Category Archives: Turkey

The History of the Coffee House

Coffee and cake at Sketch, London

Beginning in the ports and souks around the Horn of Africa, the bitter brew derived from the genus of plants known as Coffea, has records of being enjoyed in coffee houses as early as 1511 in the Islamic Holy City of Mecca, modern day Saudi Arabia.

Red Sea countries and locations key to the early spread of coffee

While little more than smoking dens littered with cushions and hookah pipes, these early establishments were influential enough on early Muslim society that prohibition was imposed by the local Pasha in belief of coffee’s role as an intoxicating agent and therefore in violation of Islam. Despite these restrictions in an early Arabic powerhouse, this humble new drinking establishment would be responsible for spreading enlightenment, intellectualism and culture across multiple empires, religions and continents – and all for the love of a naturally occurring bitter pesticide named coffee.

Although served hot from an infusion of the Coffea plant, this ancient form of coffee served out of steaming pots atop open fires in the public shops of Mecca, was merely a shadow of the smooth crèma layered brew of our modern addiction. With the effects of the roasted bean still to be discovered by the religious Sufis of Yemen, this early beverage was more likely a direct infusion of the dried coffee cherry (bean removed) known as Kish’r – a drink still consumed throughout the Arabian Peninsula today. Who exactly was the first to bring coffee cherries across the Red Sea from Ethiopia to Yemen, is a topic of great debate. With stories as rich as the plant in subject telling of multi-coloured coffee birds, plague ravaged princesses and dancing goats – it is known that a figure of influence within Sufism (a religious order of Islam who practice Ihsan, “perfection of worship”) was the first to established coffee drinking as a part of their prayer ceremonies. It’s thought that upon discovering the effects of caffeine, the plant was introduced for its ability to assist disciples of Sufism in remaining alert and lucid throughout late night worship.

The evolution from Arabia to the modern European coffee house would take almost another hundred years before the first Western traders would encounter what they initially called the “Wine of Araby”, and not in the hands of Arabs but the super power of the Ottoman Empire. After successfully defeating the Marmeluks in Egypt in 1517, the Ottomans acquired a country of historic and cultural development with strong links to Sufism. As such they also discovered a nation dominated by the drinking of coffee and the establishment of the coffee house. With all things that come with the capture of a new nation, the coffee bean and brew naturally came with it. By 1555 the Ottoman Empire would see the very first coffee house opened on their own home shores of Constantinople (later renamed Istanbul) by two Syrian merchants named Hakim and Shams. Ten years later, around 600 coffee selling establishments would be recorded in the city alone – the coffee house culture had finally been reborn.

Early Ottoman coffee house – Istanbul

If you were able to revisit an early 16th century Turkish coffee house, you’d discover coffee brewed on mass in large pots or cauldrons atop open fires often enhanced with the aroma of exotic spices like saffron, cardamom and even ambergris (dried whale vomit – honestly!). Like the multitude of cafes today which cater for all classes, coffee could be acquired throughout a range of different locations from humble souk kiosk to luxurious tree shaded gardens with bards, beautiful servant women and views over the Bosporus. This new world of comfort and engagement presented the Ottomans with one of the first public locations of social enlightenment outside of the constraints of religious or alcoholic venues. As such, these new places of population and sobriety became forums for intellectual debate, listening posts for news and meeting points for commerce and trade. In the more elite establishments patrons could hire their own Kaveghi to cater for all matters of coffee acquisition, brewing and service.

However the induction of coffee into what was the world’s longest standing Empire of the time, wasn’t without its hurdles. Since the Sufis of Yemen first began using coffee in the mid 15th century, the drink had already been banned more than twice in belief of its blasphemous role as an intoxicating beverage in the eyes of Islam. By the time the Ottomans tried to lay down their own prohibition in 1580, the drink was already too widely spread to be effective and merely went underground. As such prohibition wasn’t to last and when legally back in the public domain, continued its spread across the Empire and the Balkan states. With such a network of sober meeting houses throughout their nation, it was no surprise that many in power were concerned for their use as dens of conspiracy. With taverns previously associated as places of sedition and uprising, the coffeehouse presented a new threat to the power paranoid. While devious plans may be hatched during a night of alcohol fueled banter, it was coffee’s ability to help recall the details of said plan the following morning, which kept the grand Vizier awake at night [albeit that and his own love of coffee].

