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I. Introduction

Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, city in northwestern Turkey, the only city in the world that sits astride two continents—Europe and Asia. İstanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the country’s chief commercial and cultural center. With the finest natural harbor in the region, it is also an important trade hub. The city is the capital of İstanbul Province, which is bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the south and southwest by the Sea of Marmara, on the east by Kocaeli Province, and on the west by Tekirdağ Province. The Bosporous, a narrow strait that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, separates İstanbul’s European and Asian sections.

İstanbul has a temperate climate, with warm summers and mild winters, making it a popular vacation spot.  Precipitation varies from an average of 33 mm (1.3 in) in summer to an average of 107 mm (4.2 in) in winter. The city is prone to earthquakes, some of which have caused severe damage.

İstanbul was founded in the 7th century bc as Byzantium. In the 4th century ad it was renamed Constantinople by Roman emperor Constantine the Great. The city served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire until it was captured by the Ottomans in the 15th century and made the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans called the city İstanbul for centuries, but it was not until 1930, seven years after Turkey gained independence, that İstanbul became its official name. According to some sources, the name İstanbul is derived from the Greek term stin poli, meaning “to the city” or “in the city.”


II. The City and its Metropolitan Area

İstanbul is an expansive city, known for its natural and architectural beauty and its many religious and historical sites. The city proper covers an area of 1991 sq km (769 sq mi), while the metropolitan area occupies 5712 sq km (2204 sq mi). Important suburbs of İstanbul include Bakırköy, Zeytinburnu, and Kâğıthane in the European section, and Beykoz in the Asian section. The European section of İstanbul is about twice the size of the Asian section and contains three-quarters of the city’s population. European İstanbul is separated into old and modern sections by the Golden Horn, a narrow channel of the Bosporous. The old section, known as Stambul, lies south of the Golden Horn, while the modern section, comprising the districts of Galata and Beyoğlu (formerly Pera), is located to the north.

Stambul—the area within the walls (now largely in ruins) built by Roman emperor Theodosius II in the first half of the 5th century—contains most of the city’s historical and architectural monuments. Stambul is dominated by the great palace complex of Topkapı Sarayı, begun by Sultan Muhammad II in 1459 and added to by later Ottoman sultans. The palace is now Turkey’s most popular tourist attraction. Near Topkapı is Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish), built in the 6th century as an Orthodox Christian church and later converted into a mosque. Farther west is Süleymaniye Mosque (built between 1550 and 1557), designed by the well-known Ottoman architect Sinan for Sultan Süleyman I. The Süleymaniye Mosque is widely considered İstanbul’s finest Ottoman monument.

Other famous mosques in Stambul include the Blue Mosque of Sultan Ahmed I (built between 1609 and 1616), named for its blue-painted tile interior; the Mosque of Rustem Pasha (completed in 1561), famed for its Turkish tile work; and the Yeni Cami (New Mosque, 1597-1663). Other sites in Stambul include the famed KapalıÇarşı (a covered bazaar with hundreds of shops) and the Kariye Mosque (formerly the Church of Saint Savior in Chora), which contains some of the world’s finest Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. Northwest of the city walls, along the Golden Horn, is the sacred Mosque of Eyüp Ensari (1458), which contains the burial site of Ensari, a leader of the Arab siege of Constantinople (674-678).

Across the Golden Horn from Stambul is Galata, a business district with shops, restaurants, and the city’s main port. Galata is located at the base of the hill that encompasses modern İstanbul; the district of Beyoğlu is located at the top of the hill. Dominating lower Galata is the large, conical Galata Tower, built in the 14th century. The main thoroughfare of Beyoğlu, called Istiklal Caddesi, is a pedestrian mall that contains some of İstanbul’s finest shops and movie theaters. Northeast of Beyoğlu is the neighborhood of Beşiktaş which contains Dolmabahçe Palace (built in 1854), where former Turkish president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk lived while in İstanbul; the ruins of Sultan Abd al-Aziz’s Çırağan Palace (completed in 1874); and the Yıldız Palace complex, built in stages over the course of the 19th century.

The İstanbul metropolitan area extends north along the European side of the Bosporus, through the primarily residential neighborhoods of Ortaköy, Arnavutköy, and Bebek. North of Bebek is Rumelihisarı, a fortress constructed by Sultan Muhammad II in 1452 in preparation for the siege of Constantinople the following year. North of Rumelihisarı are the scenic suburbs of İstinye, Yeniköy, Tarabya, Büyükdere, and Sarıyer, all of which have well-known seafood restaurants and marinas. Opposite Rumelihisarı, on the Asian side of the Bosporous, is Anadoluhisarı, a fortress built in the late 1300s by Sultan Bayazid I.

The Asian section of İstanbul contains a series of small villages and towns, including (from north to south) Beykoz; Paşabahçe; Küçüksu, the site of a rococo palace built between 1856 and 1857 for Sultan Abd al-Madjid I; Kandilli; Vaniköy; Çengelköy; Beylerbeyi, the site of Beylerbeyi Palace, built in 1865 for Abd al-Hamid II; and Üsküdar. Located directly across the water from Stambul, Üsküdar and its environs contain many famous Ottoman monuments, including the city’s oldest Ottoman cemetery. Üsküdar is also the site of a hospital where British nurse Florence Nightingale served during the Crimean War (1853-1856). A short distance outside of Üsküdar is Büyük Çamlıca, a forested hill noted for its scenic views of İstanbul and the Bosporus. Southeast of Üsküdar is the Haydar Pasha railway station; once part of the famous Berlin-Baghdād Railway, it is now the terminus for the Turkish rail system in Anatolia (Asian part of Turkey). To the south lies the residential district of Kadıköy.

Inhabitants: 8.274.921 (1997).

"İstanbul," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2002
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


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