Dolmabahçe Palace, İstanbul

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Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

The Sultan’s New House

For nearly four centuries the Ottoman sultan and his very large family had lived in the medieval tiled confines of Topkapı Palace on Seraglio Point, on the site of the acropolis of Byzantium.

In the early 19th century, Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) enjoyed living in a large wooden palace in the “filled garden” (dolma bahçe) of a small valley on the shores of the Bosphorus.

Mahmut’s son Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861), perhaps influenced by his father’s preference and by pleasant youthful years at Dolmabahçe decided to live here permanently. He commissioned the imperial architects of the Balyanfamily to tear down the old wooden structure and build a huge, sumptuous new palace on the spot.

It didn’t matter to the sultan that he really didn’t have the money to do this. He was the sultan, after all.

When it was finished, the sultan abandoned Topkapı and moved his harem to Dolmabahçe.

The palace has a façade nearly a quarter mile (400 meters) long, 285 rooms and 43 large salons. The floors are covered in half a hectare (over an acre) of silk and wool Hereke carpets. The Bohemian crystal chandelier in the Throne Room, the world’s largest, weighs 4-1/2 tons (4000 kilos) and has 750 lights.

Not bad for a guy who had trouble paying his mortgage….

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