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Divan Yolu, Grand Bazaar, Süleymaniye & Egyptian Bazaar

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Istanbul Divan Yolu

The main thoroughfare through the Istanbul is formed by the Divan Yolu, the Road to the Imperial Council (Divan). It starts at the Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Saray) and runs west to Topkapı (the Cannon Gate, not to be confounded with the palace of the same name). In this course its name changes from Divan Yolu, to Yeniceşitleri Caddesi (Avenue of the Yanitsars), Ordu Caddesi (Avenue of the Army) and Turgut Özal Caddesi (former Millet Caddesi). This thoroughfare dates back from Roman times when the city was rebuilt under Septimius Severus. The Romans and Byzantines called it the Mese or middle way and it started from a triumphal arch, the Miliarum Aureum or Golden Milestone, more commonly known as the Milion. The Mese ran through the city to connect to Rome's road system that ran to Adrianople (Edirne) in the north and by means of the Via Egnatia west as far as the Adriatic. The Milion was of particular importance as being the reference point for all distances in the Byzantine Empire. A tall marble stele which is a fragment of the Milion archway has been excavated in 1965 and can be seen to the right at the beginning of the Divan Yolu. The Divan Yolu kept its importance in Ottoman times. Whenever there were meetings of the Imperial Council, the Divan, at the second courtyard of Topkapı, dignitaries passed along it in procession.

Certainly, one of the most venerable monuments of the city is the Column of Constantine or Çemberlitaş (the hooped stone). Going in the direction of Beyazit Meydanı, it is located on the right side of the Divan Yolu where it intersects with Devirhane Caddesi. It also used to be known as the Burnt Column, because of the marks of fire that raged around it in the 18th century. It consists of a 10 meter high masonry base, surmounted with a shaft of 6 porphyry drums. The joints between the porphyry drums are hooped with iron bands. The total height is 34.8 meter. It stands on the center of what once was the Forum of Constantine the Great and was erected by him to celebrate that on 11 May AD 330, Constantinople became the capital of the Roman Empire. Originally, it was topped with a statue of Constantine the Great, but in 1106 a violent wind knocked it down. Fifty years later, Emperor Manuel I Commenos repaired the column and placed a large cross on top of it. In the 18th century, the column was bound with metal hoops to protect it for further damage from earthquakes.

Near Çemberlitaş, still on the rights side of the Divan Yolu, at the Çarşıkapı Sokak, is the entrance to the Grand Bazaar, also known as Covered Market or Kapalı Carşı in Turkish. Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is said to be the largest covered bazaar in the world. The Covered Market complex consists of 4000 shops, mosques, banks, police stations, restaurants and workshops. The origin of the Grand Bazaar goes back to the time of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, when a small bedesten was built here.

Leaving the Grand Bazaar through the Örücüler Kapısı Caddesi and following the walls of the Istanbul University brings us to the Süleymaniye Camii, the mosque of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, the greatest, richest, and most powerful of the Ottoman Sultans. The Süleymaniye Camii is Istanbul's largest mosque and, located on a hill-top, provides a splendid landmark for the city. The mosque was built between 1550 and 1557 by the architect Sinan, the most famous architect of the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire. The Süleymaniye mosque is breathtaking in its size and splendid in its simplicity. In the garden of the mosque is a graveyard with the mausoleum (Türbe) of Sultan Süleyman The Magnificent and his wife Hürrem Sultan. Near them also Sinan had his tomb built.

Following further the enclosure of Istanbul's University, we arrive at Beyazit Square (Beyazit Meydanı) with the impressive portal that forms the main entrance to the Istanbul Üniversitesi. This spacious plaza was once the Roman Forum Tauri, later expanded by the Byzantines to the Forum of Theodosius, it was the largest forum of ancient Constantinople. Now, on Sunday, this is one of Istanbul's largest flea markets. Next, we head to the crossing of the Atatürk Bulvarı by the Bozdoğan Kemeri or Aqueduct of Valens. We descend through a maze of small streets to the Golden Horn and finally arrive at the Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Marketl. The Egyptian Market or Mısır Çarşısı in Turkish, was constructed at about 1660 as part of the Yeni Cami complex and is specialized in spices.

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