Tom King’s Coffee House by William Hogarth c.1720

While the West was not to adopt coffee until late in the establishment of the beverage, their role would grow to define its place in the world’s future. Despite trading with the bean and plant since before the 17th century, European merchant hubs Venice and Genoa saw coffee’s role in Europe merely as a product of medicinal benefit and not social consumption. A view which would quickly change when in 1651 a Lebanese Jewish entrepreneur remembered only as Jacob would open the West’s first coffee house in Oxford, England called the Angel Inn. Remembered in his personal writings, Jacob describes the Angel Inn as a place where coffee, “was by some who delighted in noveltie [sic] drank” (today another coffee house can be found on the site named “The Grand Cafe”). A second coffee house would be opened nearby the following year by another Jew named Cirques Jobson and by the time a third was opened three years after that by Arthur Tillyard, coffee had found a new home in the West. Of these new establishments, it would be Tillyard’s which would set the standard for future coffee houses to follow. With a focus on the more educated middle class patrons of Oxford, Tillyard charged two pence for a cup of coffee and one for entry (a lot in those days), allowing access to various newspapers, pamphlets, broadsheets, lectures and ballads. With such a fine spending patronage, future houses would follow suit developing the early nickname – Penny Universities. These new locations would pave the way for a new era in English society labelled by historians as the Age of Enlightenment, a period which saw a reform in the way intellectuality is pursued and accepted socially, and the coffee house would be at the heart of it. Through weekly meetings at Tillyards to discuss and debate maters if mutual scientific interest, The Royal Society was established, a syndicate which today advisers the English government on scientific matters. By 1672, the Royal Society were established enough to elect a lead chairman, they found one in the form of a promising young man named Isaac Newton and the rest they say is history.

In a city dedicated today as it was then to the students, the inspired youth of Oxford supplied the majority of the cities coffee house clientele. In a time before the university common room it is no surprise these young intellectuals flocked to the houses to meet, discuss, study and debate their specific areas of study, albeit while indulging a hot cup of Mocha (named after the Yemeni port by the same name from where coffee was initially acquired). In fact so popular were the student numbers that in 1679 the local mayor attempted a ban on all coffee houses from opening on Sundays to ensure the youth remained in either church or college. Needless to say it had little effect. However it wouldn’t be until London opened her first coffee house in 1652 at St Michael’s Alley in the city, that the coffee house would begin to influence an entire nation.

With England setting the trend for the modern coffee house in the form of “Penny Universities” and with coffee finally added to the desires of the western palate, a new era was born and coffee was it’s muse.

18th century London coffee house – c/o lookandlearn.com

While records show that coffee had already been enjoyed in France by a few lucky enough to associate with merchants of Arabia, the brew would not befriend the public at large until an Ottoman ambassador named Solomon Aga arrived to Paris. Representing Sultan Mehmed IV, Salomon and his retinue set up lavish residence in central Paris while awaiting an appointment to hold audience with the French King Louis XIV. Wasting no time, Solomon converted a grand Parisian town house into a palatial Turkish abode befitted with gilt fountains, the finest carpets and emerald encrusted tiling where guests could indulge in Oriental delicacies such as shisha tobacco and a rich brew called coffee. It was here that Solomon is credited with introducing the drink – and the manner in which it was traditionally served – to many of the cities elite of the time. One such visitor named Isaac D’Israeli best describes the occasion in his book Curiosities of Literature, by writing;

“On bended knee, the black slaves of the Ambassador, arrayed in the most gorgeous Oriental costumes, served the choicest Mocha coffee in tiny cups of egg-shell porcelain, hot, strong and fragrant, poured out in saucers of gold and silver, placed on embroidered silk doylies fringed with gold bullion, to the grand dames, who fluttered their fans with many grimaces, bending their piquant faces—be-rouged, be-powdered and be-patched—over the new and steaming beverage.”

Despite the attentions lavished upon Solomon and his fine brew, it would not be until he had departed Paris that coffee would become better established thanks to an Armenian member of his retinue named Pascal. Capitalising on the impact of his previous master, Pascal began by selling hot coffee (a.k.a. petit noir) at a stall in St Germain before opening Europe’s first coffee house in 1683 – an Orient inspired café located on Qui de l’Ecole near Pont Neuf, Paris. Unfortunately the public, while fond of coffee, preferred libations of a more alcoholic nature and as such Pascal packed up once more and moved to a place he knew coffee was already well established – England.

