Walk Description

The Topkapi Palace is the sprawling imperial palace of the Ottoman dynasty, a palimpsest of history and architecture. Poised on the cliffs in the center of the city, it is strategically positioned to overlook the entrance to the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. This three-hour walking seminar takes participants into the palace with a historian to explore the internal workings of the Ottoman court and the political intrigues and architectural accomplishments at the heart of this 400-year empire.

Our walk begins with the maps in the courtyard where we'll provide an overview of the complex and the Ottoman Empire in general. We'll trace the Ottomans from their origins outside of Istanbul, to their conquering of the city in the 15th century, to their eventual rule of an Empire that rivaled Rome's. Geographically, this Empire stretched from Yemen to Croatia, and as far east as Iran. We then go into the palace and discuss court life and the power of the sultans, visiting such key structures as the harem and receiving rooms. 

On any given day our focus may tend toward the architecture and symbolism of the complex, toward the political history of the Ottomans, or toward daily life in the court, owing to the area of expertise of our docent and the interests of the group. Regardless of our course—and, often, we pursue many—the Palace itself will provide the textbook and background for this fascinating exploration of Ottoman history. 


Duration: 3 hours
Category: History
Venues: Topkapi Palace
Incidentals: tickets to the Topkapi Palace and Harem- TRY45.00

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    Claire Karaz

    Claire has dual degrees in English (University of Michigan) and medieval art history (Università di Roma "La Sapienza"). She lived in Rome for a decade where she taught art history at Trinity College and study abroad programs for other American universities. She has lived in Istanbul for the last twelve years. She is presently an adjunct instructor at Yeditepe University and a freelance translator. Originally from Washington, DC, Claire is very interested in social history. She is the author of Topkapı Palace: Inside and Out, published by Citlembik in 2004.

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    ceylan zere

    Ceylan was born and raised in Istanbul and has spent much of her life wandering through its maze of busy streets and alleyways. With a background in engineering, she possesses a good knowledge of the city's built environment. She has spent many years in the United States, and although she continues traveling, her deep love is for Istanbul, its traditions, lives, characters, and the stories of the two great Empires that made the city their capital over the last two thousand years. A licensed guide for Turkey, Ceylan spends much of the year leading expeditions to archeological sites along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey. She is the co-author of "Turkey Guide: Confluence of Civilizations," written for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

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    Zeynep Cetrez

    Zeynep Cetrez studied the diverse populations of Ottoman Turkey and has a special interest in the 19th century travel accounts and urban history. She has a history master's degree from Sabanci University (Istanbul) and art history master's degree from Rice University (Houston).

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    Ebru Gokteke

    Ebru has a background in journalism and was a writer for many years for a variety of Turkish magazines, including Gezi National Geographic Traveler. She has also served as an arts editor at a local publication. A native of Istanbul and a licensed guide, she has a broad range of knowledge, and is extremely interested in art and aesthetics, as well as translating the details of the Istanbul street experience for visitors. Ebru is currently attending an MA program in the history of religions at the School of Theology and working on her thesis on temple liturgy.

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    Haluk Cetinkaya

    Haluk is an archaeologist and scholar of Byzantine history. He holds a PhD in Byzantine studies from the University of Istanbul and is a member of the archaeology faculty at Mimar University. Haluk serves as an advisor for many significant digs and restoration projects in Istanbul and Kosovo, and has lectured at universities around the world. He is considered an expert on the Hagia Sofia and was involved in a major television program about that structure. Haluk has a warm and inviting teaching style coupled with a deep knowledge and passion for late Roman and Byzantine culture in Istanbul.

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    Arzu Toraman

    Having lived in both Greece and London, Arzu is a native and a true lover of Istanbul. She has completed her PhD in art history in Byzantine studies at the University of Istanbul. She is a specialist of mural painting and mosaics in Late Roman antiquity and Byzantine art.

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    Yavuz Sezer

    Yavuz Sezer has completed his B.A and M.A at the History Department of Boğaziçi University in Istanbul where he worked as a teaching assistant during his research on Traditional Ottoman Domestic Architecture. He has investigated the nostalgia for old houses, neighborhoods and their architecture in the first quarter of the twentieth century in Turkey as he studied the history of architecture and art. Following his position as an instructor of History of Modern Turkey at the Koç University in Istanbul, he started his PhD studies in the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program of MIT in 2008. He's working on his dissertation on the Ottoman library movement in the eighteenth century which he concentrates his research on libraries as architectural spaces, institutions and archives of reading habits. Yavuz is currently teaching Ottoman Architecture at Istanbul Bilgi University, Faculty of Architecture.

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    Melike Yazicioglu Taspinar

    Melike holds a degree in art history from Sinan University in Istanbul, where she specialized in the late antique period in Sultanahmet. Her research background also includes extensive work in Ottoman architecture, which makes her uniquely suited for our walking seminars in the historic center of Istanbul.

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    Yusuf Kilincci

    Yusuf Kilincci is a nationally licensed guide for Turkey with a degree from Zonguldak University. He has continued his studies in management however his passion for the historical and cultural background of his country made him decide to focus on leading groups. Yusuf is particularly interested in Jewish heritage of Istanbul and the Ottoman Palaces.

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    Esra Cakmak

    Esra graduated from Ankara University from the department of Spanish Language and Literature. Her interest in the archaeology and history of Turkey led her to become a licensed guide. Attracted by the Byzantine history of Istanbul, Esra is now focusing in Istanbul.