Turkey: Istanbul For the Curious


Bosporus. The strait that separates the European part of Turkey from its Asian part and that connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea. 

Minaret. A tall, slender tower of a mosque having one or more balconies from which the summons to prayer is cried by the muezzin. 

Byzantium, Constantinople, and now Istanbul. The ancient Greek city of Byzantium was renamed Constantinople and again renamed Istanbul.

Orthodox Christianity. Eastern Orthodoxy developed as a distinct branch of Christianity after the eleventh century “Great Schism” between Eastern and Western Christendom.

Mehmet the Conqueror, Mehmet II. The 15th century sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

Ottoman Turks. The rulers of the Ottoman Empire from the 13th through the 20th century.

Ottoman Empire. The multi-ethnic and multi-religious Turkish-ruled state that governed much of the Middle East, Southeastern Europe, and North Africa from the 13th through the 20th century.

Caucasus. “A region in Eurasia bordered on the north by Russia, on the west by the Black Sea, on the east by the Caspian Sea, on the southwest by Turkey, and on the south by Iran. The Caucasus includes the Caucasus Mountains and surrounding lowlands.” 

Chador. The Iranian name for the outer garments worn by some Islamic women to provide privacy. Ramadan or, in Turkish, “Ramazan.” A month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims practice fasting during daylight hours. 

Eid. A Muslim religious holiday. Seker Bayram, Seker Bayrum. The Turkish name for the Muslim religious holiday that ends the month of Ramadan. 

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. The friend and standard bearer of the Prophet Muhammed who died during the Arab army’s siege of Constantinople in 669. Prophet Muhammed, Muhammad, Mohammed Mahomet. Abu l-Qasim Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Hashimi al-Qurashi 570-632. The founder of the world religion of Islam regarded by Muslims as the last messenger and prophet of God.

Harem. The private living quarters of the female members of the family in a royal palace.

Roxelana. Also known by the name Khourrem, Roxelana was a slave from the Ukraine, a concubine of Süleyman the Magnificent and eventually his wife. She produced his heir, Selim II.

Suleyman the Magnificent. The tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1529-1566 ), Suleyman the Magnificent was famous for his conquest of European territories, his poetry and cultivation of the arts, and his codification of laws. 

Grand Vizier. A leading advisor or administrator to the Ottoman Sultan.

Whirling Dervishes (members of the Mevlevi Order). A sect whose memers have incorporated poetry, art, music, and dance in their prayer since the 14th century. 

Sufi. A member or practitioner of Sufiism, certain Islamic traditions and beliefs.

Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi). A renowned, 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian whose works are important in Sufism and to the Mevlevi Order or “Whirling Dervishes.”

Nargili (Hookah, Sisha, Bubble Pipe, Water Pipe). A device for smoking tobacco or other substances through a water filter. 

Mimar Sinan. The 16th century architect of Rustem Pasa and many other buildings.