Baroque Beauty of the Bosphorus
By the mid 19th century the Ottoman Sultans were obsessed with all things Western and decided to move out of Topkapı Palace and into Dolmabahçe Palace on the southern shore of the Bosphorus. The Palace consist of one large main building divided into two seperate wings along with a couple of smaller pavilions and extensive gardens. It’s a riot of lavish baroque ornamentation, Which will come as a shock to those who like their decor minimalist.
Unlike Topkapı Palace, which was, like the Byzantine Great Palace, a collection of relatively small buildings, The Dolmabahce Palace (closed Mondays guided tours in English www.turkeysdailytours.com) conforms more closely to Western ideas of aa Palace as a single large structure although Islamic tradition still decredd that there must be two seperate sections, one to Show off the public face of the state, the other for the private life of the sultan. The Fact that Sultan Abdulmecid chose to have it built on the far side of the Bosphorus also indicated a mental break with the past; Topkapı harked back to Byzantine times not just in its layout but also in its location; Dolmabahce in contrast was built on the side of the Bosphorus more usually associated with Westerns.
In Turkish Dolmabahce means “filled -in garden “, a reference to the fact that the land on which the palace was built had been reclaimed from the Bosphorus ( the area now covers 110,000 square meters). Until 1614 there had been a port here, but under first sultan Ahmet I it was slowly filled in to provide space for a park and cirit ground as well as fort he wooden Beşiktaş Palace, a complex of buildings like Topkapı Palace (https://www.turkeysdailytours.com/istanbul-old-city-tour.html) that increasingly came to serve as the sultans’s summer residence.
The Present Dolmabahce Palace (https://www.turkeysdailytours.com/daily-dolmabahce-palace-tour.html) was designed by Garabet And Nikoğos Balyan who came from a celebrated family of Ottoman Armenian architects. Work started in 1843. When it was finally completed in 1856 the main building contained 285 rooms, 43 halls and six bathrooms. The Palace was even Equipped with its own 600- meter long quay since most visitors would have arrived by water. The entire complex streches all the way from Kabataş in the South to Beşiktaş in the North although not all of it is open to the public.
The Last six Sultan s lived for varying amounts of time in the Dolmabahçe although sultan Abdulmecid quickly retreated to the greater security of the Yıldız Palace. The Last of Imperial family tol ive here was Abdulmecid Efendi, the caliph-artist who was forced into exile in 1924,.
The Palace’s interior decoration was the work of a Frenchman called Charles Sechan who also designed the Paris Opera. It’s all very over the top with Baccarat and Bohemian crystal, sevres and yıldız porcelain, and Hereke carpets the order of the day. Some of it could certainly do with a good dust, and the rushed guided tours make it hard to take in the excess of detail. https://www.turkeysdailytours.com/daily-dolmabahce-palace-tour.html
The Selamlık (Administrative Section)
Visitors enter the palace up stairs from the garden into the huge Reception Hall where guests would wait to be received. The 60 branch chandelier, the fine Hereke Carpet, and the fireplaces with shimmering glass panles above them were all designed to create a grand first impression. On the seaward side of the hall are the rooms that were occupied by the most important officials; members of parliament had offices inland side ; the grand vizier had a room just beside the entrance on the seaward side. The Reception Hall was the scene of meetings convened by Atatürk in 1928 to devise a new latin alphabet to replace the arabic one that had been used to write Ottoman Turkish.
On the Landward side of entrance was a room to store the gifts that the Sultan as caliph sent to Mecca every year at the time of Haj(Pilgrimage).The Sultan were never able to perform the Haj themselves becasue of the length of time it would have taken, but every year a camel train weighed down with gold would set out to maket he journey in their stead; “The Sürre Procession”, a huge painting by the Italian artist Stefano Ussi hanging in one of the clerk’s rooms beyond the reception hall, vividly portrays it pressing on from Cairo. The Painting is the largest canvas in the Palaces’s extensive art collection.
The tour moves past rooms occupied by the secretariat into the Entrance Hall that was used by sultan when on short excursions; doors opened into the back garden so that he could leave by carriage and into the front garden so that he could leave by boat. https://www.turkeysdailytours.com/daily-dolmabahce-palace-tour.html
One of the most spectacular features of the Selamlık is the Crystal Staircase, a double flight of stairs lined with crystal banisters that winds up to the second floor, passing beneath an enormous Baccarat chandelier. It leads to the vast and elaborately decorated Süfera (Ambassadors) Hall, which was used to host formal receptions and where gifts to the sultans, including a pair of bearskins given by Tsar Nicolas II, are displayed. Small rooms opening off from the front of it were used as waiting rooms and are decorated with paintings of sea scenes by the Crimean artist Ivan Konstantinovic Ayvazovski (1817-1900), who visited Istanbul eight times and was a particular favorite of Sultan Abdülaziz. In one of them you can also see a table inlaid with images of Napoleon and 12 famous European women including his wife, the Empress Josephine, Queen Marie Antoinette and the murderer Charlotte Corday. Privy Chamber A corridor from the Süfera passes a guest room on one wall of which can be seen Fausto Zonaro's wonderful painting of Kaiser Wilhelm II arriving at the palace in 1898. It then opens into a glorious Reception Room, better known as the Red Room because of its dramatic red and gold decoration. Here ambassadors would wait again before finally being admitted to the sultan's presence. The corridor then dodges past a pair of rooms set aside for the crown princes before re-crossing the Süfera to reach the huge Privy Chamber, with its elaborate parquet floor. This was used for religious ceremonies especially during Ramadan, and for wedding parties and banquets, with an orchestra providing music from the stairwell; its alternative Arabic name “Zülvecheyn”, meaning “double fronted”, refers to its location midway between the selamlık and harem quarters. A door leads into Caliph Abdülmecid's Library, which overlooks the Bosphorus; as well as many leather-bound books, it contains a self-portrait of the caliph who was an artist of considerable ability. Also opening off it is a Music Room, equipped with a grand piano and a pair ofcellos.
