Thursday, 4 April 2019

Istanbul not Constantinople; Kadikoy not Sultan Ahmet



There is a historic – mainly Ottoman – Istanbul in the Sultan Ahmet district. Then there is the rest of Istanbul. Within 'the rest' is a neighborhood on the Asian side called Kadikoy.

A view of Kadikoy near the Ferry Terminal (Photo: Imran Ahmed)
Kadikoy is authentic Istanbul. It's importance dates back to the Catholic Church Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. That's right, during Istanbul's Constantinople days Catholic theological beliefs were being defined in Kadikoy. The Chalcedonian Definition stating that Jesus is "perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man" was pronounced in Kadikoy. 

Following the capture of Constantinople by Ottoman Turks Kadikoy and its surrounding areas became a part of the imperial capital. Slowly it became influenced by Ottoman architecture and lifestyle. 

The historically significant Selimiye Barracks are located in between Kadikoy and the neighboring district of Uskudar. Built originally in 1800 by Sultan Selim III, the Selimiye Barracks played a pivotal role in the modernization of the Ottoman military. The barracks were built to undermine the power of the traditionally disciplined elite fighting force otherwise known as the Janissaries (or New Soldier in Turkish). The barracks were for the 'newer' soldiers of the Nizam-i-Cedid or New Order. It were these 'newer' soldiers which would ultimately be required to battle and destroy the all powerful Janissaries in 1826.

(The Janissaries were established by Ottoman Sultan Murad I during his reign between 1362 – 1389. By the eighteenth century the Janissaries had become a law unto themselves. The Janissaries were too powerful to be simply disbanded; they could remove Sultans through palace coups virtually at will.  Ultimately, the Janissary corps had to be physically destroyed in 1826 by Nizam-i-Cedid soldiers loyal to the Sultan. The Janissaries deserve a blog post of their own given their importance to Ottoman Turkish history!)

The Haydarpasa Railway Station - Istanbaul's main station serving Asian Turkey (presently under renovation). Photo: Wikipedia  
Fast forward to 2019 and modern Kemalist, Republican Turkey. Today's Kadikoy district is where Istanbulis go to shop, dine and party. The Moda district within Kadikoy has some fine cafes and independent boutiques. Then there is Bagdat Avenue, a fourteen kilometer long shopping haven. Finally, some of Istanbul's finest nightlife is in Kadikoy!

It is impossible to generalize about any city, especially a city like Istanbul which is embedded with many layers of history and each layer packed with centuries of history. To narrow down and describe a particular district is an even more impossible task, particularly in a blog post of a few hundred words. The only way to begin to understand any city is visit yourself.


Imran is a Singapore based Tour Guide with a special interest in arts and history. Imran has lived and worked in several countries during his career as an international banker. He enjoys traveling, especially by train, as a way to feed his curiosity about the world and nurture his interest in photography. He is available on twitter (@grandmoofti); Instagram(@imranahmedsg) and can be contacted at imran.ahmed.sg@gmail.com.

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