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Istanbuls Topkapi Palace

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Topkapi palace is a palace situated in Istanbul city in Turkey that has a lot of significance in the Turkish history. The palace was used as a formal and primary residence in Istanbul for the Ottoman Sultans for about 400 years in the 624 year reign. This palace plays a key role in the history of Istanbul since it provides an insight on the people’s culture. Moreover, there is a certain way in which the palace is seen in the present day as compared to the past. Therefore, this paper explores the historical background of the place, its importance, and its features in the past compared to the modern days.

In the past, the palace was used as a venue for the state events and entertainments. In 1985, Topkapi palace was ranked as one of the monuments of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Istanbul. In fact it is an exemplary palace during the ottoman times. The palace’s first construction took place in 1459, when Sultan Mehmed II, who was the conqueror of the Byzantine and Constantinople, gave orders. The palace’s architectural design is that it has four courtyards and several small buildings.

Secondly, the palace served as the home of the sultan, his court and over 4,000 people. Therefore, it was considered as the royal dwelling place; hence it was heavily guarded by a tight security. Since it had all the necessary facilities, the palace’s occupants did not need to go out to look for anything. They just carried out their activities inside without necessarily going out of the palace. However, nowadays, the palace is no longer a royal place since the sultans ceased to rule. Instead, the local and government authorities have taken over the palace as it has been turned into a business center.

Thirdly, the palace was used for religious purposes since it contained a mosque. The main religion in the palace was Islam, and the imam was always present in the mosque to preside over the prayers and any other religious activity. However, today, the mosque has been turned into a tourist center in that many people flock into it in attempt to see how it looked like. Moreover, the imam that is present now is no longer religious but just there to attract attention of the tourists. This implies that the palace has lost its religious attachment due to a lot of economic activities going on there in it.

Fourthly, the palace was traditionally used for cultural ceremonies. The community living in the palace practiced lot of the Islamic customs including circumcision of the male children. For this reason the palace had a circumcision room where this practice took place. On contrast, the room is now one of the tourists’ attraction sites in Topkapi palace. Since the palace has been turned into a museum, people from different parts of the world line up as they try to get a glimpse of the old room. Therefore, the room contributes in the country’s economy through earning foreign exchange from tourists.  

Tourists get attracted to the palace because of its main wonderful sites. For instance, in the Third Court, there was its entry called the Felicity Gate. This court comprised of Imperial Costumes, Palace School, the Holy Relics and the Treasury. The treasury included the Kasikci Diamond and Topkapi Hanceri, considered as the most valuable things in the palace. In addition, this court served as a reception of the foreign guests. This is where the sultan would meet and talk his guests. Moreover, there is a 101-year old restaurant called Konyali that attracts many tourists today. Apart from the restaurant, there was a great environment that was meant for the sultan’s recreational moments.

In addition, among all the visitors in the palace today, a few are still interested in its history. Many of them go there with their friends and relatives for pleasure and creation of good memories. That is why they take several photographs of the place and themselves in the palace’s various attractive sites. This greatly contrasts with the way people viewed the palace in the olden days. In the past, the palace was regarded as a sacred place and people could not just flock into it. Moreover, it was even restricted to a few people who are authorized by the sultan.

Notably, the palace is also known to have very precious jewelry for the sultan. It is known that the they are so attractive that the tourists queue for a s long as 30 minutes as they await their turn. They also get so excited that they end up taking several photographs so as to keep them, show their friends and to remind them as they grow up. Consequently, the focus on the jewelry is so much that they even forget about the palace’s history. One of the precious jewelry in the palace is emerald. This jewelry plays a key role in earning the country foreign exchange as they are visited by the tourists. 

Another way in which the palace’s usage and perception has been changed is through the holy relics. Initially, they were honored by all, but today, people visit the place and try to show that the things were confirmed to be true. Therefore, they take snap shots about these relics. However, people take photographs that might even be necessary.  Some want to see whether they are real or just a way of earning money from the tourists. This, turn, shows how the sacred nature of the palace has been replaced by commercial activities. The authorities make a lot of money out of this museum.    

Today, the palace has been turned into a tourist attraction centre. Several people all over the world are eager to see the special things they hear about the palace. The palace has certain chambers and gardens that are so attractive. People are interested in learning the history of the palace and the functions of these features. This also reflects the Islamic culture, religion, economic activities and political ideologies in Istanbul. Therefore, the palace has become one of the worlds leading attraction sites. On contrast, the palace was used as the main royal residence for the sultan, and the government’s seat. Today, it has become a historical site whose main focus is on tourism.

