After arriving at the overcrowded Ataturk International Airport, we collected our (filthy) rental car and entered the Istanbul traffic. It was hair-raising! Eventually we reached our hotel and coma-ed out for the next 7 hours. Feeling
|I shall call him 'rover'|
Once we finally found our hotel, we went to explore Sultanahmet. We walked past the Blue Mosque, a nearby Egyptian obelisk, Hagia Sofia (originally a church, then a mosque, and now a museum), and wound our way up the hill to Topkapı Palace.
|The Blue Mosque, named for its special coloured tiles|
|Shame the Archaeological Museum wasn't open|
|The Obelisk of Theodosius|
|The Gate of Salutation at Topkepı|
Following the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Topkapı Palace was transformed by a government decree into a museum of the imperial era. It also houses important Islamic relics, such as hairs from Mohammed’s beard, and his coat and sword. We would have liked to see the treasure rooms, as they are apparently up there with the Crown Jewels, but the queue was enormous. We’d already waited in a queue for an hour just to buy tickets, so we decided to forego seeing the riches of the Palace.
Palace was the main residence of the sultan and his court. It was initially the
seat of government as well as the imperial residence. One of
the central tenets was the observation of silence in the inner courtyards. An Imperial Harem wing was added in the late 16th century. It was
located in the private apartments of the sultan and contained more than 400
rooms. The harem was home to the sultan's mother, the concubines and wives of
the sultan, the rest of his family (including children), as well as eunuchs and
servants. The girls who served the Ottoman sultans were mostly beautiful
Circassians from the North Caucasus. Muslim women were forbidden to be
concubines, so mainly white, Christian slave girls were used instead.
There could be up to 300 in residence within the complex at one time.
|Privvy Chambers of the Crown Prince|
|Pretty tulips everywhere|
|Tiles in the Harem|
|The Gate of Felicity|
|Our friends Jo and Regan|