Istanbul: Color! Life! History!

By: Arwa Mohammed Saleh Mohammed (SMC)

The Turkish Embassy in Khartoum organized a three-day trip to Istanbul, Turkey for a group of journalists, including myself from the Sudanese Media Centre (SMC). We experienced Turkish hospitality and visited the most important monuments and Islamic civilization. We spent the most beautiful and enjoyable time, accompanied by tour guide Ahmed Mahfel, who provided us with tons of information and a history lesson I will never forget.

Istanbul-like Paris, London or New York is one of the greatest cities in the world. Turkey and Istanbul are experiencing powerful economic growth reflected in changes in the city’s architecture and tourism industry.

More Than One Continent

Istanbul, being the largest city in Turkey, is among the 25 largest urban areas in the world. Located on the Bosporus Strait and covers the entire area of the Golden Horn – a natural harbor. Because of its size, Istanbul extends into both Europe and Asia. The city is the world’s only metropolis to extend into more than one continent.

The city of Istanbul is important to geography because it has a long history that spans the rise and fall of the world’s most famous empires.

Due to its participation in these empires, Istanbul has also undergone various name changes throughout its lengthy history.

Capital of Two Greatest Empires

Istanbul was the capital of two of the greatest empires: Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and Ottoman Empire.

In 324 Istanbul became the capital of the Roman Empire after Emperor Constantin moved the capital from Rome to Byzantium (Istanbul). After the final division of the Roman Empire into West and East Roman Empires in 395 and the ending of the Western Roman Empire in 476, Istanbul became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, popularly known as the Byzantine Empire.

In year 361, Istanbul (Constantinople) was the world’s most populous city with a population of 300,000. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe’s largest and wealthiest city.

In 1600, during the Ottoman period, between 400-700,000 people lived in Istanbul making it the world’s second most populous city after Beijing. The population numbers are significant because they relate to power and wealth concentration at those times

Istanbul was also settled by Phoenician, Greek trade colonies from around 700 BC though there are few remains from these periods. Until the conquest of Istanbul by the Turks in 1453, there were also Genoese trade colonies in Istanbul whose major sites were Genoese tower and Yoros castle (in Anadolu Kavagi).

During your visit to Istanbul, you can see Greek, Roman (Byzantine), Genoese, Ottoman historic sights and ancient remains.

Sultans and Archeology

In Istanbul, there are the palaces of the 36 Sultans, their seals and decisions, and the status of the Islamic Caliphate in Istanbul, located in an area called the Sultanahmet region, in which there is a collection of archaeological buildings and museums that evoke the splendor of Islamic history, historical monuments and Islamic civilization in Turkey.

In this center there is a history of the civilization of Islam and the historical civilizations that preceded it. In its museum there is the turban of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and the hair and hairs of his noble beard, sword and bow and his feet, the honorable peace be upon him, as well as a number of swords of his companions, most notably Siva Karar Ali bin Abi Talib and Othman Ben Affan may Allah be pleased with them.

Topkapi Palace

Similar in name to the Topkapi restaurant on Africa Road in Khartoum, the Topkapi Palace is the biggest and one of the most popular sites to visit in Istanbul. It was built in between 1466 and 1478 by the sultan, Mehmet II on top of a hill in a small peninsula, dominating the Golden Horn to the north, the Sea of Marmara to the south, and the Bosphorous strait to the north east, with great views of the Asian side as well. The palace was the political center of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries, until they built Dolmabahce Palace by the waterside.

After the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Mehmet II ordered to built his palace in its present location on top of the ancient Byzantine ruins, meanwhile he spent some time during its construction at a smaller palace where there is the University of Istanbul today, in Bayezit square. Once they moved to Topkapi palace, the old one was called as “Old Palace” and Topkapi as the “New Palace”. But local people called it as “Topkapi” which in Turkish means “Gate of Cannons” because of huge cannons displayed outside of its gates, those which were used during the Conquest.

In the same museum there is the turban of the Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him, and the Prophet of God Yahya and the rest of the monuments of peace be upon him, as well as the stick of Moses.

The palace has an entire section dedicated to preparing enough food for five thousand people a day, where there are various luxury vessels that tell about the greatness of that date.

The Ottoman place was not only the home of the Sultan and his family, but the seat of the government of Ettering Collage and Art Center. Also with a large population the place was like a separate city with the city of Istanbul, and the number rose to about 10,000 in the early 17th century.

Culinary Culture

The Ottoman cuisine was a culinary culture that had its roots in Central Asia and developed as the Turks migrated westward and reached a high point in Anatolia. The most famous types of food were lamb, chicken, meat and birds such as walnuts, ducks, pigeons, and beef. It was used only for pastrama ) And Sukuk (spiced sausages)

Daily meals are cooked in the palace kitchens of the Sultan, the Sultan’s mother, the royal princes, the Sultan’s daughters, their wives and their attendants.

The Ottoman Empire in the 19th century was a period in which modernism and tradition were intertwined, and political and social changes influenced the culinary culture. Sultan Mohammed (1808-1839) sent Cook to Austria to train and cook from European palaces to be allowed to work in the Ottoman palace.

The banquet held in the Ottoman Palace included the European statement, diplomats and dishes in the European palaces. Some of these places became a regular feature of the Ottoman Palace cuisine.

The medicines were prepared in the sweets kitchen under the supervision of the main palace pharmacies and hospitals. Some of the medicinal herbs used in these medicines have been planted in the gardens of the palace by the desserts themselves or by members of the Severus Koguso (Hall of Exploratory Force) while others have been provided by merchants in the city.

As well as sweets, cosmetics, soaps and fragrances with the essence of flowers such as jasmine, honeysuckle, pink rabbit, violet, lily and marvel of Peru, spices also like cloves and poppy.

UNESCO Recognized

Istanbul’s many historical areas were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. In addition, because of its status as a world rising power, its history, importance to culture in both Europe and the world.

Turkish people in the markets we visited, such as the Egyptian market, the covered market, the restaurants and the tourist areas, were extremely friendly and their smiles and warmth from the beginning to the end of the journey will be something we will always remember.