Turkey Part 3: More sights, sounds & smells of Istanbul

In this last leg, I will tell you of three very diverse places of interest. I was told that despite not being on the top-of-the-list attractions, the Süleymaniye Mosque was grander than its more famous cousin. It was built by the same sultan and the similarities are striking. I was even told by some, that a visit to this mosque was more rewarding. However, it does not have as many of those exquisite blue tiles of the more famous Blue Mosque and naturally does not have the blue look. So, I will have to be back another day. Not that I need an excuse!

Süleymaniye Mosque

I will let Lonely Planet do all the talking about this mosque.

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The Süleymaniye crowns one of İstanbul’s seven hills and dominates the Golden Horn, providing a landmark for the entire city. Though it’s not the largest of the Ottoman mosques, it is certainly one of the grandest and most beautiful. It’s also unusual in that many of its original külliye (mosque complex) buildings have been retained and sympathetically adapted for reuse.

Commissioned by Süleyman I, known as ‘The Magnificent’, the Süleymaniye was the fourth imperial mosque built in İstanbul and it certainly lives up to its patron’s nickname. The mosque and its surrounding buildings were designed by Mimar Sinan, the most famous and talented of all imperial architects. Sinan’s türbe (tomb) is just outside the mosque’s walled garden, next to a disused medrese building.

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Süleyman specified that his mosque should have the full complement of public services: imaret (soup kitchen), medrese (Islamic school of higher studies), hamam, darüşşifa (hospital) etc. On its right-hand side (north) is a tabhane (inn for travelling dervishes) and on its left-hand side (south) is Lale Bahçesi, a popular tea garden set in a sunken courtyard.

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Inside, the building is breathtaking in its size and pleasing in its simplicity. Sinan incorporated the four buttresses into the walls of the building – the result is wonderfully ‘transparent’ (ie open and airy) and highly reminiscent of Aya Sofya, especially as the dome is nearly as large as the one that crowns the Byzantine basilica.

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The mihrab (niche in a minaret indicating the direction of Mecca) is covered in fine İznik tiles, and other interior decoration includes window shutters inlaid with mother-of-pearl, gorgeous stained-glass windows, painted muqarnas (corbels with honeycomb detail), a spectacular persimmon-coloured floor carpet, painted pendentives and medallions featuring fine calligraphy.

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To the right (southeast) of the main entrance is the cemetery, home to the octagonal tombs of Süleyman and his wife Haseki Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana). The tilework surrounding the entrances to both is superb and the ivory-inlaid panels in Süleyman’s tomb are lovely.

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Turbesi = Tomb

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The alley near the mosque where we almost lost our way – it being a non-touristy area, no one spoke English and all our queries were greeted with laughs or indifference

Then we got lost and ended up in a not so desirable alley in Istanbul but thankfully found our way to our apartment in Pera.

SPICE BAZAAR

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The market was constructed in the 1660s as part of the New Mosque, with rent from the shops supporting the upkeep of the mosque as well as its charitable activities, which included a school, hamam and hospital. The market’s Turkish name, the Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Market), references the fact that the building was initially endowed with taxes levied on goods imported from Egypt. In its heyday, the bazaar was the last stop for the camel caravans that travelled the Silk Road from China, India and Persia.

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Entrance of the New Mosque (1597-1665) in Eminonu

Originally commissioned by Valide Sultan Safiye, mother of Sultan Mehmet III, the New Mosque was completed 6 sultans later by order of Valide Sultan Turhan Hadice, mother of Sultan Mehmet IV.

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We also sell spices

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Vividly coloured spices are displayed alongside jewel-like lokum (Turkish delight) at this Ottoman-era marketplace, providing eye candy for the thousands of tourists and locals who make their way here every day.

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Stalls also sell caviar, dried herbs, honey, nuts and dried fruits.

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Lokums or Turkish delights of all possible flavours

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Edible sponges hanging in front of a shop

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Nuts
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Artistically arranged scarves

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The number of stalls selling tourist trinkets increases annually, yet this remains a great place to stock up on edible souvenirs, share a few jokes with vendors and marvel at the well-preserved building.

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Bracelets and the omnipresent blue Turkish stone to ward off the evil eye
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Quite a few Bangladeshis work in these stalls
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Marzipan
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Famous Turkish doner or the giant sheekh

BOSPHORUS CRUISE

This is an absolute must in Istanbul. However, we were a bit rushed and so, we just did the short tour. There are many operators – we chose this very cheap one as it is equally effective and there was no point spending so much on a short cruise. Also the day was cloudy and a bit rainy and we knew we would not get the best value for money. This one, if I am not mistaken, cost us only 12TL.

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Bosphorus Tour in Turkish
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Floating fish stalls by the bridge –  the New Mosque looms in the background
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The most common visitors

The Galata Bridge is a rare place where different political wings, ages, genders can get along together. With its thousands of fishermen and their rods, the bridge is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and memorable places in Istanbul.

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Galata Bridge between the 2 continents
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Fishermen are always here

Check out this mind-blowing photo blog on Galata Bridge. My sights were not so spectacular due to the poor lighting from cloudy setting and light showers. Suddenly we were freezing and almost immobile. To top it all, my camera battery was about to die.

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View of Dolmbahce Palace from the cruise
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The Ortakoy Mosque
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Beautiful sights on the European side
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Asian side
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Gulls galore
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Different kinds of cruise boats
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A happy me despite the rain and clouds

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European side (pic: Nitin)
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The Asian side had lots of red houses for some reason
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Sunset time approaching and time for the Bosphorus bridge to light up
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Bosphorus Bridge at night (Pic: Deviant Art website)

 

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Ortakoy Mosque also lights up

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Another imposing sight on the European side of the Bosphorus, is a fortress located on a hill in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul – the Rumelian Castle or Rumeli Hisari (see above & bottom)

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For more details on Bosphorus tour, please look up these links from Istanbul Insider and ATDAA.

I will conclude my 3-part Istanbul blog by giving you a few interesting links to what-to-see or do in Istanbul. I seem to have lost the one that I liked the most but this one is not bad at all. There is another offbeat blog by Nomadic Matt.

P.S. Read my other 2 blogposts on Istanbul in Turkey Part 1 and Turkey Part 2

3 thoughts on “Turkey Part 3: More sights, sounds & smells of Istanbul

  1. Soma…i really enjoyed all three parts. Thanks for sharing. What a wonderfully researched piece each one was! Loved the pictures so much. Loved the colours and forms and textures. Will have to read again and again…so much history!

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    1. Found it!!
      Istanbul is so loaded with history that it will leave your head spinning. I am so happy that you enjoyed it. Pls feel free to share among like minded individuals.

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