Once the residence of Ottoman crown princes, including the last caliph Sultan Abdulmajid, the Dolmabahce Palace in the Besiktas district of Istanbul is now a museum displaying paintings from artists around the world, including Italian artists Fausto Zonaro and Luigi Acquarone and Polish artist Stanislaw Chlebowsk. After seven years of restoration and renovation, the palace is to be open to the public from March 22 and is the only one in Turkey dedicated to ‘Late Ottoman Life’ in the 19th century.
A stork wheels over the ancient mosque, flying solo in a sky of seamless blue. Circling lower it executes a seemingly impossible landing on a nest precariously perched atop the minaret. Far below, the Tigris is flowing lazily towards Iraq, its sparkle extinguished by the lengthening shadow cast by cliff and citadel. This is Hasankeyf, fortress of rock, in Anatolia, Turkey’s far east. Dug into the southern slopes of the Raman mountains, the small town has for millennia guarded the river crossing, though perhaps not for much longer. “It is a jewel of history,” says my guide, Remzi Bozbay. “Soon it will become sunken treasure.”
In 1921 an ecumenical service was held in six languages at St. John the Divine, New York City’s Episcopal cathedral, to call for the return of Byzantium’s most important monument to the Orthodox Church. Days after his 1453 conquest of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, Mehmet II decided to turn the 6th century basilica of St. Sophia into a mosque. Some 500 years later, with the city under Allied occupation, Christendom wanted the building back.