Keep an eye out for the footprint of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)!
Though conveniently located alongside the Hippodrome and a stone's throw from the Basilica Cistern and Blue Mosque, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is often overlooked. Don’t make the mistake of missing out: it has a stunning collection of the very best in Islamic craftsmanship, unrivalled in its scope and depth.
The building that houses the displays was built in 1524 for Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vizier to Süleyman the Magnificent. Brought over from Greece as a child slave in the imperial household, Ibrahim became friends with the young Süleyman, who was of similar age; as Süleyman rose to the sultanate, Ibrahim was promoted to Chief Falconer and later Grand Vizier. He was also married to the Sultan’s sister. Sadly for Ibrahim, his growing wealth, opulent lifestyle and influence over the monarch made others envious and suspicious of his position. The Sultan’s wife Hürrem convinced Süleyman to have him strangled in 1536, and all his wealth was seized by the state.
In the museum is an awe-inspiring array of carpets dating back up to five centuries, made by artisans from Iran, Caucasia and the ancient city of Uşak: you will recognise some of their elaborate patterns from the Renaissance paintings of Holbein and Lotto. Similarly impressive geometric decoration appears in mother-of-pearl inlaid wood, painted ceramics and sections of beautiful tiling.
Other highlights include gorgeous examples of ornate Safavid Iranian bookbinding, with stunningly delicate calligraphy; there are additionally a number of müknames (scrolls outlining an imperial decree), signed with the intricate tuğra or monogram of the Sultan. Ethnographic displays recreate typical dwellings of different Turkish nomadic groups throughout history, such as the impressive Seljuq exhibition, an immersive experience of Persian life nearly one thousand years ago.
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