Sultanahmet is the most popular area in Istanbul and this is where most tourist attractions are. This is where people will find the grand Haghia Sophia museum, Topkapi Palace and the great Blue Mosque. In the same area, right on the ancient Hippodrome of Constantinople, opposite the Blue Mosque, is one of the city’s best museums. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, is one of the best of its kind anywhere in the world, but most tourists don’t even know of its very existence.
The museum was originally built in 1914 and was the last one from the Ottoman period. Up to 1983, it was located at the soup-kitchen at Süleymaniye Mosque, and only that year was it transferred to the current building.
Today, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, is located at the Sultanahmet Palace, more commonly known as “the home of Ibrahim Pasha”. That’s because this is, indeed, where the Greek-born slave-turned-gran-vizier to Suleyman, The Magnificent, once lived. No one knows for sure when the palace was built, but old documents show that it was already referred to as Pasha’s palace since the 6th Century.
THE MUSEUM OF TURKISH AND ISLAMIC ARTS IN ISTANBUL: THE COLLECTION
After the last renovation, which finished in 2015, the museum is an amazing place to spend a couple of hours. The interior is very modern and the collection is beautifully displayed in a very thoughtful manner. There’s detailed information in Turkish and English and the collection ranges from the pre-Islamic times – including the Mesopotamia and the Nabateans – to present day. Religious art is the best elaborate type of arts in the Islamic world, and the museum reflects that.
The objects here go from wood-carved pieces to Turkish and Persian carpets, Kuran’s written entirely in gold and calligraphy. In fact, up to the early 20th Century, the Turkish language was written in Arab characters, so it’s hard to tell whether it was all written in Arabic or in old Turkish.
I spent more than two hours at the museum and, if I had enough time, I could have spent another two, considering that the collection is very extensive. I was practically given a full history class in ancient and Islamic history.
Location: 46, Meydani Sok – The Hippodrome, opposite the Blue Mosque.
Opening Hours: 9am to 7pm (tickets are sold up to 6:30pm)
Price: 20TL (around US$7,00) per person. You can use Museum Pass, which costs 85TL and can be used at several museums, including Haghia Sophia.