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Escorted Turkey Tours

Istanbul attractions at glance

By Seif Kamel

Istanbul is one of the most remarkable cities in Turkey. It was ruled by many empires and dynasties.  This is why it is nowadays an open air museum for different types of buildings and architectures dating back to several eras of the Turkish history. Many travelers would love to spend their Escorted Turkey Tours.

Today we will take a glance at some of the attractions of Istanbul.

The Byzantine Basilica Cistern

This is a huge underground water cistern. This marvelous rare example of Byzantine architecture is the most unusual touristic attraction in the city.

Although most certainly there were many other cisterns in the same location, this large vault was constructed in the period of Justinian and particularly in 532 AD. It was established to fulfill the growing needs of the Great Palace that was stood on the other side of the famous Hippodrome, one of the most famous attractions in Istanbul that is included in many vacation packages to Turkey.  

After more than 100 years of the Ottoman conquest of the Istanbul, they didn't know that the cistern even existed. It was discovered afterwards when the people started getting water and even fish by lowering buckets inside the basements.

Visitors enter the cistern through walkways to view the wonderful architecture of the complex. The ceiling of the cistern is supported by 336 columns with the height of 8 meters. Only around one third of the original structure can be seen today and the rest was destroyed in the 19th century.

To the left-hand corner of the cistern two remarkable columns have the head of Medusa at their capitals. This proves that the Byzantine used part of older monuments to erect this cistern. The cistern, being quite an unusual visit, is still explored by many tourists who spend their vacations in Turkey.

The Vakiflar Carpet Museum

A ramp to the left of the entrance gate of the Blue mosque gets the visitor up to the Vakiflar Carpet Museum. It was built in the former imperial Pavilion of the mosque. This Pavilion, constructed by Sultan Ahmed, was constructed to host the Sultan and his followers in the Friday prayers.

It is always worthwhile for travelers who visit the Blue mosque as a part of their Turkey tours to pay a visit to the museum.

The large collection of Turkish carpets is preserved against the sunlight in colored glass galleries. They date back to the period from the 16th to the 19th century and they are brought mainly from the Western Anatolia region. The Turkish rugs are quite popular among tourists who spend enjoyable trips in Turkey.

For centuries, the mosques have played a vital role in preserving old carpets and rugs. Many of the carpets on display in this museum today were put in the several mosques of the country until recently.

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic arts

The former palace of Ibrahim Pasha (1493 till 1536 AD) , the most gifted viziers of Sultan Suleiman,  host the museum of Turkish and Islamic arts that contains a collection of more than 40,000 items.

The gathering of this collection started in the 19th century and it contains items ranging from the beginning of Islam in the 7th century till recent days.

Each hall of the museum hosts the items of a certain period of the Islamic history or a geographical location in the Islamic world.  All the galleries have detailed expiation written in the Turkish and the English language making the visit quite interesting. Many Turkey private tours would contain a visit to a number of the notable museums in the country.  

The most remarkable displays in the museum is the collection of rugs that range from the 13th century Seljuk fragments to the Persian silk that covers a huge area of the main hall of the museum.

The first floor of the museum has a section that focuses on the everyday life of the Turkish people especially the nomads from Anatolia. The collection includes a number of ancient and modern tents that the nomads live in until today.

The Cistern of the 1001 Columns

This cistern dating back to the 4th century AD is second in size to the nearby cistern of the Byzantine Basilica. It measured 64 X 56 meters in surface area and it can store water to fulfill the needs of a population that is estimated to be more than 350.000 for more than 10 days.  Many travelers who go on private Turkey tours would include some visits to the cisterns of Istanbul to their travel program.

The bone brick roof of the cistern is held up by 264 marble columns, as the 1001 columns that is mentioned in the name of the cistern is actually poetic exaggeration.

Due to its architectural design, the cistern has proved to be the best place for the silk weaving process and it was used for years by silk producer as a workplace. Silk is among the products that travelers who go on tours in Istanbul are always interested to buy.  

The Tomb of Sultan Mohamed II

This impressive mausoleum was designed in the Roman style of architecture. It was built in 1838 one year before the death of the Sultan Mohamed II.

The mausoleum now hosts the bodies of three Turkish rulers; Mohamed II, Sultan Abdel Hamid, and Sultan Abdel Aziz.

The walls of then burial chambers are decorated with paintings symbolizing victory and prosperity. The huge tomb dominates a cemetery that has a fountain, beautiful head stones, and a nice cafe.

The Column of Constantine

This 35 meters high column has survived many threats including fire and storm. It was built in 330 AD as part of the celebration for the new Byzantine capital.

The column was made out of porphyry brought from Egypt. Beside the column, once stood a large statue of Constantine dressed as the god Apollo but it collapsed during a storm in 1106.

In the 5th century 10 drum stones that the column consists of were reinforced and then in the 18th century they were renewed by Sultan Mustafa III. Many travelers, especially history fans coming in private tours to Turkey, would pay the column a visit.

In English this column is usually called the burn column because it was exposed to many fires especially this of the year 1779 that damaged the Grand Bazaar.

Several holy relics were supposed to be entombed in the base of the column. This includes the axe that Noah used to build his ark, Mary Magdalene oil, and remains of the bread that belonged to the Christ.

The Sokollu Mohamed Pasha Mosque

Built by Sinan Pasha, the most famous Turkish architect, in 1572, the mosque was commissioned by Sokollu Mohamed Pasha, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Selim II.

One of the most remarkable features of the mosque is the simplicity of the design of Sinan Pasha that solved the problem of the mosque's sloping site.

A steep entrance leads to the main courtyard of the mosque. Only the tiles above the windows give an idea of jeweled interior of the mosque to come. An escorted Turkey tour may include a visit to the historical mosques of the country.  

The far wall of the courtyard of the mosque is totally covered with Iznik tiles. This wall has six marvelous glass windows. Most of the other walls of the mosque are simple and plain but some of them are decorated with the same tiles.

Positioned into the wall at the entrance, there is the small piece of greenish stone that is said to be brought from the Kaaba, the holy stone at the center of Mecca.

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