Handily located on the western flank of the Hippodrome (the city’s Byzantine chariot racing circuit, today a pleasant, elongated square), this treasure trove of Islamic art and artifacts is almost as important for the building housing them as for its contents. This attractive stone structure is one of the very few Ottoman Turkish domestic buildings to have survived the fires that regularly swept through the dense conglomerations of wooden houses where the bulk of the populace lived. It was actually the palace of one Ibrahim Pas, grand vizier to the most powerful Ottoman sultan ever, Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-1565).

The grand vizier came to a sticky end when he was suspected of treason, and was strangled with a bow string on the sultan’s orders. What the devout Ibrahim Pas would make of his palatial one-time residence being tramped through by packs of infidel tourists is open to conjecture, but hopefully he’d be proud his legacy is still of such interest. As of 2014, the whole museum was undergoing a major facelift, but exhibits to look out for include top-quality Seljuk and Ottoman Turkish tiles, Korans full of exquisite calligraphy, fine   Persian miniatures, Turkish carpets and kilims and, a nod to the Turks' nomadic past, the black goat hair tents of pastoralist Turcoman tribes.

 

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