Monthly archives of “May 2013


Turkish Coffee

Brings esteem for Forty years – Dates back 1300 years

The origin of the coffee tree is Africa (Ethiopia to be exact), far away from the shores of Turkey. Nor is Turkey a coffee producer. But the Turkish have a very special place in the history of coffee. Turkish coffee is the only type served with its grounds and is the most suitable for fortune telling.

The proverb “a cup of coffee brings esteem for forty years” sufficiently explains its fame in Turkey. The Turks took it as a measure of esteem, offered it to their guests, drank a cup of it after every meal and tried to read the future from the signs in the cup.

Coffee trees like warm weather very much. Very, very much! According to hearsay, it was discovered by a shepherd in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia in the 8th century. For many centuries it was confined within the boundaries of Ethiopia and was used for very different methods than those of today. Locals crushed the coffee beans into flour to make bread with it, boiled its fruits and used the pot water as medicine. Around the 10th century, coffee went to the Arabian Peninsula and it started to be boiled and drunk in a way similar to today, i.e. scorching, grinding and boiling.

Some sources say that the date of arrival of coffee in Istanbul is the 1500’s. However, many other sources go back farther. Furthermore, they also give an address in Istanbul. Kiva Inn, which was established in 1471 in Tahtakale, is said to be the first known café in the world. Sources which indicate the era of Yavuz Sultan Selim and the year 1517 for the arrival of coffee also tell about the same address despite the date difference; they tell that Kiva Inn in Tahtakale had introduced Yemen coffee to residents of Istanbul. Whatever the date was, it is clear that coffee was a center of taste among Ottomans in a very short time and it was even held in high honor in the palace.

Even though Courts of Shariah Law in Mecca declared coffee “nonkosher”, it was announced “religiously permissible” by the Ottomans in 1524. This interest grew stronger during the era of  Suleiman the Magnificent, even a rank in the palace called “head coffee maker” was created. The head coffee maker used to be selected from among “very reliable” names as he would take on such a task. For this reason, he used to be respected very much and even promoted to higher ranks later on.

The Ottomans are also known as the “first coffee importers” in the world. Coffee’s journey to Europe was also via Istanbul as Venetian merchants carried the taste they became familiar with in gradually increasing coffeehouses to Venice. Then coffee went further into Europe as of the 1600’s. It was first sold by lemonade sellers in the streets. Afterwards, just as it had been in Istanbul, coffeehouses were opened. Entering into the Europe continent from Venice, the coffee carried on its journey to more significant stops. According to the records, it reached Paris exactly in 1643 and London in 1651.

Even though it was  born in Ethiopia and developed in the Arabian Peninsula, it is very natural that coffee is mentioned together with the name “Turk” as it spread in Europe and from there in the world from Istanbul. Also the oldest coffee brand in the world belongs hereabouts. That brand is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, which has a 150-year-old story. During the 1800’s coffee was being sold as raw beans, scorched in houses and ground in coffee hand mills. A very young entrepreneur, Mehmet Effendi, who was educated in Süleymaniye Madrasah, took a historical step in 1871. He started selling “ready coffee” in a shop he took over from his father. His fame spread through Istanbul instantly just like the smell of freshly ground coffee.

Although it varies in taste and appearance, counterparts of the word ‘coffee’ in almost all languages are very close to each other. It is named as ‘coffee’ in English, ‘Kaffee’ in German, ‘café’ in French, ‘caffe’ in Italian; Dutch call it ‘koffie’, Hungarians call it ‘kàvè’, Romanians call it ‘kava’, Russians call it ‘kophe’, Chinese call it ‘kafei’, and Japanese call it ‘kohi’. Armenians, on the other hand, fall very far away from the word coffee with a name like, ‘soorj’.

Ephesus Sightseeing Tours with Isa Bey Mosque

Isa Bey Mosque – Selcuk

During a guided tour or shore excursion of Ephesus you have an opportunity to visit one of the oldest mosques of Turkey – ISA BEY MOSQUE, built 1375. Istanbul was not yet conquered and the Ottomans had not yet advanced beyond Söğüt and Bursa either. This 640 year old mosque is located in Selçuk, between the remains of Artemis Temple and the Saint Jean Basilica. As its position reveals, Aydınoğlu Isa Bey wanted to hint that the pagan and Christianity eras ended in these soils with the construction of this mosque.

The Isa Bey Mosque is considered one of the oldest and the most  sophisticated works of the Turkish architectural era. Although columns and marble blocks carried from the antique structures in the vicinity were used, the architecture and ornaments carry the traces of the Seljuks. Indeed, its façade, window edges and rims of both domes are covered with Seljuk tiles. The most striking part is the doors. The mosque has two entrance doors: One looks at the west and the other looks to the east. There is also an epigraph on the west door. As the epigraph is only engraved on the door opening to the west, one asks itself whether Isa Bey thought to “make a show of strength to the other side of the sea.” The answer to this question lies maybe in what is written in the epigraph:“Isa, Aydınoğlu, son of Mehmet, the great Sultan, the owner of the citizens of the nation, Sultan of Islam and Muslim people, the glory of the state, religion and world, ordered the construction of this holy mosque…”

The mosque stood as a symbol of power. However, a new era began not only for the beylik but also for the mosque after Isa Bey joined the Ottomans. Isa Bey Mosque lost its importance in this new era and was completely neglected for some time. Furthermore, it also served as a caravanserai in the 19th century, a new feature far from its quality as a mosque.

From the Beylik era to our times the person who revived the Isa Bey Mosque is surprisingly a “Western”, Niemann who headed the excavation works of the Archaeology Institute of Austria. In 1895, he noticed the mosque during the excavations in Ephesus and implemented some minor restorations works. The full restoration was realized in the Republican era, in 1934, led by the Ministry of National Education.

From Anatolian beyliks to the Ottomans to the Republic, this mosque with a modest outlook is like a silent witness of Anatolian history.

Istanbul Forum Turkuazoo

Turkuazoo – Istanbul Aquarium

The Forum Istanbul, is not only one of the largest shopping malls in Europe, great for those wishing to make a shopping trip to Istanbul, but is also one of the first world-wide to have a huge  aquarium inside!

The giant aquarium, Turkuazoo, is located inside a culture park over an area of 8 thousand sqm. 10 thousand different underwater creatures and 25 thousand other species can be found here. Here you have the opportunity to view sharks, stingrays, giant dusky groupers, amazon species, sea snakes,  seahorses, lobsters, crabs and  thousands of others which you might never have heard or or seen before.

Piranhas are among the sea  creatures attracting attention. Piranhas with red bellies, which have been subjects of many films and documentaries, live at the “soft water” corridor decorated with rain forests.

The aquarium offers various activities besides just the opportunity to view these creatures. You can enjoy a spectacular show with fish feeding activities organized by the divers every hour on week days and every half an hour on weekends. There is also the chance, for those with courage, to dive into the magic atmosphere of the underwater world and experience closely hundreds of sea creatures and feed them too.

Turkuazoo helps visitors to have a good and joyful day with the benefit of actually learning something in the process. It also helps make us more aware of and to think about the importance of protecting the environment, not polluting the sea and respecting the life of other creatures. Turkuazoo contributes to the environment consciousness not only through the venue it owns and opportunities it offers to the visitors but also the training programs it prepares and the active roles it assumes in “Deniztemiz” (Sea Protection) projects.

A fun day out and great for those travelling with kids who wish for a bit of a break from just historical sightseeing tours in Istanbul.