A French traveller to London in 1668 named Henri Misson gave us the best description of the early English coffee house, writing they were;

“…very numerous in London, [and] are extremely convenient. You have all manner of news there; you have a good Fire [sic], which you may sit by as long as you please; you have a Dish of Coffee; you meet your Friends for the transaction of Business, and all for a penny, if you don’t care to spend more”

It’s important to mention at this stage that while these were comfortable environments infused with the smell of brewing coffee atop large open fires, the coffee infusion primarily comprised of steeping course ground or smashed coffee beans into near boiling water and serving black. An expensive sweetener such as honey or sugar (even mustard!) was often available if affordable. The crèma rich espresso’s of our modern addiction would not be invented until the influence of the Italians at the beginning of the 20th century, as would the widespread addition of milk. For the esteemed gentry of these new fine establishments, naturally one was expected to adhere to a commonly unspoken law of civility. And should said civility be remiss, one could often find a guide written on the walls for reference, such as the following from a 17th century London coffee house:

THE RULES AND ORDERS OF THE COFFEE HOUSE

Enter, Sirs, freely, but first, if you please,
Peruse our civil orders, which are these.

First, gentry, tradesmen, all are welcome hither,
And may without affront sit down together:
Pre-eminence of place none here should mind,
But take the next fit seat that he can find:
Nor need any, if finer persons come,
Rise up to assigne to them his room;
To limit men’s expence, we think not fair,
But let him forfeit twelve-pence that shall swear;
He that shall any quarrel here begin,
Shall give each man a dish t’ atone the sin;
And so shall he, whose compliments extend
So far to drink in coffee to his friend;
Let noise of loud disputes be quite forborne,
No maudlin lovers here in corners mourn,
But all be brisk and talk, but not too much,
On sacred things, let none presume to touch.
Nor profane Scripture, nor sawcily wrong
Affairs of state with an irreverent tongue:
Let mirth be innocent, and each man see
That all his jests without reflection be;
To keep the house more quiet and from blame,
We banish hence cards, dice, and every game;
Nor can allow of wagers, that exceed
Five shillings, which ofttimes much trouble breed;
Let all that’s lost or forfeited be spent
In such good liquor as the house doth vent.
And customers endeavour, to their powers,
For to observe still, seasonable hours.
Lastly, let each man what he calls for pay,
And so you’re welcome to come every day.

Copy of the Women’s Petition Against Coffee, 1650

By the mid 17th century a new kind of popular social media was rekindled thanks to the public attentions of the coffeehouse – the pamphlet. Similar to the freedom of expression available through the internet today, the pamphlet could be written to either advertise or publicise any product or opinion from anyone with the pennies to spend. And thanks to the coffeehouse, could now also be assured of an audience – albeit a sober one. One such campaign was from a London city based women’s group who, in 1674, wished to grow support for the Women’s Petition Against Coffee. Laying a direct attack on not just the patrons of the coffeehouses but their very manhood, the WPAC proclaimed that “Never did men wear greater breeches, or carry less in them of any mettle what soever [sic]…”. Referring to their frequenting of the coffeehouse it continued, “They come from it with nothing moist but their snotty noses; nothing stiffe [sic] but their joints, nor standing but their ears”. Without losing a beat or wasting time with creative metaphor’s, a short yet honest retort was soon printed simply entitled The Men’s Answer to the Women’s Petition Against Coffee, arguing that indeed coffee “…makes the erection more vigorous, the ejaculation more full, [and] adds a spiritualescence to the sperm”. While it may be difficult to prove or even define the exact “spiritualescence of sperm”, modern science can lend support this statement with evidence of caffeine helping to increase sperm mobility in males – scratch one for the boys!

The importance the coffeehouse played in popular society was not lost on the authorities either who used the most influential venues as public forums to read notices of general importance. By the mid 18th century, the coffeehouse society had spread to the new American colonies where, in 1776, the Merchants Coffee House of Philadelphia was selected as the first location to publicly announce the United States Declaration of Independence. When Admiral Nelson defeated the Spanish and French navies at Trafalgar in 1805, the first public address of the victory was publicly announced to “…the shipping interest at Lloyds coffee house” in central London.

Lloyds building of London – a.k.a. the Inside-Out Building.

