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If there is one bit of Ottoman history accepted as gospel, it is that the Tulip Age was a period in the early 18th century when the first glimmerings of western influence appeared in Istanbul—and were as abruptly extinguished in a revolt that brought the deposition of a sultan.
Shirine Hamadeh’s absorbing and richly-illustrated book overturns this comfortable certainty. For one thing, to confine the spirit of the times to the few short years when the court went tulip-crazy is a mistake. New forms of sociability—a certain freedom to enjoy one’s leisure in the public spaces of the capital, whether this involved fancying tulips or not—developed across all classes, and throughout the 18th century. Moreover, that icon of the Tulip Age, the palace of Ahmed III at Saadabad, is shown by Hamadeh to have been more a product of cultural interaction with Iran rather than with France as the received wisdom insists. Her argument is convincingly supported by careful attention to written and visual evidence and, most tellingly, to poetry such as adorns the fountains that still beautify the city. The very notion of the Tulip Age was, it turns out, dreamt up little more than a century ago, and very successfully popularised by a historian whose aim was to present the collapsing Ottoman Empire as Western rather than Eastern in inclination.
The Turkic Uighurs of Western China have long chafed under Communist Chinese rule. Christian Tyler meets their formidable figurehead, Rebiya Kadeer, who spent five years in prison for protesting against her people’s treatment and now carries on her fight for their freedom from Washington
Robert Ousterhout is agog at the remarkable Georgian churches of the Tao-Klarjeti, the two medieval Georgian principalities between Kars and the Kaçkars
For the English-speaking community of Istanbul the suggestion of aqueduct-hunting in Thrace strikes fear into the hearts of all but the foolhardy. Relentlessly cheerful, Prof James Crow of Edinburgh University would laugh off each misadventure and forge onward.
Leo Gough grew up in the hothouse atmosphere of Cold War Ankara, where his father was director of the British Institute of Archaeology. He recalls tales of derring-do from the larger-than-life visitors and scholars who passed through the institute’s doors
Kate Clow, pioneering waymarker and author of two walking guides to the Taurus Mountains, has now created a guide to trekking in the Kaçkars. Here she describes four breathtaking one-day walks.
By whatever name it is known – whether Karataş Yayla (Black Rock Pasture) or ÇaGrankaya (Singing Rock) – this spur of the Kaçkars is full of drama. Andrew Byfield battled rain and fog to reach its riches
The work of Feyhaman Duran and his contemporaries, once dismissed as unfashionably figurative, is now attracting renewed interest. A recent exhibition at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul celebrated their work. Berrin Torolsan selects some of her favourites
High in the apparently empty Kaçkars, the way of life is as old as the hills. Michael Hornsby joins in the fun at a village festival in remote summer pastures. Photographs by Giulio Rubino
Norman Stone unravels the history of Kars
Unlocking the door to the private world of Feyhaman and Güzin Duran, by Maureen Freely
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