Anatolian, Ottoman and Turkic cultures have left their marks from Samarkand to the galleries, museums and country houses in the West. Scattered, too, are relics of antiquity and Byzantium.
An important thread in Turkey’s cultural life was sewn by the New York philanthropist Christopher Robert. In 1863, with fellow American Cyrus Hamlin whom he met in Istanbul during the Crimean War, he founded Robert College.
In 2012 Turkey and the Netherlands celebrated 400 years of trade, which brought the tulip and a cabinet of curiosities, collected by ambassador Cornelis Calkoen, to be seen in the newly refurbished Rijksmuseum.
For many Australians, Turkey means ANZAC Day, commemorating the First World War campaign that cost so many Turkish and Australian lives, poignantly remembered in the white marble memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park.
After Constantinople, the largest city in the Ottoman empire was Cairo, and today the city’s bazaar is still a match for Istanbul’s, though traffic in Cairo is infinitely worse. Egypt was under Ottoman rule from 1517 to 1867.
The small, instantly accessible city has the most eye-catching Islamic art museum, designed by Louvre-renovator I.M. Pei and sitting square on its own island at the south end of Doha Bay. It has a large and wide-ranging collection.
A city-state in the United Arab Emirates, located within the emirate of the same name, Dubai has more than 40 art galleries, Christie’s auction house, and an important annual art fair. A new Cultural Village promises more.
Francis I was famous for his alliance with Suleyman the Magnificent. Here they both are, painted by Titian in 1530. Orientalism played a part in developing French culture as painters and writers became fascinated by the East.
Bartholomäus Schachman, mayor of Gdańsk (Danzig), travelled throughout the Ottoman Empire in 1588-9, collecting artefacts and commissioning invaluable illustrations depicting the costumes and lives of the divers peoples.
Commercial and cultural links between Germany and Turkey have always been strong. The Berlin–Baghdad railway, begun in 1903, was an ambitious piece of engineering that confirmed the intention of keeping the countries in close touch. Heinrich Schliemann established the site of Troy in the 1860s, and archaeological co-operation is evident in the spectaacular collection of antiquities on Museum Island in Berlin.
It was the museums of London, Paris and Vienna that so impressed Abülaziz, the first Sultan to visit Europe, that he founded the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. Britain’s museums are still among the best places to see Ottoman art.
The Roman empire spread across Asia Minor, and the Byzantine empire followed on. But it is in Italy, in Ravenna and Venice, that some of the finest Byzantine architecture can be seen, while ancient Rome’s spleandour is still impressive.
“The Silk Road, Samarkand, the River Oxus – what words to set the pulse racing…” so began Minn Hogg’s feature on Samarkand in Cornucopia 33. In the end, Central Asia’s most fabled city left her lost for words.
Catholic monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand drove out the Emirate of Granada in 1492 and demanded all non-Christians to convert or depart. The Arabic legacy survives in Spanish culture, not least in the art of azulejos, glazed ceramics.
Suleyman the Magnificent headed a large Ottoman army that arrived at the Gates of Vienna in 1529, and the route they took, taking 141 days, can today be retraced in the Sultans Trail, a 2,200km long-distance path.