Istanbul – A City of Timeless Treasures

“There God, man, nature and art have created and placed the most magnificent view the human eye can contemplate on earth”.

Lamartin

İstanbul, the only city in the world built on two continents, stands on the shores of the İstanbul Boğazı(Bosphorus) where the waters of the Black Sea mingle with those of the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn. Here on this splendid site, İstanbul guards the precious relics of the three empires (Eastern Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman) of which she was the capital: a unique link between east and west, past and present.

 

But İstanbul is not only historic, it is still a magnificent city, fascinating and vividly alive. Beneath the unchanging skyline of her domes and minarets there is a continual bustle and movement of the crowd, the rumbling of vehicles along the ancient cobbled streets, the incessant coming and going, and cries of street sellers mingling with the sounds of shipping in the busy port. Yachting is a popular activity in İstanbul. This is the only place in the world where you can enjoy the beauty of the exotic landscape while sailing back through history to Byzantine and Ottoman times and view magnificent domes, mosques, palaces and castles.

MARVELS OF OTTOMAN ART

 

With its many splendid palaces, with the majestic domes and graceful minarets of its 444 mosques, İstanbul is famed as having one of the most breathtaking skylines in the world. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks took the city from the Byzantines and Mehmet II, better known as the Conqueror, made it the capital of his new Empire. After years of decline, İstanbul once again flourished, bloomed, and became a “queen of cities.”

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In 1470, Sultan Bayezid II came to the throne. During his reign he promoted tolerance among the peoples living in his empire. In the summer of 1492, when Sephardic Jews were being persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition, Bayezid II came to their rescue. His royal proclamation welcomed the Sephardim into his empire, and his ships transported them from Spain. Many settled in İstanbul, to live in liberty.

 

Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the grandson of Bayezid II, was the most glorious of the Ottoman Sultans. It was during his reign that the Ottoman Empire lived through its golden age. Süleyman conquered Belgrade, Rhodes, Baghdad, Nakhitchevan, Van, East Yemen, and many other lands. He also built many magnificent mosques and palaces in İstanbul, and restructured the army, the treasury, and the law code, which is why he was known as Kanuni (the law-maker) by his subjects. The cascading domes and four slender minarets of the Süleymaniye Mosque dominate the skyline on the Golden Horn’s right bank. Considered the most beautiful of all Imperial mosques in İstanbul, it was built between 1550 and 1557 by Sinan, the renowned architect of the Ottoman Empire’s golden age. Erected on the crest of a hill, the building is conspicuous for its great size, emphasized by the four minarets that rise from each corner of the courtyard. Inside are the mihrab and the mimber made of finely carved white marble and exquisite stained glass windows coloring the incoming streams of light. Süleyman and his wife Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana) are buried in grand mausolea in the mosque’s garden. Architect Sinan is buried nearby. The mosque complex includes four medreses, or theological schools, a school of medicine, a caravanserai, a Turkish bath, and a kitchen and hospice for the poor. Another supremely elegant imperial mosque is that of Sultan Ahmet, with six minarets. Built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet, the building is more familiarly known as the Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior paneling of blue and white İznik tiles.

 

On Seraglio Point stands the elegant Topkapi Palace, the focal point of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. In these opulent surroundings the sultans and their court lived and governed. Today many opulent Ottoman works of art, including miniatures from medieval manuscripts, imperial costumes and collections of crystal, silver and jewellery, are displayed here.

 

For centuries people of different origins and religions have been living in this land in harmony. Ortaköy, a village on the Bosphorus shore north of İstanbul, is a good example of coexistence: within a distance of about 100 meters
you can see a church, a mosque and a synagogue, clear evidence of this tolerance and harmony.

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