June 12, 2011

Istanbul, a City of History and Intrigue


For the European visitor, this city spanning the Bosporus provides a tantalising glimpse of the Orient, with its rich Ottoman past. For the Gulf traveller already conversant with Islamic history, it offers a fascinating variation on the theme.

There is just so much history packed into this town, and so many delightful views, that any business traveller will need to set aside at least a weekend to take it in.

Top of the deck for this writer is the Topkapi Palace. Home to the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years until the mid-1850s, this hill-top fortress hides a city of exquisite tiles with painted floral designs behind its stone walls.

Perhaps the most fascinating enclave of the palace is the imperial harem, which was home to ruling Sultans' mothers, who were known as the Valide Sultans, the concubines and Sultans' wives plus the rest of the royal family, including servants. This complex household was overseen by African eunuchs and out of bounds for anyone else.

Read more on The National: Istanbul, a City of History and Intrigue

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