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Istanbul at the crossroad (2)

(People's Daily Online)

13:55, March 21, 2012

Sunset over Prince Island (Andre Vltchek/ People's Daily Online)

Istanbul still evokes great passions. Some love it to oblivion and others criticize, even despise it. Whatever the feelings, one could never be indifferent to Istanbul; the city is simply too grand to be ignored.

It is dispersed on two continents – Asia and Europe – with mighty Bosporus, one of the greatest urban waterways in the world as dividing mass of water. The palaces, grand mosques, museums - most are facing the water. And above all that splendor, on the majestic hill, spreads magnificent Sultanahmed with its imperial Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mask and Hagia Sophia.

This may be the most beautiful city in the world, the city literally saturated with history and different cultures. The city from where the Ottoman Empire – one of the mightiest realms on earth - had been ruled for centuries.

Stephen Turnbull wrote:

The Ottoman Empire… was a Turkish empire, which lasted from 27 July 1299 to 29 October 1923. The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and longest lasting empires in history; such that the Ottoman State, its politics, conflicts, and cultural heritage in a vast geography provide one of the longest continuous narratives. During the 16th and 17th centuries, in particular at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the empire became the most powerful state in the world – a multinational, multilingual empire that stretched from the southern borders of the Holy Roman Empire, Royal Hungary and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the north to Yemen and Eritrea in the south; from Algeria in the west to Azerbaijan in the east; controlling much of southeast Europe, western Asia, and North Africa.

Ottoman Empire had been disintegrated internally and by outside forces. After the WWI, ‘Allies’ had occupied Turkey and the plan was to share it between France, United Kingdom, Armenia, Greece and Italy. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his Turkish National Movement fought the War of Independence, which they won, later replacing Istanbul with Ankara as the new capital of the Republic of Turkey.

Istanbul remained the largest Turkish city and the nation’s center of business, trade and culture, but not much more than that. Only recently the city is once again gaining great international prominence.

Istanbul is complex and often confused city. The majority of Turkey is Muslim and increasingly religious, but Istanbul is confidently secular. While the customs of Asian (Anatolian) part of Turkey, including its lifestyle and food are close to those of its neighbors in the Middle East, Istanbul’s references come almost exclusively from Europe. City’s nightclubs, pubs, Western-style museums and concert halls are in stark contrast to the centers of religious mysticism like Konya.

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