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Eminonu is the ancient heart of the city and it's public transportation hub.  Buses, trams, trains and ferries all pass through. It's where you will find Suleymaniye, the New Mosque, the Spice and Grand Bazaars and the Galata Bridge.  Ferries leave for trips across and down the Bosphorus   You can eat at a floating food stall, visit the major tourist attractions or just wander the bustling streets

Suleymaniye Camii 

Dominates the Golden Horn from atop one of the seven hills upon which the city was built   It is the largest mosque in Istanbul and was built by the most powerful of the Ottoman Emperors Suleyman the Magnificent.  The Imperial mosques of Istanbul were responsible for its re growth.  After the conquest the people fled, returning to settle in the quarters springing up around the new mosques.  They were not only places of worship but were also charitable institutions.  They funded, school, hospitals, orphanages amongst other things and their kitchens fed thousands, Jew and Christians as well as Muslims

Ritual ablutions end with the washing of feet.  Rows of taps are provided along the outer walls of  mosques.  This is Suleymaniye

Yeni Cami - New Mosque

On the Eminonu waterfront  opposite the Galata Bridge, stands Yemi Cami the 'New Mosque.  Is unusual in that it was built at a time when the women of the Harem were at their most powerful.  It was started in 1597 by the mother of Mehmet lll but her influence ended upon the death of her son.  It remained unfinished until six sultans later another Valide Sultan revived the project



Man prays beside the ornate Minbar of the New Mosque.  It is used by the Imam on Fridays and holidays but he never ascends to the top. 

The Mosque is surrounded by the vibrant hustle and bustle of Eminonu.  The ferry docks are opposite, trams trundle back and forth, traffic streams over the Galata Bridge, the bus station is around the corner and there is a street market adding to the general melle.  There is an underpass lined with shops which is not for the faint hearted either

Turkish BBQ at the ferry docks on the Golden Horn

Take the Turkish Maritime Lines boat on a cruise up the Bosphorus. As well as the busy river traffic there are many mosques to see, some forts and these wonderful 19th century villas know as Yalis.  You can take the round trip, having lunch in Andolu Kavaga, before returning. We needed to be back early so caught the bus to Uskudar (formerly Scutari of Florence Nightingale fame) and a ferry back across to Besiktas

Misir Carsisi, the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar

Built at the time of the New Mosque.  For centuries people came here to consult the pharmacists who acted as doctors prescribing and making up potions to cure all ills.   A famous medication for haemorrhoids involved boiling gunpowder with lemon and consuming on an empty stomach.  It fell out of favour when the stores supplying it kept blowing up

Spice of an altogether different kind!

Now there are only 9 stores selling spices in the bazaar. The others sell  dried fruit, nuts, meat and a wide variety of goods

Grand Bazaar

The Bazaar started as a small warehouse at the time of Mehmet the Conqueror.  Traders erected roofs over their stalls until the market covered a vast area.  Caravans came from the corners of the empire bringing great wealth.  Eventually it grew to be the size of a small city and was gated and locked at night

The Kapali Carisi, Grand Bazaar or Covered Market

 Call it what you will, it is an amazing retail experience. A labyrinth of 64 shopping streets, 4400 shops, and 25,000 employees.  It is said that 500.000 locals and tourists alike shop here every day.  There are 4 fountains, 2 mosques and 22 gates

Everyone gets, lost or at least disorientated in the Bazaar.   We never ventured far without checking the whereabouts of  Kalpakcilarbasi Street the main thoroughfare. The pennants are in support of Istanbul's bid for the Olympics.   Similar flags were flying in Toronto when I left to meet my sister in law in Manchester, another city pinning it's hopes on being awarded the 2008 games.  All three were to loose out in favour of Beijing.

The array of goods on sale here is vast but it is hectic and the touts relentless.   The much smaller Egyptian Spice Bazaar makes for a more relaxing shopping expedition.  The streets and Hans around the Bazaars are also worth a visit

The 180' Galata Tower, is a prominent landmark on the European side of the city.  It was built by the Genoese as the watchtower of their medieval fortified colony, and known as the 'Tower Of Christ'.  It remained a watchtower albeit for fire watch until the 1960's.  Now it serves as an observation deck for tourists who either walk or take an elevator to the top.  The 360' degree view is worth the effort

View from the top towards Seraglio Point, the Topkapi, Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque.  The maritime traffic is amazing, ferries, cargo vessels, luxury cruise liners, private yachts and all manner of small boats ply the waters of the Golden Horn the sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus which meet at this point.

From here The top of the tower in the 17th century Hezarfen Ahmet Celevi achieved his dream of manned flight.  He invented the wings with which  he 'flew' from the top of the tower to Uskudar on the Asian shore.


The Tunel Tram

An underground railway built to take  European merchants from their offices in Galata to their homes in Pera.  It is still a great way to avoid climbing the hill.

Pera (Beyoglu), was given to the Genoese in the 13th century in gratitude for military support . They were joined by Jews from Spain, Armenians, Greeks and Arabs, all setting up their own communities.   Centuries later the European powers built their embassies here,  downgraded to Consulates when Ankara became the Capital City.

View over the Galata Bridge to Eminonu.  

The bridge is only 10 years old.  The original was on pontoons which prevented the free flow of water from clearing the Golden Horn of pollutants. With its demolition went the seedy restaurants, teahouses and hookah parlours which occupied the space under the road

The Dolmabahce Palace

The Dolmabahce Palace taken from the TDI Ferry.

