Stuart WILLIAMS –
The upmarket Istanbul Reina club, targeted in a gun attack during New Year celebrations that left many people dead, is an exclusive haunt of Turkey’s glamorous homegrown elite as well as foreign visitors.
With an idyllic location on the shores of the Bosphorus on the European side of the city and a terrace spilling down to the water’s edge, Reina is the place to be seen in Istanbul.
It’s expensive and hard to get into, with bouncers giving would-be guests a hard time at the entrance to ensure they look sufficiently well-moneyed and beautiful.
The club is popular with foreign visitors. Several of those confirmed wounded and dead are from Arab countries.
The parties at Reina are legendary, with the action usually not starting until well after midnight and the venue endowed with several restaurants and dance floors.
The view from the terrace is spectacular, just underneath the mighty first bridge across the Bosphorus with the lights of Asia twinkling on the other side.
The bridge is itself now haunted by history and named after the victims of the July 15 coup after it became the site of fierce battles between plotters and protesters.
Its clientele includes footballers from the top Turkish sides and stars from the country’s much-watched soap operas.
Every weekend their attendance at parties features in the gossip and celebrity pullouts in Turkish media.
The party only ends in the small hours when revellers stagger outside to be whisked home in waiting cars.
“#Reina. Pray for Istanbul,” tweeted the German star striker of Istanbul football giants Galatasaray, Lukas Podolski.
But now — as with the November 2015 attack in Paris when gunmen stormed the popular Bataclan concert venue killing 90 people — its name will forever be synonymous with violence.
Footballer Sefa Boydas, who plays full-time for Istanbul third division club Beylerbeyi SK and witnessed the attack, said he had been nervous about partying on New Year’s Eve.
“A friend said: ‘It wouldn’t ever happen in a place like Reina’. I said actually the target is places like that,” he said.
The club’s owner Mehmet Kocarslan condemned the attack in a statement on its Facebook page, where its profile picture has been changed to a black square of mourning.
“Our heart is bleeding,” he wrote.
Indicating that the security forces had feared an attack in the area, he said that for the last two weeks security measures had been upped drastically in the upscale districts on the European side of the Bosphorus.
The measures included precautions taken by the coastguard on the Bosphorus itself.
“Despite all these efforts by the security forces, this event happened. We don’t know what to say. Words have failed,” he said. — AFP