Further influential coffee houses include, Will’s Coffee House near Scotland Yard Gate where a group of Naval officers first conceived the idea for the Naval uniform, the Jerusalem Coffee House in Cowpers Court, Cornhill which became the unofficial headquarters for the East India Company (later to be renamed the Jerusalem and East India Coffee House) and Jonathans Coffee House in Exchange Alley which is credited with evolving into the first modern stock exchange. Further credits to the coffee house go the foundation of the Freemasons and even the conceptualisation of the police force (a.k.a. Bow Street Runners), although both are subject to debate.

The Rake’s Rendezvous; Or The Midnight Revels. The Various Humours of Tom King’s Coffee House in Covent Garden. Taken from Hogarths Four Seasons – c/o British Museum

It is also well believed that subconsciously coffee had a further more important role to play in society. In a period where major cities held such incredibly poor standards of hygiene and clean water, many depended on fermented or distilled products for safe hydration [see: 1689 – Gin Epidemic]. As such it’s argued that coffee helped increase the general state of health by offering a safer means of sanitary consumption, as well as sobering up an otherwise oft intoxicated society.

By 1739, the New London Directories would list 695 coffee houses throughout the London boroughs with 551 in the city alone, the largest number of which was centered around the cities first in St Michaels Alley. By this time and with so many competitors, the coffee house had evolved into something closer resembling today’s modern drinking establishments with a venue to be found for all tastes and with coffee a prerequisite in the name only and no longer necessary in the offering. One of the most famous examples of these was Tom King’s Coffee House. While trading out of London’s Covent Garden with under the title of a coffee house, Tom King’s was more openly a den of gambling, drinking and prostitution. Open from the time the common tavern closes to the time the sun arises, the coffee house was equally a popular meeting place for the ill repute and respected alike with many renown intellectuals such as William Hogarth, Alexander Pope, John Gay and Henry Fielding in common attendance. Without any beds on the establishment grounds, Tom and his charismatic wife Mol avoided any legal prosecution in operating as a brothel yet were able to easily trade as a meeting point for ladies of the night and their would be suitors. The Kings became somewhat of an institution in London during their time and despite a large opposition from religious reformers, even King George II once visited the establishment yet stayed only briefly after being challenged to a fight by an ignorant punter. Captured at it’s most honest by famous satirical artist William Hogarth in his collection Four Seasons, Hogarth best describes the scene at Tom Kings with the poetic footnote;

“Here drunken Templars [sic], Rakes and men of taste, their constitutions and their substance waste. Here lustful strumpets with their bosoms bare, mix with a motley throng, drink, smoke and swear. Destruction lurks in their contagious breath, their eyes are basilisks, their jokes are death”.

Artists impression of a map of London coffee houses c.1660 – c/o Helen Cann

While most coffee houses were still intellectually driven, others used curiosity or practicality to attract their patrons. Of these, few are better remembered than the Chelsea Coffee House owned by James Salt (aka Don Salterno). As well as displaying oddities in jars including a “mermaid fish”, “mice skeletons” and an “instrument for scratching the Chinese ladies back”, the Chelsea Coffee House also offered the age old barber-surgeon skill of pulling teeth and bloody letting – albeit with the odd haircut or two.

By the mid to late 19th century, the coffee house revolution along with the newly styled “Age of Enlightenment” had reached its peak and began a steady decline replaced by – or rather evolved into – the modern hotel bar or gentlemen’s club. Despite the change in name, these locations were still places of intellectual institution in which patrons can find good company, coffee and fine liquor in mutual surroundings.

From humble beginnings in tribal Ethiopia to its religious use by the Sufis in Yemen, on the back of the Ottoman Empire until its Western foundation, the coffee bean would see an empire rise and fall, cross religious boundaries and help new nations such as the United States, India, Indonesia and South America develop into major trading powers. But above all, thanks to the role of the humble coffee house the modern world had discovered an age of intellectual advancement emphasised by the evolution of the police force, insurance system, stock exchange and a multitude of corporate societies.

Original story on Drinking Cup.

A Wonder of Islamic Art and Architecture

To paraphrase Monty Python, what has Islam ever done for us? You know, apart from the algebra, the trigonometry, the optics, the astronomy and the many other scientific advances and inventions of the Golden Age of Arabic Science.

Well, if you like art and interiors, there’s always the stunning patterns that grace mosques, madrasas and palaces around the world.

