Yesteryear seat of Ottoman power; now a hotel

palatial

Yesteryear seat of Ottoman power; now a hotel

The 16th century Ciragan Palace is a heritage site and truly one of the most magnificent structures along the Bosphorous. Converted into a five-star hotel now, and run by the Kempinski Group, the palace is one of the most expensive places to stay in this world owing to its rich history and extraordinary location.

To see the ships passing the Bosphorous is probably one of the best ways to relax and unwind in Istanbul. The Bosphorous is a narrow strait which separates the European side of Istanbul from the Asian side and also links the Sea of Marmara to the Black sea. Turkey is the only country in this world which is part of both Europe and Asia.

The Ciragan Palace derives its name from the Persian word — cerag — for light. During the Ottoman Turk regime evening festivities were conducted in the tulip gardens surrounding the palace, which were decorated with torches. The grand vizier of the Tulip Age, Ibahim Pasha, and his wife Fatima Sultan first built the palace and used it as their waterside mansion. The palace was destroyed and rebuilt at least twice. The structure now standing was completed by Abdul Aziz towards the latter half of the last 19th century. The first time the palace was rebuilt was in 1834, when Sultan Mahmut II decided to demolish the waterside villa together with the school and the mosque. In addition, the house of the Mevlevi Devishes was also moved to a different place. The Mevlevi was a well-established Sufi order in the Ottoman Empire which had a blood relationship with the Sultans through one of the sect members who married Sultan Bayezid I.

The new palace took eight years to build, and was constructed through extensive use of rare woods. It eventually ended up having 40 grand columns,giving it a classical appearance. In 1857, however, Sultan Abdul Aziz’s brother Sultan Abdul Mecid demolished this palace in order to build a new palace in western style.

When Abdul Mecid died in 1862, his brother, despite being dethroned, was allowed to expand the palace. As a tribute to himself, Abdul Aziz ordered Agop Balyan, a well-known Armenian architect to build a palace in the Arabic style. The old wooden structure was destroyed and a new stone foundation was built in its place. The magnificent priceless doors of the palace, each of which was specifically designed, were themselves worth about 1,000 gold coins. One of these doors was gifted to the sultan’s friend, the then German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm III, who in turn put it on display in the Berlin Museum.

Rare marble and mother of pearl were all imported from different parts of the world to finish the construction of the palace. By the time the construction of the modern day Ciragan Palace was completed in 1871, two and a half million gold coins had been spent.
By 1876, rumours started circulating that the destruction of the dervishes and incorporation of the land into the palace’s estate would bring bad luck to the empire. This forced the Sultan to vacate the Ciragan Palace in March 1876, making Dolmabache Palace his new residence. This was also the last time the royalty stayed at the Ciragan Palace. The next few years saw the Ottoman Turk empire decline in power and influence, and completely disintegrate by the time the First World War ended.

Today, the palace with its various artifacts and colourful photo frames, renovated in the 1980s, stands testimony to the royalty and splendour of the great Ottoman Empire, which, at its peak, was one of the powerful empires on earth and ruled for more than 600 years.

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