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Istanbul, Turkey

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Istanbul (historically Byzantium and later Constantinople) is Europe's most populous city (the world's 4th largest city proper and 20th largest urban area with a population of 11,2 million (2006) and Turkey's cultural and financial centre. It is located on the Bosphorus Strait, and encompasses the natural harbor known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European and on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. In its long history, Istanbul served as the capital city of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). The historic areas of Istanbul were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.

 

Istanbul is one of the most important tourism spots of Turkey. There are thousands of hotels and other tourist oriented industries in the city, catering to both vacationers and visiting professionals. In 2006 a total of 23,1 million tourists visited Turkey, most of whom entered the country through the airports and seaports of Istanbul and Antalya.  Istanbul is also one of the world’s major conference destinations and is an increasingly popular choice for the world’s leading international associations. The city has a Mediterranean climate with hot and humid summers; and cold, rainy and often snowy winters. Humidity is generally rather high which can make temperatures feel much warmer or colder than they actually are.  More information here and  here.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire (1299–1922) was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Turkish-ruled state. At the height of its power (16th – 17th century), it spanned three continents, controlling much of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar in the west to the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf in the east. The empire was at the centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque – Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultanahmet Camii) is a historical mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is one of several mosques known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice.

Yerebatan Saray

The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Saray) is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern was built in the 6th century. Historical texts claim that 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern. This cathedral-size cistern is an underground chamber approximately 138 meters by 64.6 meters - capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque – Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets. When the number of minarets was revealed, the Sultan was criticized for presumption, since this was, at the time, the same number as at the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca. He overcame this problem by paying for a seventh minaret at the Mecca mosque.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque – Blue Mosque

This prayer hall is topped by an ascending system of domes and semi-domes, each supported by three exedrae, culminating in the huge encompassing central dome, which is 23.5 meters in diameter and 43 meters high at its central point.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque – Blue Mosque

The interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles. More than 200 stained glass windows with intricate designs admit natural light, today assisted by chandeliers.

Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya

Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Ayasofya) is a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum, in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome. It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Medieval Seville Cathedral in 1520.

Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya

The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 AD. In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building to be converted into a mosque.

Washing the Feet

The Muslim’s ritual ablutions conclude with the washing of feet. Taps outside the mosque are used by the faithful for this purpose.

The Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace (Topkapı Sarayı in Turkish) is a palace which was the official and primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans, from 1465 to 1853. The palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments and is a major tourist attraction today. Initial construction started in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II.

The Topkapi Palace

The main gate is called the Imperial Gate. This massive gate, originally dating from 1478, is now covered in 19th-century marble. The massiveness of this stone gate accentuates its defensive character. Its central arch leads to a high-domed passage. The Imperial Gate is the main entrance into the First Courtyard.

The Topkapi Palace - The Harem

The Imperial Hall is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the Sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the Sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife, consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.

The Topkapi Palace - The Harem

The Harem was home to the Sultan's mother, the Valide Sultan; the concubines and wives of the Sultan; and the rest of his family, including children; and their servants. There are approximately 300 rooms of which only about twenty are open to the public. The Harem housed as many as 500 people, which sometimes amounted up to 300 women, their children, and the eunuchs. The harem wing was only added at the end of the 16th century.

The Topkapi Palace - The Harem

At the height of its existence as a royal residence the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people. After the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Topkapı Palace was transformed by government decree into a museum of the imperial era.

The Bosporus - Bosphorus

The Bosporus or Bosphorus is a strait that forms the boundary between the European part of Turkey and its Asian. The world's narrowest strait used for international navigation, it connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. It is approximately 30 km long and two bridges cross the Bosporus. The first, the Bosphorus Bridge, is 1074 metres long and the second, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, is 1090 metres long. Another crossing, Marmaray, is a 13.7 kilometre-long rail tunnel currently under construction and expected to be completed in 2008.

The Grand Bazaar Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops, and has between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is well known for its jewellery, pottery, spice, and carpet shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather coats, gold jewellery and the like.

The Grand Bazaar Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Washing the Feet

The Muslim’s ritual ablutions conclude with the washing of feet. Taps outside the mosque are used by the faithful for this purpose.

The Süleymaniye Mosque - Suleymaniye

The Süleymaniye Mosque is a grand mosque in Istanbul. It was built on the order of sultan Suleiman I and was constructed by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1557. It is considered to be a kind of architectural answer to the Byzantine Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia, converted into a mosque under Mehmed II, served as a model to many other Ottoman mosques in Istanbul.

The Süleymaniye Mosque - Suleymaniye

The mosque is 59 meters in length and 58 meters in width. The main dome is 53 meters high and has a diameter of 26.5 meters. At the time it was built, the dome was the highest in the Ottoman empire when measured from its base, but still lower from the ground level and smaller in diameter than that of Hagia Sophia. The complex has four minarets, a number only allowable to mosques endowed by a sultan (princes and princesses could construct two minarets; others only one). The minarets have a total of 10 galleries indicating that Suleiman I was the 10th Ottoman sultan.

The Süleymaniye Mosque - Suleymaniye

The praying hall (cami).

The Süleymaniye Mosque - Suleymaniye

The Suleymaniye Mosque was ravaged by a fire in 1660 and was restored on the command of sultan Mehmed IV. Part of the dome collapsed again during the earthquake of 1766. The mosque was restored in the middle of the 19th century. During World War I the courtyard was used as a weapons depot and when some of the ammunition ignited, the mosque suffered another fire. Not until 1956 was it restored again. Today it is one of the most popular sights in Istanbul.

Hotel Pera Palace

Hotel Pera Palace is a historical four-star hotel in Istanbul. It was built in 1892 for the purpose of hosting the passengers of the Orient Express and was named after the place it is located. It holds the title of "the oldest European hotel of Turkey". Agatha Christie was in fact one of the hotel's most ardent visitors. The "Agatha Christie Room", number 411, is now preserved in her honor. It is rumored that she wrote Murder on the Orient Express here.

The Hippodrome of Constantinople

The Hippodrome of Constantinople was a horse-racing track that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire and the largest city in Europe. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı , with only a few fragments of the original structure surviving. The picture shows the Egyptian Obelisk and the Serpentine Column in the Hippodrome.

The Dolmabahce Palace

The Dolmabahçe Palace (Turkish: Dolmabahçe Sarayı) in Istanbul, Turkey, located at the European side of the Bosphorus, served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1853 to 1922. Dolmabahçe Palace was the first European-style palace in Istanbul. It was built between 1842 and 1853, at a cost of five million Ottoman gold pounds, the equivalent of 35 tons of gold. Fourteen tons of gold in the form of gold leaf were used to gild the ceilings of the palace. The world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier, hangs in the central hall. The chandelier has 750 lights and weighs 4.5 tons.

Hyatt Hotel

Hyatt Hotel

Pera Palas Oteli

Beautiful sunset at Pera Palas Oteli.

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