be asked to make a $500 non-refundable deposit. If something should come up and your circumstances change, there is a refund policy. You have until 30 days before the trip to get a refund minus the non-refundable deposit. After that time, there will be a partial refund issued.