The Aksaray district with its cheap hotels and boarding houses, is a traditional place for exiles on the region's crises.Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis all have sought refuge here at one time or another.These days it's Syrians, and the area already is being called "Little Damascus".The air on the streets is heavy with the scent of aromatic spices-in particular cinnamon, synonymous with Syrian cuisine.
The Mandi restaurant opened two-and-a-half years ago.A photo on the wall shows the owners old restaurant in Syria, now closed because of the war.Istanbul has been good to them, says co-owner Isan Abdi, they now have three restaurants.But Abdi confesses the language barrier was difficult, along with conservative tastes.
"In the beginning, it was a little difficult for ignoring the language of Turkish language. It was very difficult.But then Turkish people and the Turkish government helped us.It was very easy to deal with them to open this restaurant.
Iraqi people...from Africa, eastern Asia, Thailand, Philippines...all of them like rice.A new food for Turkish people.It's delicious, but I don't know they want to try a new thing."
Little Damascus is not only about restaurants; it's also home to many businesses.Abdulkadir Tarhan moved his factory out of Syria across the border to the Turkey city of Gaziantep, but operates his business from Istanbul, with his link across the Arab world.
“There are various sorts of businesses-restaurants, real estate or tourism.Many people from Aleppo work in the manufacturing business.Turkey has recognized that there are 10,000 to 12,000 Syrian companies which are officially licensed in Turkey, working legally."