19 March is Saint Joseph Day. On that day Paulo Coelho celebrates his Saint’s Day with a select group of friends.
One day I was sat by the river in Guildford. There was an attractive Lithuanian girl totally engrossed in a book. What had her so engrossed I wondered? Well there was only one way to find out, I asked her.
I learnt she was reading The Zahir by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. A few years later, having in the between times read all of his books, I found myself at the recently renovated Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul as a guest of Paulo Coelho at his St Joseph Day party.
Paulo Coelho was born dead, strangled by his umbilical cord. His mother made a promise to Saint Joseph, the name of the hospital where Paulo Coelho was born.
Today, Paulo Coelho keeps that promise. He celebrates St Joseph’s Day and gives thanks by invitıng his friends to a party. Last year ıt was at Melk Abbey ın Austria, this year it was at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul.
Earlier in the day Paulo Coelho gave a press conference at the Pera Palace Hotel.
The party started with cocktails. Then when everyone was seated for dinner, Paulo Coelho after having explained why he held a party for his friends every year on St Joseph’s Day, ınvıted everyone to hold hands and join him in prayer. He said a prayer ın Portuguese then others said a prayer in several other languages – English, Spanish, French, Greek, German, Japanese – it was quite a moving experience.
The food was excellent, as was the music provided by Turkish rock group BaBa ZuLa, who also had dancers. Sufi meets rock!
Turkish meze platter
Walnut crusted milk marinated lamb loin,
on smoked eggplant puree with root
vegetables and thyme sauce
Ottoman dessert plate,
with clotted cream
Tea or coffee
The highlight of the evening was BaBa ZuLa beıng joined on stage by Paulo Coelho and Rudolf Schenker the legendary lead singer and guitarist from the German rock group the Scorpions performing the classic Still loving you.
The evening ended with Paulo Coelho patiently signing books until the early hours of the morning. During the book signing Ken Crane told a story of a stone.
If nothing else, Paulo knows how to throw a good party. And he can write.
A very special thanks to Paulo for the invite to his party. The highlight of my trip to Istanbul.
It is not every day that you get to meet Paulo Coelho, Rudolf Schenker the lead singer of Scorpions, and the Abbot of Melk Abbey, all in one day!
The only annoyance for me was that on my way up I left in the taxi some of the books I had brought to be signed by Paulo for friends.
On my taxi ride down from the hotel I got a stunning view of the Mosques lit up.
Pera Palace Hotel has been recently renovated. It was built for passengers on the Orient Express. Many famous guests including Ernest Hemmingway, Greta Garbo, Agatha Christie, who wrote Murder on the Orient Express whilst staying at the Pera Palace Hotel. In the entrance foyer is an old sedan chair. Chairs such as this were used to carry guests from the station, across the river and up the hill to the Pera Palace Hotel. The electric lift inside the hotel was the second only installed in Europe. The first was the Eiffel Tower. Pera Palace is listed in 1000 Places to See Before You Die, with a copy opened at the relevant pages in a display cabinet in the hotel foyer.