Join religious pilgrims in Eyüp,located beyond the city walls overlooking the Golden Horn and smartened up in recent years. It’s best known for the religious pilgrimage site of Eyyub-el-Ensar tomb and the Pierre Loti Kahvesi (café) at the top of Eyüb Cemetery. On Fridays and weekends, look out for small boys in white satin costumes, ready (or not?) for their circumcision ceremony (sünnet). Although I suggest ending your tour at Ayvansaray, if you’re here on a Friday morning you could reverse the order to see the Mehter band, follow the parade to Eyüp Meydani. START: Bus 55T from Taksim
or 99 from Eminönü to Eyüp. Shade, view and a glass of tea at Pierre Loti Kahvesi.
1- Teleferik (cable car).
Completed in 2006, the three-minute cable-car ride sweeps up Pierre Loti Hill through the huge
Eyüp Cemetery. The half-hour uphill walk is wonderful, so choose this option if you have neither the time nor inclination for the hike. If you walk down, take a closer look at the Ottoman-era gravestones in the cemetery. The teleferikgets busy at weekends. @30–60 min. Running daily 8am–10pm; 1 TL.
2- Pierre Loti Kahvesi.
Named after the pining Turkophile French novelist who penned Aziyade in 1879 about his lover, this café has Golden Horn views and a shady terrace, one of Istanbul’s best.
Balmumcu Sok, Gümü=suyu Cad. 0212 581 2696. $.
3- Eyüp Camii.
The mosque you see today, built in 1880, replaces the first imperial mosque, built by Mehmet II in 1458
after the Fall of Constantinople. Its vast courtyard was site of the Ottoman Girding of the Sword of
Osman, the enthronement rite where the sword of 13th-century leader Osman Gazi was passed on.
In doing so, the local people watched the ceremony and accepted that the ruler had possession of the city. @15 min. Eyüp Meydani. Open daily dawn–nightfall.
4- Eyyub el Ensari Turbesi (tomb).
Adjacent to the mosque, this shrine is one of Islam’s holiest sites. Standard-bearer and companion of the Prophet Mohammed, Eyüp Sultan (as he was later known) was killed in the 7th century during
battle and buried on the city’s outskirts. Before conquering the city in 1453, Mehmet II rediscovered
Eyüp’s grave and built a shrine and mosque. The tomb still attracts many pilgrims, especially on Fridays, and non-Muslims are welcome wearing modest clothing (see Savvy Traveler Clothingp 166). Inside, vivid blue Iznik tiles in Ottoman Baroque style contrast with the silver sarcophagus. Look out for the footprint of Mohammed in marble stone, framed in silver embedded in the tomb’s wall. @15 min. Eyüp Meydani. Open daily 9am–5pm; free.
5- yüp Meydani (square).
Take a breather to people-watch in this enthralling public square, adjacent to Eyyub el Ensari Turbesiand one of my favorites. During weekends, it’s time to watch family groups gather for photographs, along with their small sons decked out in satin sünnet(cir-cumcision) suits. These lads—usu-ally aged between four and eight— seemingly have no fear of their impending op, but love the attention. This is also the venue for the Friday Mehter band performance (see bullet 8). @15–30 min.
6- Camii Kebir Sokak bazaar.
This great bazaar lines both sides of the pedestrianized street in front of the mosque, catering predominantly for religious visitors. Multi-colored headscarves swirl in the breeze, copies of the
Koran are piled at the stalls, jewelry and trinkets add a touch of glamor and a crackly cassette player usuallyblasts out Koranic or musical recitals. @30 min. Camii Kebir Sok. Open daily 9am–6pm.
Dazzling tiles outside the tomb
7- Mihmandar Lokantasi.
A cut above your average lokanta(simple restaurant), this has outdoor seating near the fountain,
and serves up good kebabs and mezes. Kalenderhane Cad, Eyüp Bulvari. 0212 612 5998. $$.
8- Zal Mahmoud [email protected] Camii (mosque).
Few visitors make it to this dark-stone mosque complex, built by Sinan (see p 11) in 1571, also containing the tomb of Zal Mahmoud [email protected], Süleyman I’s teacher. Mahmoud, a servant, was in love with Süleyman’s sister but stood no chance, until he strangled Süleyman’s son to thwart an uprising. Mahmoud was rewarded with the title ‘Zal’ (hero)— and marriage. Inside the courtyard a toy-making workshop, recently established by the European Union, attempts to revive the craft famous in Eyüp since the 17th century. I love Friday mornings when the local Mehter band (seeIstanbul with Kids p 40) start rehearsing at 10am before changing into full Ottoman regalia to parade down Feshane Caddesi. Follow the band to Eyüp Meydani for a one-hour performance in front of appreciative locals. @15–30 min. 36 Feshane Caddesi.
9- Tombs and Theodosian Walls.
From Zal Mahmoud Paşa mosque, walk south under the Haliç Bridge down Ayvansaray Caddesi, past the old palace walls on the right.
Enter the grounds of Haci Husrev Mescidi, a small mosque, and take the main gates on the left. Walk
though the gorgeous rose-gardens and past a tomb, then on the left ascend the steps taking you along
Ayvansaray’s old walls, built by Theodosius II in 412 AD to seal Constantinople against invasion. Scramble to the top for views over this traditional area – although the wooden houses might well be spruced up in the future. @30 min.
10- Blachernae Church.
After descending the city walls, walk down Toklu Ibrahim Sokak and follow Kafesci Yumni Sokagi to the left. You’ll see the secluded Blachernae Church (erratic opening hours; try tagging along with a tour group). Originally built in 451AD and once a venerated Byzantine church, this was restored and rebuilt several times. The church today houses the Blachernae ayazma (sacred spring) thought to have heal-
ing powers. These waters dripped into a reservoir behind the building, accumulated into a large pool and then dripped from holes in the hands of a marble relief of the Virgin Mary; the relief was replaced after breakage in 1960. Byzantine times saw emperors plunge three times into the pool.
These days the holy water is poured for the Greek Orthodox worshippers to drink. Services are held every Fri at 9.30am. @15 min. Ayvansaray Kuyusu Sokagi, off Mustafa Paşa Bostani Sok. Open 8am–5pm; services Fri 9.30am.Walk through the old Ayvansaray streets.
In 2007, a row over a name opened a can of worms: The hillside topped by Pierre Loti Kahvesi is known as Pierre Loti Heights, but the mayor of Eyüp wanted it changed to Eyüp Sultan Heights, after the sacred man (see bullet 5), so he put up a new sign at the Teleferik. Local opinion in this conservative enclave divided along secular and religious lines, between those saying Pierre Loti was part of the city’s cultural history, and others feeling that Eyüp Sultan was in keeping with Turkish history. The sign has since been changed back, and all seems to be calm – for now.
Pierre Loti vs Eyüp Sultan