Early Nineteenth-Century Perspectives

There was neither a cadastral land survey nor a title-deed registry of any sort in the pre-nineteenth-century Ottoman cities. All items of real estate property, in Kasap ƒlyas as well as elsewhere in Istanbul, had to be described by reference to the nearest prominent geographic landmark or to the mahalle in
which they were situated. As a second step, their precise location was defined by reference to the owner(s) of the adjoining pieces of property. Public buildings or utilities were also used for definitional purposes.
Here is a typical example of such a description, taken from a local deed of trust dated 1792: “In the city of Istanbul, in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle near the Davudpaœa wharf…a plot of land bounded on one side by the house of the imam Mustafa Efendi, on the other by the house belonging to Atıf Efendi’s vakıf, on another by Ahmed Efendi’s house and by the public thoroughfare….”44 For each piece of real estate property either sold to a private person, or donated to a pious foundation, the owners of the adjoining properties were named and recorded, respectively, in the deed of sale signed at the Davudpaœa Court or in the deed of trust of the local vakıf. Mosques, schools, fountains, walls, public baths, roads, and so forth were also frequently used as delimiters.
For empty plots of land, perimeter measurements were also given in a large number of instances. In a typical deed of sale, dated from 1802, a plot of land in Kasap ƒlyas is described as follows: “…In the city of Istanbul, in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle…a plot of land whose perimeter is 214 zira’ and is surrounded by the house of Ibrahim A™a, that of Halifezâde Mustafa Efendi, an empty plot of land belonging to Helvacı Ahmed and, on the fourth side, by the public thoroughfare….”45
As shown by the local vakıf documents46 for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a profound modification in the basic pattern of settlement in the mahalle had occurred and this modification had preceded and accompanied the changes in its administrative setup, in the post-Tanzimat era. A closer look at these later vakıf documents and at the contemporary Davudpaœa Religious Courts records reveals the depth of the changes that had occurred in the configuration of streets and houses in the mahalle.


Istanbul is preparing to host the two-day 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit next Thursday and Friday. According to a statement from the president's...