When in Istanbul ..... Topkapi Palace

I’d never heard of the Topkapi Palace before. It was only when I starting researching Istanbul that I learned about this residence of the Ottoman Sultans. The first stage of this expansive palace was built in the 1450’s and it was only in 1909 that it was officially abandoned by the sultan’s women and their servants. During that period, the empire was run from here and it was home to the Imperial Treasury. Today you can still visit the incredible collection of precious objects and jewels, including an 86-carat diamond. A collection of imperial robes is housed in one section of the palace, and arms and armour in another. I was intrigued by the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms, home to some of the most sacred relics in the Muslim world. It housed objects like a cloak of Muhammad, his swords, one tooth, a hair of his beard and an autographed letter.

The highlight of the palace, however, is the Harem - the private rooms of the sultan, the imperial princes, his wives, concubines, servants and black eunuchs. The amazing building with its labyrinthine corridors held so much history and intrigue. Islamic law allowed the sultan to have four legitimate wives and as many concubines that he had the means to support. All the slaves were foreigners as Islam forbade enslaving Muslims. When they entered the Harem, they were educated in Islam and Turkish culture and then the competition started. They all wanted the favour of the sultan’s mother, the most powerful women in the Harem. She controlled access to her son and the girls dreamt of giving the Sultan a son and maybe even marriage.

The decorated rooms, many in iznik tiles, some even in Delft, are beautiful and I loved the feminine touch evident in this part of the palace.

Just a word of advice if you want to visit: Go as early as possible in the morning and allow at least half a day to visit. It becomes very crowded, but it is absolutely worth it. One of the highlights of the trip for me!

To read all my Turkey blog posts, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment