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Uskudar (Scutari)

An old picture od UskudarÜsküdar is located on the Anatolian side at the entrance to the Bosphorus. Historicaly Üsküdar was located between Salacak and Pasalimani neighborhoods, but it grew everyday like other districts of Istanbul. Today it stretches to Umraniye on the east, to Kadikoy in the south, and to Beykoz in the north.

Üsküdar was the third Muslim judgeship belonging to Istanbul, besides Galata and Eyüp. It represents Anatolian Turco-lslam tradition. First of all, Üsküdar is geographically Anatolian. It is located on the borders of Anatolia which is drawn by the waters of the Bosphorus. It also is Anatolian demographically. The Muslim people, who came from Anatolia, resided in Üsküdar after it was conquered by sultan Orhan Gazi in 1352. Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror speeded the immigration from Anatolia to Üsküdar. The famous Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi, who lived in the 17th century, wrote that there were 70 Muslim neighborhoods in Üsküdar and most of the people had emigrated from Anatolia. He also stated that there were 11 Greek and Armenian, one Jewish, and no French neighborhoods in Üsküdar. This gave an ethnic and culturally homogeneous structure to Üsküdar.

Üsküdar is the section of Istanbul which has the strongest connection with Anatolia. It was the center of trade with Anatolia until the railway was installed in the 19th century with Haydarpasa train station. It was also the starting point for trade with Iran and Armenia. All Armenian and Iranian merchants arrived in Üsküdar with their trade caravans. Therefore Üsküdar became a trade town in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In spite of this fact, Üsküdar was always quiet and modest. Its streets and houses were nice and well maintained. Karacaahmet cemetery, the oldest and largest Muslim cemetery in Istanbul, is located in Üsküdar. There are many cypress trees in the cemetery, and with its vegetation it is more like a park than a cemetery.

Üsküdar is not only a point of separation where people live this life. Every year the people going to Mecca for pilgrimage were sent from Üsküdar. The Surre Alayi which brought the presents of the Ottoman Sultans to Mecca and Medina governors were sent from Üsküdar as well. Therefore, Üsküdar is used to separations; it sends both the dead and Hajj candidates with ceremony.

Üsküdar is the first part of Istanbul to be conquered by Ottomans. It was the messenger of the big conquest. It was separated from Istanbul for one century and one year. but in 1453 Üsküdar was once again united with Istanbul.

The Marmara Sea was not the cause of separation, but means of the transportation. When you travel from this sea to Üsküdar, Kizkulesi welcomes you first. This beautiful tower is one of the beauties and symbols of Üsküdar. When you reach the shore, another beauty welcomes you; this one is the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, built by great architect Sinan who also built the Süleymaniye Mosque. The Sultan Ahmed III fountain, which beautifies the Üsküdar square, catches your attention, too. The beauties of Üsküdar captivates you even before reaching the shore, and they surround you afterwards.

Üsküdar has changed today, like the rest of Istanbul. Most notable is that nothing remains today of the shore-side palaces which were built in the 18th century. Its green hills have become cement blocks loosing its traditional architectural characteristics. Just a few of the street with wooden houses with balconies and bow-windows are still alive. But regardless of everything, Üsküdar has kept its quiet Anatolian atmosphere.

There are regular passenger ferries to Üsküdar from Besiktas and Karaköy.

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All About Turkey © Burak Sansal 1996–2014, a certified professional tour guide in Turkey. Contact Burak at buraksan@superonline.com for all kinds of regular and/or private travel services throughout the country.