Muslim societies produced art of tremendous vitality and diversity for around 1500 years in centres from Spain and West Africa to South-East Asia and China. Their artistic production includes architectural monuments such as mosques, palaces, and civic centres to textiles, manuscripts, and portable objects in ceramic, gold, silver, metal alloys, ivory, and rock crystal.

Islamic craftsmen and artists – who were prohibited from making representations of people in holy sites – developed an instantly recognizable aesthetic based on repeated geometrical shapes. The mathematical elegance of these designs is that no matter how elaborate they are, they are always based on grids constructed using only a ruler and a pair of compasses. Islamic patterns provide a visual confirmation of the complexity that can be achieved with such simple tools.

Robert Byron, in The Road to Oxiana, wrote about Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan:

I know of no finer example of the Persian Islamic genius than the interior of the dome. The dome is inset with a network of lemon-shaped compartments, which decrease in size as they ascend towards the formalised peacock at the apex… The mihrāb in the west wall is enamelled with tiny flowers on a deep blue meadow. Each part of the design, each plane, each repetition, each separate branch or blossom has its own sombre beauty. But the beauty of the whole comes as you move. Again, the highlights are broken by the play of glazed and unglazed surfaces; so that with every step they rearrange themselves in countless shining patterns… I have never encountered splendour of this kind before.

The interior side of the dome. The decoration seems to lead the eye upwards toward its center, as the rings of ornamental bands filled with arabesque patterns become smaller and smaller. (Wikipedia)
The interior side of the dome in Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan. The decoration seems to lead the eye upwards toward its centre, as the rings of ornamental bands filled with arabesque patterns become smaller and smaller. (Wikipedia)
Mihrāb, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan (Wikipedia)
Mihrāb, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan (Wikipedia)

Little Puffles and Honey haven’t been to Isfahan, but they have been to Istanbul, home to an incredible wealth of historical sites, Byzantine and Ottoman.

The mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent occupies a commanding position over the old city of Istanbul.
The mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent occupies
a commanding position over the old city of Istanbul.

In selecting a building site for his most magnificent foundation, Süleyman decided against a site located directly on the triumphal axis. Instead he cut into the grounds of the Old Palace, on the north side. At the time, there were already four magnificent buildings along the triumphal axis – Haghia Sophia, and Beyazıt II, Şehzade and Fatih Mosques, as well as some more modest mosques. Süleyman used the opportunity to emphasize the skyline above the Golden Horn seen form the north of the city by placing his complex on a small peninsula.

Süleymaniye Mosque
Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleyman had just reached the height of his power: Western Europe had acknowledged the Ottoman Empire as the supreme world power. The Habsburg Empire had become his vassal. Once again he tried to challenge the imperial church, Haghia Sophia. Like Mehmet II with the Fatih Mosque, he tried to achieve a unification of teaching and religion in one large complex. Like Justinian, he wanted to legitimize his power through religion. One of Justinian’s specific goals has been overcoming the dogmatic rift between the East and West Christian churches. The aging Süleyman understood himself to be the guarantor of the Sunni faith who tried to counterbalance Shiite heterodoxy, which had begun to spread among the Turkomen tribes in Anatolia to the antinomian brotherhoods, even though they had once helped consolidate his power base and that of the young Ottoman Empire.

Haghia Sophia
Haghia Sophia

Süleyman’s mosque had to be able to stand up to the comparison with Haghia Sophia. At the same time, it had to meet strict rules and regulations of orthodox Islam and evolve as a new centre for religious teaching. The foundation deed of the Süleymaniye complex addresses these issues in detail: “If decorating the temple with silver and gold would agree with the religion of Islam and the laws of his excellency, the Prophet, we would certainly have adorned it with gold and silver; its walls and doors would have been studded with rubies and pearls to honour the temple and God in gratitude for his benevolence. But for the said reasons we have decided against it, focusing instead on a solid architectural construction.”

The cascading domes of Süleymaniye Mosque
The cascading domes of Süleymaniye Mosque
The cascading domes of Süleymaniye Mosque
The cascading domes of Süleymaniye Mosque

With these specifications in mind, Sinan went to work, adapting features from Haghia Sophia: the central plan, two semidomes above the central axis and the side rooms. Wisely, he chose more modest dimensions. The prayer hall of the Süleymaniye is 58.5 by 57.5 metres, almost a perfect square, while the main nave of Haghia Sophia is a rectangle, measuring 73.5 by 69.5 metres. The diameter of the Süleymaniye dome is 26.65 metres (making it larger than the dome of Fatih Mosque but smaller than the dome of Haghia Sophia) and the height of its calotte above the floor is 49.5 meters.

