No visit to Istanbul, Turkey is ever complete without visiting the Topkapi Palace. This grand palace that stood witness to the rise and fall of the mighty Ottoman Empire is today home to the earliest manuscript of the Quran dating back to 1st century AH. In addition, on high security display at the Topkapi Palace is the world's forth largest diamond, the Spoonmaker's diamond (Kasikci elmasi in Turkish). This 86 carat, 17g pear-shaped diamond is the single most valuable treasure exhibited by the Topkapi Palace.
The manuscript, which is the most comprehensive and closest to the complete text of the Quran, consists of 99% of the original text of the Quran with the exception of 23 verses forming 2 pages. The manuscript was gifted by Mehmet Ali Pasa, the governor of Egypt, to the Ottoman Sultan, Mahmut 2nd in 19th century. The manuscript is now contained within the Library of the Topkapi Palace. Ministry of culture and tourism recently initiated and completed a full scale renovation of this incredible library. In addition to this early manuscript, the library is home to the world's most extensive collection of Islamic works, including 21,438 books, 18,622 manuscripts, 2,816 rare prints and thousands of paintings.
Included within the many precious items found in the library is the world map of Piri Reis dating back to 1,513 AD. UNESCO has recently recognised the importance of this renovation project and declared year 2013 the year of Piri Reis. Piri Reis was an Ottoman admiral, who lived in the 15th century. Piri Reis is well known today for his detailed charts and maps showing very accurately locations and details of major ports and cities of the Mediterranean. His book of navigation (Kitab-i Bahriye) is regarded as one of the most accurate navigators of its time.
Located in Istanbul, Topkapi Palace was the main residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1856. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 and contains some of the Islamic World's most important manuscripts as well as the cloak and sword of the Prophet. The Palace is made up of 4 main courtyards and many buildings and housed up to 4,000 people at its height. It is one of the best examples of Ottoman palaces ever built.
Construction of the palace started in 1459 soon after the conquest of Istanbul (Constantinople) in 1453 by Fatih Sultan Selim, Fatih the conqueror of the Ottoman Empire. As well as a royal residence, the palace was used for state occasions and entertainment. In 1856, Sultan Abdul Mecid 2nd moved the royal residence to the newly built Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosporus. The imperial treasury, the library and the mind stayed with the Topkapi Palace. Today, the palace is one of Istanbul's most important tourist destinations visited by millions each year.
The renovation of the library within the palace is thus a very sensitive and delicate matter. With some of the most valuable manuscripts and books being maintained in the library work had to progress with much care and attention. The renovation is now fully completed and we can report that the library is back in full operation.
In underlining the importance of the Topkapi Palace for Turkey's cultural tourism, Cameron Deggin of Property Turkey stated that some of their clients visiting Istanbul to inspect properties to buy insist that they are given a tour of the palace. "Some seem to pay more attention to the palace than the properties themselves" said Mr. Deggin. "Clearly Topkapi Palace is of monumental importance for Istanbul's history and culture, as well as the real estate market, it seems". "We often get asked whether we can find our clients homes and property within walking distance of the Topkapi Palace", he added.
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