Sultan's Reception Room
The tour skips through a small sitting room containing another Fausto Zonaro painting, "Women Getting into a Rowing Boat”, before reaching the exquisite Hamam, the sultan's private Turkish bath which came complete with marble floors and walls of translucent, honey-colored Egyptian alabaster. The last room in the Selamlık is the Memorial Room, which contains paintings and photographs of four sultans. A corridor then winds round the Ceremonial Hall (Muayede Salonu) (www.turkeysdailytours.com) to the Harem. It's lined
with paintings by, among others, Şeker Ahmed Paşa, Osman Hamdi Bey and Fausto Zonaro, including the latter's colorful and much reproduced set of four images portraying Sultan Mehmed II and the conquest of Istanbul in 1453; it's also pierced with Windows that allowed the women of the harem to observe the goings-on down below without being seen themselves. The corridor ends at the Sultan's Reception Room in the Harem, a lovely room also called the Crimson or Domed Room after the most conspicuous features of its décor, which was where the sultan would receive his wives and children. https://www.turkeysdailytours.com/daily-dolmabahce-palace-tour.html
Another short corridor furnished with an organ concealed in a wooden case and a portrait of his wife by Abdülmecid Efendi leads to the grand Blue Hall with its trompe d'oeil columns where the palace women would assemble to celebrate religious holidays. It was also used by the queen mother or the principal wife to entertain visiting head of states, and as the years passed, some important male guests were also greeted here. In 1937 an elevator was inserted into the room so that it could be used more comfortably by Atatürk whose study, just off it, is almost equally elaborate.
Finally the tour winds up in the most astonishing room of the entire palace, the breath-taking Ceremonial (Muayede) Hall, which stands rightin the center dividingthe selamlık from theharem. Thirty-sixmeters high, it's topped with a dome that is invisible from th eexterior, and is supported by 56 columns; it isapparently the largest throne room in the world. The room is solarge that it required a silk Hereke carpet covering 124 squaremeters, and a Bohemian crystal chandelier weighing 4.5 tons and requiring 664 lightbulbs, a gift from Queen Victoria of Great Britain. It took three months just to install it.A form of central heating could be piped up the columns but required a full three days to take effect. The hall was used for all the most important imperial ceremonies including those associated with the holiday following Ramadan. At that time the sultan's glittering 250-kilogram throne would be brought from the treasury at Topkapı and set up against the west wall. The ambassadors would line up in the gallery facing him, with other guests to the left and the orchestra to the right; the space above the sultan would be left empty since no one but Allah could be positioned above him.Several important events took place in this room. In 1876 the coronation of Sultan Murad V was staged here instead of atassociated with the holiday following Topkapı. It was also here that the first meeting of the Ottoman parliament was heldin 1877, an event that contained within it the seeds of the end of the Empire. Later, it was here that Atatürk gave his first speech as up in the gallery facing him, with other president of the Republic of Turkey; a copy is on display in the room. https://www.turkeysdailytours.com/daily-dolmabahce-palace-tour.html
The Ceremonial Hall marks the dividing point between the public part of the palace and the private part where the sultan's family lived.Today you must enter the harem from a separate entrance to the rear.No matter how Westernized the palace looked on the outside the way of life on the inside continued much as it had at Topkapı, with the Valide Sultan (QueenMother) at the apex of ahierarchy of women who were still closely guarded by black and white eunuchs.The tour of the harem starts in the Entrance Hall whose ceiling cornices are painted with images of Istanbul scenery. From here you ascend to the first floor and by pass several rooms before arriving at the Hall of the Royal Women that was used to celebrate religious occasions and also the more private achievements of the sultan's children; the decoration of the room, while still elaborate, is toned down a little incomparison with the Selamlık. The same is true of the Hamam of the Royal Women which in no way compares with the beauty of the sultan's alabaster bath in the Selamlık.The tour continues through a rather more sparsely furnished Hall of the Royal Womenand continues to the Japanese Salon that was used by the queen mother and features fabrics decorated with sunflowers alongside more overtly Japanese motifs. Next to it is the Bedroom of the Sultan's Mother that was furnished for Sultan Abdülaziz's mother Pertevniyal Valide Sultan with a French-style cream lacquer bedroom suite.There follow a series of guest rooms fitted out invariety of styles, some with throne-like beds,others with iron bedframes. The tour then passes back through the Hall of the Royal Womento visit a suite of rooms typical of those that were assigned to the senior women of the harem; it comes with alittle lobby equipped with a piano and asitting area off which open a small bedroom,sitting room and bathroom. Here can beseen Osman Hamdi Bey's lovely painting “A Young Lady Having her Hair Combed". You then by pass a room decorated as it might have been if the head maid had been occupying it, before arriving at a second similar suite of rooms.The tour then returns through the main Hall of the Royal Women, which gives you a chance to peek into the Circumcision Room where the royal princes would have restedand received well-wishers after their sünnet(circumcision). You will also get a chance to peek in on a child's playroom with a photo of Sultan Abdülmecid's grandson Ibrahim Tevfik Efendi on the wall before returning to the Entrance Hall to leave. https://www.turkeysdailytours.com/daily-dolmabahce-palace-tour.html