Süleymaniye Mosque Interior
Süleymaniye Mosque Interior
Süleymaniye Mosque - Legend
Süleymaniye Mosque – Legend

In all other matters, Sinan focused strictly on the functional and aesthetic requirements of the Ottoman mosque, as he did in the design of the Şehzade Mosque. The side rooms are not separated from the main hall, and the exedras have their correspondence in the floor plan. To east and west the dome is flanked by semidomes and to the north and south by arches with tympanums filled with windows. The dome arches rise from four great irregularly shaped piers. The side rooms that reach to the arches and tympanums, because there are no galleries, have no vaults, which are not an element of classical Ottoman architecture, but domes. Unlike the side domes in earlier imperial mosques, these side domes vary in size. Those in the middle have a diameter of 10 meters, corresponding to the corner domes, and are flanked by smaller domes with a diameter of 7 meters. On each side there are five domes, and three large supporting buttresses alternate with two smaller ones.

Süleymaniye Mosque Interior
Süleymaniye Mosque Interior

Haghia Sophia was the creation of two architects and mathematicians of genius who had been provided with the necessary means by a generous and enthusiastic ruler. Many generations had been involved in trying to maintain this monument, the symbolic meaning of which had increased over the centuries. A millennium later, another ingenious architect, who had been granted similar means and was driven by the same obsession, found a solution to the engineering problems that Haghia Sophia had formulated. The Süleymaniye was his solution.

In Haghia Sophia, exedras are used to give the plan its particular form. Sinan used them as a vital element in the dome construction, to help absorb and distribute the weight of the central dome. The same concept had entirely different functions. In Byzantine architecture, the exedras connected the roof construction to the floor, thus symbolically connecting Heaven and Earth. In Ottoman architecture, the unified interior space symbolized the community of the faithful and was therefore designed to be as open as possible.

Hagia Sophia - Exedra with Sultan's Loge
Hagia Sophia – Exedra with Sultan’s Loge

Entering the mosque, the visitor is immediately taken by its severely simple grandeur. The marble sheathing of the walls that reaches up to the arches is reminiscent of Haghia Sophia. The frescoes, which have been restored to the original designs, are surely far from providing the original impression, but other elements prove that this is indeed an imperial mosque. On the prayer wall (qibla), interspaced with verses and quotations from the Koran, as well as descriptions of paradise, have been executed in two new materials. The ceramic tiles that used to frame the mihrab are the earliest known examples of the new techniques of the Iznik kilns. The lovely stained-glass windows, by the glazier known as Sarhoş İbrahim, are framed in Ottoman tradition with rich stucco decoration. Similar windows are found in the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, which was built in 1548 in Üsküdar, on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.

Süleymaniye Mosque Mihrab
Süleymaniye Mosque Mihrāb
Süleymaniye Mosque - Iznik tile calligraphic roundel flanking the mihrab
Süleymaniye Mosque – Iznik tile calligraphic roundel flanking the mihrāb
Süleymaniye Mosque - window detail
Süleymaniye Mosque – window detail
Süleymaniye Mosque - window detail
Süleymaniye Mosque – window detail

According to contemporary admirers, the Süleymaniye surpassed by far the mosques of earlier rulers of the world, at least partly because of the meaning given to the four massive columns in the central hall from which the arches that hold the side tympanums rise. Sinan’s autobiography and the records of the imperial architects organization reveal that the first column came from Alexandria and represented Alexander the Great; the second from Baalbek, which in Islamic literature is the Temple of Solomon; and the third and fourth from Byzantium, from the Augusteion and the Hippodrome. The columns, like other precious marble such as the round porphyry plates of the courtyard, symbolized the claim of the Ottoman Empire to imperial power.

Süleymaniye Mosque interior - Close-up of porphyry column
Süleymaniye Mosque interior – Close-up of porphyry column
Süleymaniye Mosque interior - view of two of the four massive porphyry columns. One originated in Alexandria, on in Baalbek, and the other two in Constantinople. Contemporaries made reference to this when they wrote that this mosque rests upon the thrones of ancient rulers. The pillars do not absorb much of the dome's weight, but carry the arches with the tympanum wall, which are filled with windows.
Süleymaniye Mosque interior – view of two of the four massive porphyry columns. One originated in Alexandria, on in Baalbek, and the other two in Constantinople. Contemporaries made reference to this when they wrote that this mosque rests upon the thrones of ancient rulers. The pillars do not absorb much of the dome’s weight, but carry the arches with the tympanum wall, which are filled with windows.

