Extract

Water’s Edge

The Hekimbaşı Salih Efendi Yalısı

Hekimbaşı Salih Efendi was the last physician to the Ottoman court. He was also a scholar and reformer. But plants were his passion, and the grounds of his yalı were filled with the scent of carnations. The gardens have gone, but the house lives on.
By Patricia Daunt. Photographs by Simon Upton

  • Evening light burnishes the Ottoman-red façade to a radiant gold

Until recently most yalıs on the Bosphorus were closed for the winter. Once the October winds began to whip the leaves off the trees, owners returned to the city, leaving guardians to close the shutters, let loose the guard dogs and await the spring. The descendants of the Hekimbaşı Salih Efendi Yalı still follow this tradition. When I visited their yalı in January, the family had driven up from the Asian shore of the Sea of Marmara. They had expected me to arrive by car from the European side of the Bosphorus. In fact I surprised them by appearing from the sea, as most visitors would have done in the heyday of the house. With the exhilaration of a trespasser, I skirted the gnarled trees, crossed a paved courtyard and eventually found an open door. Sensing, rather than hearing, movement above me, I climbed the stairs curving to the drawing room floor.

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