Therefore, today, there is a different perspective on the palace than in the past. It is different since the palace has assumed other functions it was in the past. As discussed earlier, the palace has certain chambers that had certain functions. For example, the Privy Chamber was used initially as special room in harem has been turned into a tourist site in the palace. In fact, it is the only room in the ancient harem that is still standing. This chamber is full of ancient decorations made by the greatest artists and craftsmen in the past. Moreover, the Privy chambers had very special architectural design that attracts many tourists all over the world.

Another attractive site in the palace is the Second Courtyard that has a gateway called the Gate of Salutations. The gate’s architecture is one of the attraction sites in the palace. Moreover, the kitchen in the second courtyard was originally used for preparing meals in the court. Today, this kitchen has been turned into a Chinese and Japanese Porcelain Collection. The utensils used in this kitchen include the old stuff that was used by the palace occupants. This Collection is now one of the tourists’ sites in the palace.

Moreover, the Third Court is another major attraction in the palace because of its marvelous scene. First, it has beautiful gardens with awesome trees and fountains that make the place very relaxing. In addition, there are stairs that lead to an ancient restaurant called Konyali. Initially, this court was a reserved place for the sultan’s pleasurable moments. In fact, it was only restricted to few people who have the sultan’s permission. Today, this Third Court’s function has changed into a business centre where the tourists take meals. This also promotes the tourism industry that, in turn, earns the country a lot of foreign exchange.

Additionally, the Gate of Salutations was significant in that the sultan listened to the council’s discussions without being seen by anybody. On its other side, there are two octagonal towers that served as the prisoners’ execution place. There is also a blood fountain where the executioners would wash off the blood before reentering the palace. Presently, these sites no longer serve the old purpose; instead, tourists visit them to learn the history of the palace.

Another way in which the palace has changed is through the circumcision room and the harem. According to the Islamic religion, the male children had to go through circumcision as one of the rights of passage. The harem functioned as the women’s dwelling place, especially the respected women. In the Muslim society, such women were not allowed to mingle with the other men other those of their families.

 Then, there was a certain room that served as the private home of the sultan’s wives and concubines. Today, these sections are no longer used in the same way; instead, they serve as a tourists’ centre where people learn the ancient Islamic cultures. Therefore, the palace is now viewed as cultural center in that it facilitates the perpetuation of the Islamic culture. It presently acts as one the sites that are worth visiting in the palace. Currently, no one dwells in the harem as it has been turned into a business venture that attracts tourists. The main objective now in the harem is on the amount of money it generates from tourists.

Tourists are also interested in finding out the contents of the old library in the palace. This is situated after the Audience room where the Islamic and Ottoman books were kept. These were books on Islamic laws, theology and other works in the Persian, Arabic and Ottoman. This library also contained over 3500 manuscripts, some of them written in ivory and nacre. Presently, these books are stored in the Agalar Camii (Mosque of the Agas) that is situated in the western side of the library. Among the most valuable things in the library is another manuscript, which is a copy of the Quran since the era of the 3rd Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan.  

The palace has also been turned into a museum of the imperial times. Therefore, it contains a collection of robes, porcelains, shields, weapons, armor, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts, miniatures and murals. This collection attracts many tourists to the city, who, in turn, increase the country’s foreign exchange. Moreover, the palace has treasuries and jewelry that are equally attractive.  The palace’s site is instrumental in bringing many tourists to the place. It has the great appearance of the Sea of Marmara and Golden horn, with Bosphorus that can be viewed from different angles in the palace.

The palace also was used as a store for the holy relics in the Privy Chambers. These holy relics include the Prophet Mohammed’s cloak, one tooth, his battle sabres, his sword, and an autographed letter. In addition, there are sacred objects called Sacred Trusts. Other thing displayed in the palace included Moses’ staff and the swords of the initial four Caliphs. These are the things that are also instrumental in making the palace very special. These things are not real but many people visit the place because they believe in them.

Therefore, the Topkapi Palace is viewed in a differently in the contemporary world from the past time. In the past, the palace was used for royal entertainment and other events. It was also used as the sultan’s home; the sultan stayed in with his court. Furthermore, the palace was occupied by more than 40000 people. In the modern times, the palace is used as a museum, in which many of the palace’s stuff.

