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Discover İstanbul's buzzing cultural centre and historical heritage

 Discover İstanbul's buzzing cultural centre and historical heritage
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Cinzia Rizzi
Published on Updated
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Türkiye is going through a difficult period due to the devastating earthquake that hit the southeast of the country. Revenues from the tourism sector will help rebuild the affected regions.

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Türkiye is going through a difficult period due to the devastating earthquake that hit the southeast of the country. Türkiye’s income from the tourism sector is important and most tourist sites, such as İstanbul, have not been affected by this huge tragedy.

Visitors from all over the world continue to be welcomed. And the revenues from the tourism sector will help rebuild the affected regions.

Istanbul, a crossroads between Asia and Europe is a colourful city offering a wealth of opportunities for lovers of art, music and culture. Famous all over the world for its rich historical heritage, the ancient and the modern live side by side here.

The Hagia Sophia: one of the great architectural wonders of the world

And there’s no better place to experience Istanbul’s rich heritage than Hagia Sophia, an expression of religious faith and one of the great architectural wonders of the world.

Built as a cathedral in the 6th century under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I and formerly called the Church of the Holy Wisdom, this edifice is an excellent example of Byzantine art. Later it was transformed into an Islamic mosque, until 1935. Then it became a museum. And since 2020 it has been a mosque again.

Inside you can admire its massive dome, golden mosaics and 140 monolithic marble columns, imported from Egypt, Ephesus and other places around the world.

It's a must-see attraction for the millions of tourists that visit Istanbul every year.

"We’re on a journey around the Middle East and we stopped in Istanbul to visit Hagia Sophia, which is really magnificent," says Florencia Lehmann from Buenos Aires. "So we’re very happy to be here."

"This Hagia Sophia is a landmark and famous across the world. We're told that the architecture is really one of a kind," says Jessica Gounden, a tourist from South Africa. “And it does not disappoint. The intricate details, the embossing, the columns, it’s just magnificent.”

The Archaeological Museums - featuring the Alexander Sarcophagus

Just a few hundred metres away is one of the city’s most important historical complexes: the Archaeological Museums.

Divided into three main galleries, it is home to over 500,000 exhibits that represent almost all the eras, cultures and civilizations in world history.

In the archaeological section, there are lots of artefacts from the Hellenistic period and ancient Rome. And there’s something you just can’t miss: the famous Alexander Sarcophagus.

“The sarcophagus is called the Alexander Sarcophagus because of the bas-relief carvings of Alexander the Great, which we can see on the left," says Rahmi Asal, director of the museums. "So, I think we’re standing before the most important and most artistic sarcophagus in the world."

The world's earliest known love poem

Sarcophagi, sculptures, mummies, clay tablets, all in one place. And some of them are important turning points in human history. If you’re a hopeless romantic, don’t miss the world’s earliest known love poem, composed during Sumerian times for use in part of the sacred fertility rites.

“This tablet was found in Nippur in the early 21st century BC, around 2030” says Asal. “It contains flattering words about King Shu-sin, said to him by the woman who was his mistress in the early 21st century BC”.

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A cultural hub

Istanbul is also a cultural hub bridging east and west, as well as old and new. And there’s one place that, more than others, brings culture lovers together under one roof.

The Atatürk Cultural Centre (or Atatürk Kültür Merkezi: AKM) is situated in the iconic Taksim Square. This 1960s classic of cultural life, which was devastated by a fire in the 1970s. But, like a phoenix, it rose from the ashes in 2021.

Remzi Buharalı is the Art Director of the centre, which hosts daily all sorts of art performances.

“In a megapolis like Istanbul, all the incredible performances, representations, concerts, which you might see worldwide, can be seen at this centre,” he says.

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With its opera house, theatre, art gallery, multipurpose halls and facilities, this place gives everyone the opportunity to disengage from routine.

For its Art Director the AKM is fundamental for people who live in Istanbul, to disconnect from daily and busy life.

“In this sense," Buharali says, "the Atatürk Cultural Centre in Istanbul is a place where people, worn down by the stresses of daily life, can relax with culture and art, escape from life’s hustle and bustle, and revive their spirits with art."

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