Notes on the Geography of Turkey (Istanbul): Topkapi and Dolmabahce: Photo 2
Unlike European palaces, Topkapi turns in, not outward: it is built around courtyards, not grandiose facades. As in many other Asian capitals (Beijing's Forbidden City is an obvious comparison), the four courtyards are progressively more private and restricted. The first was a service area, open to the public. The Middle Gate, or Gate of Salutations, is shown here: it led from the first courtyard to a parade ground surrounded by offices of the imperial council and grand vizier. All but the sultan and his mother had to dismount when they passed through it. The next gate was the Gate of Felicity, which led to the third courtyard and the throne room, as well as rooms preserving several relics of the prophet. Adjoining the third court on the west, and extending into the fourth, was the harem, some 300 rooms that were the private quarters of the sultan. There is no gateway--only passages--into the fourth courtyard, a refuge of gardens and kiosks overlooking the Golden Horn and Bosphorus from a superlative location, a ridgetop at the northeastern end of the peninsula on which the city was built.
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