Located at the junction of Asia and Europe, Constantinople (now Istanbul) was considered one of the most important and greatest cities in the world, and in view of its cultural and geographical importance, the famous French commander Napoleon said: (Istanbul would be its capital) “If the whole world were one country So Istanbul would be its capital.
Here we are presenting an excerpt from the travelogue of Allama Shibli Nomani titled Brief Situations of Constantinople which will be of interest to you. Allama Shibli Nomani died in 1914. This travelogue was written a century ago.
It is said that there is no city in the world as beautiful as Constantinople. And the truth is, it doesn’t get much more visually pleasing than that. In this sense, its harbor is called Golden Horn in English. Somewhere along the banks of the river there is a series of buildings and it goes away. The land next to the buildings. It is very smooth and clean. Its level is exactly equal to sea level. And there is a strange happy scene.
He can have an idea of the extent of civilization of the city, especially in Istanbul, there are five hundred mosques, one hundred and seventy-one baths, three hundred and thirty-four inns, one hundred and sixty-four madrasas, ancient five hundred madrasas, twelve modern colleges, forty-five libraries, three hundred and five There are monasteries, forty-eight encampments. Such is the state of business and abundance of traffic that numerous tramcars, twelve-seaters, underground railways, minor railways, which depart every half-knee, are constantly in operation. And yet its streets are so crowded with pedestrians that it seems like a festival all the time.
The toll on the bridge between Galata and Istanbul is one penny per person. His daily income is not less than five six thousand rupees. Istanbul would be its capital
Cafes are plentiful. In my estimation, it will not be less than four to five thousand. Some of them are so grand that their buildings look like royal palaces. All kinds of syrups, teas, coffee etc. are always available in coffee shops. Most of the coffee houses are on the banks of the river and some are right in the river for which a wooden bridge is built. Daily newspapers are also available in coffee houses. People drink coffee and read newspapers. In Constantinople, but in all these countries, coffee houses are considered as necessities of life. When my Arab friends heard from me that it is not customary in India, they used to say in surprise: “How do people have fun there?” In these countries, these coffee houses are the occasions for friends to meet and have a good time.
It is a pity that Indians have no taste for these things. They do not know how important these kinds of common associations are to the enjoyment of life. And what effect do they have on the state of health? We also have friendly gatherings, the method of which is that two or four friends sometimes meet at a friend’s house, but there are two major flaws in this method. First of all, entertainment gatherings should be held in open spaces to benefit physical health due to the fresh and gentle air. The second serious drawback is that these gatherings are private gatherings, so except for backbiting, complaints and similar types of language in them. And there is no mention. Unlike coffee houses, where there is no opportunity for such talks due to the general public. In Constantinople and Egypt, I always sat in friends’ coffee houses in the evenings. But I have never heard such mentions. There was no mention except for fun and banter. And it could not be.
One of the great features of Constantinople is that if one wants to see a picture of European and Asian civilizations in one picture, one can see it here. If you visit the bookseller’s shops, there is a very wide shop on one side. There is a stone floor. There are very beautiful glass cabinets. As much as the books are volumes and volumes, they are not insignificant, but generally Mutla and Muzahab. The owner of the shop is sitting at the table and chair. Two or three young, well-dressed boys are busy here and there. You stepped into the shop. A warrior brought a chair and placed it in front of him. And list of books cited. The price is mentioned in the list. There is no possibility of increase or decrease in it.
On the other side, there is an irregular pile of books on the platforms on the side of the road. Payment takes hours.
Similarly, there are professional and industrial shops of both types. The same goes for general cleanliness and grooming. If you look at Galata, it looks like a piece of Europe. The shops are high and decorated. The roads are wide and smooth. There is no mention of mud and impurity. Unlike in Istanbul where there is a majority of Muslim population. Most of the roads are uneven and in some places so uneven that it is difficult to walk.
This is probably the first thought that comes to the mind of a tourist when he comes to this city. It will be that why is there so much difference in the two parts of this great empire? So this was the first thought that came to my mind. I did some research and discussion about it. I easily found out the reason for the disagreement of the residents. That is, the bankruptcy of Muslims and the wealth of other nations.
But apparently this could not be the reason for the unevenness and dirtiness of the roads and passages. Therefore, I inquired from a respected Turkish officer namely Hussain Haseeb Effendi Police Commissioner. He said that the taxes of our municipality are very low. Many items are exempt from tax. But the European merchants themselves pay much higher taxes than they want. Therefore, the municipality can spend this money generously. I thought it was the same mistake. In relation to which Ibn-i-Batuta has complained strongly of impurity and sloppiness. Or now they have this arrangement of cleaning and cleanliness for which they pay huge taxes. The fact is that cleanliness and decency have become the yeast of Europe today.
The buildings here are completely different from the buildings in India. Houses are generally one-story, four-story. The yard is not absolute. The buildings are all wooden. The palaces of big nobles and pashas are also made of wood. And this is the reason why there are frequent fires here. No month or week goes by. That two or four houses are not destroyed by fire. And sometimes the localities of the locality are burnt to black dust. There is a lot of preparation by the Sultanate to put out the fire. Several hundred men are specially appointed for this work. A very tall minaret is built on which a few employees are always present so that whenever they see a fire somewhere, they can report it immediately. There are other small monuments of this type.
Whenever there is a fire, cannons are fired and firemen from every part of the city rush to the spot with all the equipment. They are ordered to run wildly. Even if someone walks on a path and falls in their trap, there is no blame. I inquired from people why stone buildings were not built. It is known that cold weather causes severe pain and harms health.
The climate here is very good. Winters are very cold and sometimes it snows. The summer season, which I experienced myself, is so delightful that it cannot be described. I wonder why our nobles here do not travel to Constantinople instead of Shimla and Nainital! The water comes from the mountain. And it is very digestible and pleasant.