The Great Turk's wealth was gone, his army was in disarray and his people were considering revolution.  Recognising the ascending European star he tried to Westernise his empire modernising the military and civil service.  To that end he built a French style palace on the banks of the Bosphrous with borrowed money.  It can be seen as the last hurrah of a once great Empire.  No longer did the minor powers of Europe, Africa and the Near East quake with fear at the prospect of a Turkish conquest


  The Ottomans abandoned the Topkapi in 1856 and presided over the fall of their vast empire from Dolmabahce

It is only possible to visit the interior on a guided tour which takes 60 to 90 minutes plus time in line to buy tickets.

Two tours are offered.  The Harem housing the Sultan, his family and the women of the household and the Selamlik, reserved for men and containing the state and ceremonial rooms.  We took both but if you can only take one, choose the latter

The Swan Fountain.   The gardens of the palace were built on reclaimed land, hence the name Dolmabahce which means 'the filled in  garden'

Salon in the Harem .  Ataturk lived in Ankara the new capital but kept a suite of rooms in the Harem for his frequent visits to Istanbul

  As I update this site I am constantly wishing I could return with my latest digital camera!

The bedroom where Kemal Ataturk ( Father Turk) died of cirrhosis on November 10th 1938 at 9.05am.  All the clocks in the palace remain stopped at that time.

Magnificent is the only way to describe the main double horseshoe staircase.   The balustrades are of French Baccarat Crystal.  The banisters of mahogany and brass, the flooring is parquet using 3 different woods.  The carpets throughout were made especially for the palace in  Hereke not far from Istanbul.  

View from an upper window.  Dolmabahce is the only Ottoman palace built to take advantage of the waterfront.   The Sultan could enter his palace from the royal barge through one of these impressive gates.

Dome of the  2,000 square-meter Ceremonial Hall.  Hanging from it is the  largest crystal chandelier in the world a gift of Queen Victoria.  It  weighs 4.5 tons and carries 750 crystals.   The room is so vast it took 3 days to heat for a function.

Not THE Chandelier but a beauty non the less.

There are approximately 285 rooms, 43 large halls and 6 Turkish baths in the palace.  Ornate ceilings trompe l'oeil and Bohemian crystal chandeliers are a feature of many of them

My favourite ceiling in the palace, that of a bathroom, with glorious tiny skylights

Passing by the Dolmabahce Palace on May 29th enroute to  Beyoglu to see the Whirling Dervish, we came across an interesting looking parade.  We had no way of knowing what was going on as we were the only foreign visitors around.  We naturally had to follow to find out.  Security was tight.  Just beyond this point all male spectators were being frisked and questioned by police.  The women and children, including Jean and myself were allowed to pass without hindrance.   After much waiting around a cavalcade of cars carrying armed security men swooped in and out hopped someone who could only have been a politician.  He was warmly received by the locals but his speech dragged on so long we finally had to give up on seeing events through to their conclusion.

It was obvious the friendly group of 'ancient mariners' would be playing a major role.  They half told half mimed the information that they were going to haul the boat from the riverside across a major road and up to the football stadium What no amount of mime could get across was the reason why!  We had a lovely time trying to fathom it out though

 This is Sultan Mehmet ll aka the Conqueror.  On this day in 1453 following a siege which lasted 54 days he and his men landed at this spot, the sight of the very cove that the last of the Ottoman's had filled to produce their gardens at the Dolmabahce (filled garden) Palace


The Whirling Dervish
Sufism is the mystical side of Islam.  The name comes from the woolen robes of it's followers who aspired to a divine experience through poverty and self denial.  Of the many Sufi sects the most famous is the Mevlevi, or Whirling Devishes and their most famous dancing hall is the 18th century Galata Mevlevihanesi, located on Galipdede Caddesi, not far from TŁnel at the end of Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul   

The Dervish enter the Sema Hall led by the semazenbashi or dance master and line up to one side with heads bowed.

 The Sheik is the last to enter, bowing he walks slowly to his post and takes up his position on the red sheepskin rug.  He stands, bows and begins to walk around the hall.  

The Sultan Veld Walk

The Dervish follow the Sheik, stopping to bow to each other at the post.   They circle the dance floor 3 times at which point the last Dervish bows to the Sheiks post and returns to his place as the Sheik takes his post

Those who are about to 'turn for God', bow, and remove their cloaks, kissing them before dropping them on the floor.  Standing with arms crossed right over left they prepare to whirl.

They unfold their arms and slowly begin.  The Sheik stands at his post, the musicians in the gallery play and a choir chants

Arms extended the right palm facing up the left down. Energy is chanelled from the upturned palm, through the body and down to earth via the left palm

The symbolism behind the dervish dress : Their white robes, known as tennure, are a symbol of death. Their long, black cloaks are known as hırka and symbolize the grave.  And lastly, the felt, brown hats known as kŻlah orsikke, represents the tombstone. In short, their dress symbolizes the death of the ego on their quest to come closer to Allah.   The coloured robes are worn by Whirling Dervish still in training.

Turning counter clockwise, 20 to 30 times a minute silently chanting the name of Allah.

'A secret turning in us 

Makes the universe turn

Head unaware of feet and feet head.

Neither cares. They keep turning'.   Rumi

When the music ends, the dervish complete a turn and stop, facing the Sheik.  At the sudden movement their billowing skirts wrap around their legs as they bow to the Sheik.

The ceremony ends with a prayer for peace to the God of the East and the West who knows and embraces all believers.

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