Istanbul 1: Sultanahmet

We stayed first in the vicinity of Beyazit Square, near the Grand Bazaar.

0384 Hotel NilesThe Hotel Niles was on a Guardian roundup of budget hotels in Istanbul. Settled on it for location — Sultanahmet district, near the heart of historic Constantinople/Byzantium.

Here’s the layout:

0 sultanahmet mapThanks for the borrow of the map from Каппадокия и другая Турция. Путеводитель. Oops — think the Hotel Niles is a block west of the location circled.

Near the hotel the busy thoroughfare is called Ordu Caddesi (= Street) …

0 Ordu Caddesi Google Earth

Thanks to Google Earth for this image. Ordu Caddesi runs approx. East-West. Further east it becomes Yeniçeriler Caddesi, then Divanyolu Caddesi. Beyazit Square is the raggedy-ass open area middle left, between Ordu Caddesi and Beyazit Camii (=Mosque). Hotel Niles is at bottom left, Constantine’s Pillar middle right.

Our admittedly tiny room was about $130 a night (10 percent off if you pay cash) including a lavish buffet breakfast in the charming rooftop dining place. Factor in unfailingly hospitable, helpful staff. We judged it a good deal in high season.

0249 bazaar peopleAn entrance to the vast bazaar buildings. Always scads of people.

0261 store windowTurkish Delight shop. “I have everything in my shop … except you, the customer.”

0248 cel phonersCell phones everywhere of course.

Our point of reference the huge minaret with the distinctive scaffolding near Beyazit Square (looking north from the rooftop of the Hotel Niles):

0228 rooftop view N

The little mosque in that picture was our local source of prayer, delivered by loudspeakers beginning about 5:30 am. It is en route to Beyazit Square. The write-up:

0242 Emin Bey Mosque

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood …

0237 Beyazit houseOttoman style residence

0258 old openingOld iron

0241 footwashFor washing feet

0253 cem3On a street bordering the university’s high western wall … A mysterious corner structure … little convenience store inside and below … a graveyard behind …

0255 cem 50254 cem4 0251 cem2 0250 cem1

Bought a three-day museum pass at the hotel. Great deal, and we would not otherwise have seen the Museum of Archaeology, the Mosaic Museum or the Chora Church by Theodosius’s walls. The card allows you to breeze up to the front of most lines. It worked at AyaSofya, but not at Topkapi Palace, the vast multi-walled domain of the Ottoman rulers, their courtiers and eunuchs and wives and concubines and all.

0295 Topkapi pal

You had to queue up in sub-lines to see the individual parts. So popular.

Inside the harem quarters …

0299 Top harem3 0298 Top harem2 0297 Top harem1

What are we looking at? Don’t know. Don’t care much — all that extravagance and tyranny. Imprisonment! Death on sultan’s whim! Comes the revolution … oh, wait, it already came. The seraglio was disbanded in 1909 (see newspaper article What really went on in the harem?) and the sultanate abolished in 1922 … The harem quarters have been open to the public since 1960.

One thought on “Istanbul 1: Sultanahmet

  1. Really takes all of the idea of eroticism and romance out of the concept of harem. and interesting that the women were white slaves from elsewhere and not Muslim women. I know Muslim men who have white women for lovers but when they think about settling down they relate a completely different way and choose Muslim women. Right here in Canada. In my circle of friends. Good men. But some things never change apparently.

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