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A PURELY OTTOMAN DISTRICT
2001 / OCTOBER

Bidding farewell to the last rays of the sun behind the magnificent silhouette of Istanbul's minarets and domes is as unforgettable as watching the sunrise from Nemrut, mountain of the gods. To see this beautiful sight you must cross to the Asian shore of the Bosphorus to Üsküdar as evening approaches. And what of Üsküdar itself? When you turn around to look at the place which is hosting this spectacle, you see a district of purely Ottoman character, in contrast to the walled city of Istanbul proper and Pera facing it across the Golden Horn, where historic monuments built by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Genoese, and even the Egyptians mingle with those of the Ottomans in a cosmopolitan cultural mosaic. Although Üsküdar's history also goes back to ancient times, little remains but a few fragments of columns and column capitals, and our knowledge of life here before the Ottoman era is limited. The Megerans who settled in Chalcedon (Kadiköy) in the 7th century BC are known to have established shipyards here, and the small settlement which grew up around them was captured by the

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A PURELY OTTOMAN DISTRICT
2001 / OCTOBER

Persians in the 6th century BC. Üsküdar was subsequently ruled in turn by the Athenians, Spartans and Bithynia, before becoming part of the Roman Empire in 74 BC. Under both Romans and Byzantines, Üsküdar appears to have been an insignificant village. Professor Dr Semai Eyice, in his book about the Bosphorus in the Byzantine period, writes that the only large buildings of importance here were the monasteries of Chrysopolis and Philippicos, of which there is no trace today. Nor does anything remain of the few small monasteries and places of worship here. The largest monastery no longer existed in the 10th century, and the remainder had disappeared one by one by the 14th century. So, prior to Ottoman times, Üsküdar had lost what importance it had and was diminishing in size. In 1347 the second Turkish sultan Orhan Gazi, who married the daughter of the Byzantine emperor John VI Cantacuzene, met with his father-in-law in Üsküdar, and in 1352 took possession of this area when the Genoese, who controlled Pera, were defeated by the Venetians and requested Orhan Gazi's

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A PURELY OTTOMAN DISTRICT
2001 / OCTOBER

help. Under Turkish rule Üsküdar's fortunes were reversed, as it grew rapidly from a village into a city, to become the most important Ottoman military base in the century leading up to the conquest of Istanbul. Following the conquest it was the starting point for all Ottoman campaigns eastwards through Anatolia, a centre of provisioning for the army, and of great commercial importance. Üsküdar was a crucial point on the trade routes through Anatolia to Istanbul, with boats of all kinds constantly ferrying passengers and goods to and fro across the Bosphorus.In time the beautiful surroundings of Üsküdar, particularly Çamlica Hill and the Bosphorus shores, became a popular summer resort, with pavilions and summer residences set amidst its vineyards and orchards, and along the waterfront. One of Üsküdar's best known landmarks is the small tower of Kiz Kulesi, lying on a tiny rocky islet 100 m offshore. In 410 BC Athenian general Alchibiades is known to have set up a guard post here to control ships passing in and out of the Bosphorus, and in the 12th century the Byzantine emperor Alexius I

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A PURELY OTTOMAN DISTRICT
2001 / OCTOBER

Comnenus built a tower from which a chain was stretched across the mouth of the strait to another tower on Sarayburnu headland. Following his conquest of Istanbul, Sultan Mehmed II kept guards in the tower, which collapsed in the earthquake of 1509. This was replaced by a wooden tower used as a lighthouse, which was damaged by fire in 1721 and rebuilt yet again, this time in stone, in 1763. In 1829 it became a quarantine station, and in 1832 was extensively repaired. In 1857 it was placed under the control of the Department of Lighthouses, and in 1945 again repaired by the Harbour Authority. A few years ago the tower was restored, and now houses a cafe and restaurant, so enabling visitors to enjoy a unique view in four directions, of Istanbul, the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus and Üsküdar. The renowned French writer Alphonse de Lamartine wrote of Istanbul, 'If one were allowed a single last glimpse of the world, one should have to come and see Istanbul.'

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A PURELY OTTOMAN DISTRICT
2001 / OCTOBER

And the place to see it would undoubtedly have to be Üsküdar.

* Yalman Özgüner is a journalist.


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