February 01, 2011

A Walk Through Süleymaniye

The Aqueduct of Valens was built in A.D. 375 and has weathered the years beautifully. It is strange to see cars and buses jostle to squeeze through its arches in that wonderful mixture of the quotidian old and the everyday modern that so characterizes İstanbul.

Before crossing the street to go toward the old downtown, I wanted to look more closely at a small building that abuts the aqueduct. I had passed it many times and was unsure whether it was a mosque or a school or what. When I walked around to the front I found the door open and entered a beautiful courtyard with roses blooming in January. The building had originally been a madrassa, a religious school, but now housed the Museum of Cartoons and Humor. Droll, I thought.

I set out from Şehzade to find the Süleymaniye Camii, often considered Sinan’s masterpiece. I knew it sat somewhere between where I was and the Grand Bazaar, but I was not sure exactly how to get there. From Taksim, as one goes down the hill to the Golden Horn, the Süleymaniye dominates the skyline, so I figured it would not be hard to find, and I was in no hurry.

The walk was delightful. I meandered down cobblestone streets lined by houses dating from contemporary times to a couple of hundred years old. I ran across a few of the old wooden houses that used to characterize İstanbul domestic architecture. Most of them have burned -- cities that depend on wooden housing face a certain precariousness. I passed several schools and other stone buildings. I walked past residents shopping or lounging and ran into a few kids. Kids always want their photo taken, and with a digital camera I am happy to take their picture and show them the result. One boy did handstands that I captured in my camera. He was delighted to see the photo, and I regretted I had no way to give him a copy. (ALLEN SCARBORO)

Read more on Today's ZamanA Walk Through Süleymaniye


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