The entrance portal, flanked by two buildings on three different levels, is another such manifestation of power. It is possible that the entrance area was fashioned after the Topkapı Sarayı and “Gate” and “Courtyard” are the sacred correspondents of the secular models.

Süleymaniye Mosque - View from courtyard entrance towards mosque portal (P. Blessing)
Süleymaniye Mosque – View from courtyard entrance towards mosque portal (P. Blessing)
Süleymaniye Mosque - View from courtyard (P. Blessing)
Süleymaniye Mosque – View from courtyard (P. Blessing)

In order to achieve the size, Sinan returned to a rectangular courtyard with nine niches instead of seven. The exterior of the portico and the three niches on both sides of the entrance portal on the central axes are higher than the others, so that one column has to carry arches of varying height, a problem that is solved through half-capitals with corbels in the middle of the column shaft.

The entire complex was completed in the year 1558. The mosque surrounded by additional building complexes, all covered with domes. They contained four medreses and the Dar-ül-Hadis, a medical college that remained unique in Istanbul, a hospital, a charity kitchen for the poor, an inn for travellers and Dervishes, a hamam and shops. The two medreses sloping toward the Golden Horn have special features. Because they are built on terraced terrain, each niche of the portico is six steps lower than the preceding one. The domes over the porticos and the adjoining rooms cascade from top to bottom. The classroom is on the upper floor. The mausoleums of Süleyman and his wife Hürrem, better known in the West as Roxelane, are located in the walled garden behind the mosque. The plan of the tomb of Süleyman, which lies directly behind the prayer wall of the mosque, is almost identical to that of the prayer hall.

Süleymaniye Mosque - Mausoleum of Süleyman the Magnificent (P. Blessing)
Süleymaniye Mosque – Mausoleum of Süleyman the Magnificent (P. Blessing)
Süleymaniye Mosque - Mausoleum of Süleyman the Magnificent (P. Blessing)
Süleymaniye Mosque – Mausoleum of Süleyman the Magnificent (P. Blessing)
Süleymaniye Mosque - Mausoleum of Hürrem Sultan (P. Blessing)
Süleymaniye Mosque – Mausoleum of Hürrem Sultan (Roxelane) (P. Blessing)

Up

Finally, up, up and away!

Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival

The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is one of the longest running hot air ballooning events in the world. More than 30 giant hot air balloons have travelled to Canberra for the annual event, some coming from as far away as the United States and Belgium to participate.

It was totally worth the effort of waking up at 4am. There are not many places in the world where you can take off from the middle of city. And the sunrise was spectacular!

Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival

And the bears had an awesome time…

Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival

We flew with bear friendly Balloons Aloft 🙂

http://www.canberraballoons.com.au/

Cool balloons…

Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival
Canberra Balloon Festival

We’ve had a previous balloon spectacular experience in Cappadocia, Turkey in April 2009. It was another magical experience and totally worth the effort of waking up at 4am.

Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular
Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular

We got to watch the sunrise and the fact that it was cloudy made it an even better experience. The rays of sunshine coming through the clouds created an illumination that created an almost mystical experience.

Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular
Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular

There were over 30 hot air balloons in the air, an incredible sight. Hot air balloons peak hour traffic! There are several companies that operate hot air balloons in the town. If you should find yourself this way and in need for some hot air, Kapadokya Balloons have professional pilots, licensed in the UK and other places where they have actual regulations and standards and their pilots follow those safety standards, even though they operate in Turkey.

http://www.kapadokyaballoons.com

Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular
Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular

The pilot we had was really good. And funny! We flew really low in the valley to begin with, looking at the landscape shaped by volcanic activity, erosion and hand of man into incredible shapes, and then went up really high to get a view of the whole valley.

Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular
Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular

The brochure claimed: Magnificent fairy chimneys, picturesque cavernous hillsides and historical rock churches on an unforgettable adventurous journey. It was all that and more.

Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular
Cappadocia Balloon Spectacular

Hot air ballooning on Jupiter next!

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