The whole palace was declared as a national museum by the Culture and Tourism ministry in 1924. In fact, the palace was named as the world cultural center in 1985 by UNESCO. Therefore, because of the attractive sites, the palace has been turned into an economic activity in Istanbul. It is also significant in that it perpetuates the Islamic culture from one generation to another. It is also regarded as an education and resource center since it has a lot of historical information that is worth learning.

Another significant feature of Topkapi palace is the imam’s room, also known Hirka-i Saadet Room. This room contained a Hirka-i Saadet which is big coat made of the goat’s hair. Interestingly, the coat is believed to be the Mohammed the Messiah. The cloak is stored in the palace; hence, many people visit the place in order to see it. The coat was brought to the palace after the defeat of Egypt, by Sultan Selim I. the sultan brought it alongside other sacred relics that are also stored in the palace. Initially, the coat was stored in harem, but after the construction of the Hirka-i Saadet, it was relocated to the palace. Another thing that is worth noting is the golden drawer and the silver key, which only owned by the sultan. This room was only accessible during the 15th day of the month of Ramadan.

In the palace, there is a certain room where the Imam would continually chant and read the Quran. This room was situated adjacently to the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms, and showed the Muslims’ commitment to their religion. The imam’s room also adjoined the harem on its north east parts, and the room containing the holy relics. On contrast, this room has been used differently compared to the past. The imam longer dwells there, but it is frequented by the tourists who want to learn something about the history of the palace.

Although an imam is in the mosque most of the time, the roles have slightly changed. In the present times, an imam does not chant and read Quran all day, unlike in the past. Instead, imams are only present during the five Allah prayers and whenever there is certain event in the mosque. Apart from officiating over religious activities, the imam can also teach the Islamic laws, manages the money collected by people in the mosque. In addition, the room in the current mosque is inexistent.

Besides, the imam is not there on genuine sacred reasons. Rather, h is there to attract more customers to the palace; hence more money to the authorities in charge of the palace. This implies that the old way of using the mosque in the palace has been changed by the current authorities. Explicitly, the tourists presently focus so much on having fun rather than experiencing a sincere way of worship by the imam. Additionally, the authorities have lost the essence of the Islamic worship since their focus now is on the amount of money got from the tourists. That is why a fake imam is placed there for convenience so that he can demonstrate to the visitors how the old one would do in the mosque.

These items in the room are believed to be real; hence, the influx of tourists in the palace. Mohammed is a very influential person in the Islamic religion; therefore, tourists are curious to his some of his stuff. However, I believe that these things are unreal since no one knows whether these people really existed. The stuff in the palace might belong to another person other than Mohammed. It is the Turkish strong religious belief and culture that led to the preservation of the stuff. Therefore the collection of these objects could be just a way of earning money out of the tourists. Despite the disbelief, Mohammed’s coat, sword and tooth attract many tourists in the world, especially the Muslims. 

In my opinion, the contemporary word has another perspective of Topkapi Palace compared to the olden times. This is because of the generational changes in many aspects of life. For instance, the Ottoman Empire is no longer in existence in Istanbul; hence, the irrelevance of the palace. Before, sultans ruled the land and lived in the palaces.With the end of that generation, a new rule is in place. Consequently, the palace is no longer used as the government seat. Moreover, certain events that were held in the palace no longer exist since they lost meaning with the fall of the empire. Therefore, political changes in Istanbul are responsible for the way the palace is viewed today.

Other factors that contributed to the palace’s present status include economic, social and religious changes. Upon its fall, the palace was turned into a museum by the government in 1924. Most of the chambers in the palace have been turned into tourists’ sites, for example, the harem and the Privy Chambers. The palace’s kitchen is now used as a collection center for the Chinese and Japanese utensils. The library now attracts numerous tourists who are interested in the history of the palace since it contains a variety of books including theological and Islamic laws.

Besides, the place is now one of the leading sources of foreign exchange to the country. This is because the tourism industry has taken it as one of the country’s major sites. As a result, the palace, now turned museum, provides many job opportunities to those individual who would like to work in the tourism industry. No wonder the palace is considered as a boost to the country’s economy. Explicitly, there is a big contrast on how the palace is seen today and in the past.

In conclusion, Topkapi palace is a very important feature in Istanbul’s history. It traditionally served as the government’s seat and the sultan’s dwelling place. Presently, the palace is viewed as one of leading the tourist attraction centers in the country. Its magnificent architecture, courtyards, gardens, chambers, restaurant and the location are some of its attractive sites. The holy relics belonging to Mohammed also attract tourists into the palace. Therefore, this palace is now seen as one of the foreign exchange earners in the country.

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