Jewish Heritage Tour of Istanbul

Daily Program

Today, you will be exploring the harmony of different cultures and faiths that have been living in Istanbul for many centuries. After the arrival of Ottoman Turks in 1453, Istanbul became the Capital of Ottoman Empire. Comprehending the synergy that is generated by coexistence of diverse cultures, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror secured a social ambience of freedom for ethnic groups with different faiths, which accelerated the economic and social improvement of Istanbul. In 1492 Sultan Bayezit invited the Sephardic Jews that were exiled from Spain as the decision of Court of Inquisition, to come and live in Istanbul as equal citizens. This historic event reinforced the on-going cohesion of Ottoman society composed of various ethnic groups and faiths that still is celebrated in modern day Turkey. This morning you will be meeting your guide for your day of celebrating the Jewish Heritage of Old Constantinople. Start your day of exploration with a visit to Balat, the oldest Jewish neighborhood of Istanbul. One can see few synagogues in this fascinating location where Muslims and Jewish community lived in harmony to constitute the Ottoman society. You can even see Star of David carved in some balconies to verify the fact how free the Jews were during Ottoman era. Visit the Ahrida Synagogue that is famed for its bema and meet Lady Caroline to hear interesting stories about the local community. Ahrida is the oldest Synagogue of Istanbul having an age of 500 years. Built by early Balkanian Jewish community that migrated to Istanbul, the temple is famed for its bema that is supposed to resemble the Ark of Noah. Note the apartment buildings that are ornamented with David's star which manifest the pride that Istanbul Jewish citizens took during Ottoman rule. Your next stop will be the Zulfaris Synagogue, now a Jewish museum displaying the history and culture of the Sephardic Jews migrated to the Ottoman Empire. You will explore how the two cultures influenced by each other throughout the centuries. Afterwards, you will head on to Galata district that hosted European communities who migrated to Istanbul during 18th and 19th centuries to profit from out of the trade capitulations granted by the Ottoman Empire. Taking the elevator you will go up to the peak of Galata Tower that was built by the Genoese merchants during 13th century to view and direct their commercial ships arriving with their loads of goods brought for the markets of this timeless city. From the very top of this famed tower you will observe the stunning panoramic view of Old Istanbul adorned by the domes and minarets.Later in the day, you will find yourself wandering through one of the earliest shopping malls ever built in history, Grand Bazaar where you will also get the opportunity to visit the little kiosk of Nick Merdenyan for an introduction to one unique form of art and artist that you cannot find anywhere else not only in Istanbul but also in the world. Nick Merdenyan, a native Armenian of Istanbul, practices his unique art at his tiny little studio, painting patterns and inscriptions that focus on themes that relate to either Judaism or Christianity on fossilized leaves he personally collects from Florida. An artist honored by Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, Nick has brought his own interpretation to the art of calligraphy by choosing an out-of the-ordinary material to apply his art. Meet Nick at his studio for a delightful exposition of his unique works.

Back To Home