The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul offers visitors a chance to lose themselves in the details of hand-lettered and illustrated copies of the Quran, handwoven carpets, and many other exquisite artefacts from Islamic civilisations.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is located in the Ibrahim Pasha Palace in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. Established in 1914 as the Islamic Foundations Museum in the public kitchen building within the Suleymaniye Mosque Complex, it bills itself as a location where you can view artefacts “from the Umayyad Dynasty to the Ottoman Empire: 13 centuries of splendour.”
One of the primary reasons that the museum was established was to prevent the loss and theft of items of historical and religious value from mosques, religious schools, zawias and shrines throughout the Ottoman Empire.
The museum’s name was changed to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in 1924 (after the emergence of the Republic of Türkiye), and the museum moved to the second courtyard of Ibrahim Pasha Palace in 1983. It was the last museum established during the reign of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ibrahim Pasha Palace was built upon the ruins of the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet. The Hippodrome is rumoured to have been built following the transition of Byzantion to the Romans by emperor Septimus Severus. The building, it is said, was completed by Constantinus I in 330.
Some of the ancient structure of the Hippodrome is visible inside the museum. The Hippodrome was used as a public gathering place during the Ottoman Empire, bearing witness to the 15-day wedding festivities of Ibrahim Pasha and Hatice Sultan in 1524, the circumcision ceremonies of Suleiman the Magnificent's three sons in 1530, the 57-day long circumcision ceremony of Murad III’s son Mehmed, to give a few examples.
The name Atmeydani (“Horse Square” in English) suggests that during the Ottoman reign, races were held there, as well as javelin games and horse markets. The square eventually lost its nature of being the location of ceremonies and festivities.
What is on display?
The museum showcases the rich history of Islamic artefacts going back as far as the four caliphates. It has beautiful carved doors, gorgeous sculptures and reliefs of animals, relics from the Prophet Muhammad, meticulously hand-woven carpets of wool and silk dating back to the 13th century, and the first Turkish translated version of the Quran with Karakhanid Turkish text in Arabic script in red ink underneath the black Arabic original.
What’s more, there is a section dedicated to reimagining life in Istanbul in the 19th century, as well as temporary exhibitions. The current temporary exhibition, running until late August, is called Dar al-Mulk Konya Seljuk Palaces, and is well worth seeing in addition to the permanent collection.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm in the summer season. In the winter season, it is closed on Mondays and open from 9 am to 4 pm Tuesdays through Sundays.
It is located in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, at Binbirdirek Mahallesi, Atmeydani Sokak No: 12. The entrance fee is 100 TL (less than $6) for adults; concessions for students and Muzekart holders available.
THUMBNAIL IMAGE: A candle hanger from the Memluk period dating back to the 15th century. (Selin Alemdar/TRT World)
HEADLINE IMAGE: A Kaaba belt, painstakingly embroidered by Ottoman Empire artisans with silver and golden threads, is a beautiful artefact dating back to the 19th century. (Selin Alemdar/TRT World)