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Saffet Pasha Yalı

Just before the Fatih Bridge

The Saffet Pasha Yalı was completely renovated after it burnt down in 1976 – and its owner, Kadri Cenani, couldn’t quite recover from the loss and died soon after. His stepdaughter Arlette, had lived in the house from the age of 15, later joined by her husband, the archaeologist James Mellaart, when they were making their important discovery of the Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük.

She recalled how ‘a plume of smoke was seen rising from the roof, then a whirlwind of fire engulfed the yalı and its contents – furniture, books, a Steinway grand piano, objets d’art, mementos and family portraits’. From her husband’s point of view, ‘the worst disaster was the loss of the drawings, plans and photographs which were to be published in the reports of his excavations’.

Despite Mellaart’s beautiful architectural drawings of the house that one that replaced it – as the images above attest – has but a shadow of the original’s beauty. Start again, we say, with saw and adze, not cement mixer.

Read more of Arlette Mellaart recollections of ‘three decades spent in this fragile bohemian setting’ in Cornucopia 25.


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Issue 59, June 2019 Behind Closed Doors
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