Exploring Ottoman Turkey

If you would like to see the rich cultural legacy of Ottoman Turkey, tours in the company of experienced guides may be one of the best ways to do it.

The Ottoman Turks and empire

The growth of what would later be known as the Turkish Empire began in eastern and central Turkey, and spread as a succession of increasingly powerful rulers established a rapidly growing trade and territorial civilisation around the 12th or 13th century. It became increasingly successful and turned into a world power following the capture of Constantinople/Istanbul in 1453.

Over the next centuries, Ottoman power spread across three continents annexing vast territories in Europe, North Africa and Asia. At its apogee the empire, through its major cities, was a world-renowned centre of learning, culture, science and the arts. As is the case with all empires, the passage of time and changing global circumstances meant that it inevitably declined, until it was formally abolished and replaced by the modern Republic of Turkey under the reforms of Kamal Ataturk in the 1920s.

During its heyday, powerful Sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire and its vastly diverse peoples – both Christians and Moslem. Today, some of the achievements of this period are still visible and if you are in Turkey, tours can allow you to experience them fully.

Istanbul – a treasure trove of Ottoman delights

Although there are numerous examples of Ottoman contributions to architecture in many parts of Turkey, space here only permits a brief discussion of some of the more famous examples based in Istanbul. As the seat of the sultans, Constantinople/Istanbul benefited hugely from a number of unique developments. If you are in the country, your Turkey tours must include this great city and the fascinating relics from this period, including:

• The Blue Mosque – surely one of the great buildings of the world and an expression of both piety and artistic beauty;

• The Haghia Sophia – strictly speaking, a Byzantine church rather than an Ottoman building, however, it was converted into a mosque and embellished during the Ottoman period;

• The Topkapi palace – residency of the sultan and a truly amazing complex that was once home to over 4000 people! No description can do justice to this – you simply have to see it.

• The Sehzade Mosque – an early example of Ottoman architecture in Istanbul, it is a beautiful building that is well worth visiting.

In western Europe today, the wonders of the Ottoman Empire are relatively unknown and poorly understood. You may be able to understand more of it if you look for Turkey tours that focus on this fascinating aspect of Turkish, North African, European and Middle Eastern history.

By Suzana