“Hello friend!” Silence. The man pauses for a moment, adjusting his wide smile, “Hello friend!” He repeats. More silence. His expression transforms at the edges — becoming thin, neutral, teeth still bared but lacking mirth, it’s a predator’s gaze.
“When I say ‘hello friend!’ you are supposed to answer, ‘hello…’ ” He offers flatly. The silence breaks. I begin to stammer in the same pidgin I’d been using for the last 30 minutes. I lie. I mumble about not understanding, about not speaking English. I know, like everyone else, he wants me to buy a tour of the Hagia Sophia, only 30 Euros (~$41) he will say, which to a harried tourist juggling a language barrier, the growing mid-day crowd, and the majesty of the ancient Mosque in front of him seems like a good deal. The ticket is already 25 Lira (~$12), what’s a few extra Euro between friends? I grimace and shake my head dumbly, he looks from me to the swelling crowd and walks away.