What Makes a City an Ottoman City

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Osmanlı'da Şehircilik Anlayışı

At the time of the Ottoman Empire, cities were designed and planned to place the individual in the center. Residents thereby would feel good, happy, and peaceful there. Let’s go into details about what makes a city an Ottoman city and see the differences of Ottoman cities from other ones.

The houses in neighborhoods would have a special place in urban design at the time of the Ottoman Empire. Though very surprising, families were obliged to build their own houses. This obligation was derived from the understanding in Islam that every individual is a caliph of Allah on the face of the earth, and that their duty is to beautify their environment – the place where they intend to live in. Every household would build their accommodation according to their tastes and living standards; Therefore, the neighborhoods were filled with homes in different structures and identities which resulted in a city of its own characteristics.  

Ottoman cities would consist of a city center and small neighborhood units connected to that. These neighborhoods would also have centers that were available and sufficient for residents’ daily needs. City centers would have a big mosque for Jummah prayers, a social complex for cultural, educational, and health services, and trade markets.

City centers would constitute 15-20% of the entire city area where economic activities were concentrated upon. Masjids, carpenters, cobblers, little convenience stores, reading saloons, chatting places, and meeting areas were found in the neighborhoods near the city center.

Foundations would hold a big and special place in Ottoman society. These foundations regulated social life, economic organizations, and socio-economic classes. The foundations would also have a duty of making sure the gains of the city would return as a development for the city. Three main functions were run by the foundations: Economic, socio-cultural, and managing-political services. For economic functioning, food and shelter were provided for the poor in the city, thereby aiming to minimize income inequality. As for the socio-cultural functions, educational services were provided, handcraft and art topics were supported. The foundations were responsible for maintaining the state orders as well. They would also have many more duties to follow than the present mayors.

Lastly, the residents themselves would play an important role in an Ottoman city. As the main characters, it was expected they would be respectful of each other’s opinions and needs and live in peace. Within these blissful neighborhoods, an absolute belonging and warmth would be vivid among the residents.

This article was originally written in Turkish. Click to read it! 5 Maddede Osmanlı’da Kent Kurgusu

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