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The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

Part 2,  of the “My Best Tip of Istanbul, Turkey” post continues. We are walking  from Pierre Loti Hill down through the Eyüp Cemetery to the boat docked at the pier, that will take us around the Golden Horn. Our tour guide from the Blue Brothers Tours tells us interesting facts and stories about the cemetery and the grave markers.  This is what I learned.

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery is the most sacred cemetery in Istanbul. The mosque was erected by Mehmet the Conqueror, over the tomb of Halid bin Zeyd Ebu Eyyüp, known as Sultan Eyüp, the standard bearer for the prophet Mohammed, also the last survivor of his inner circle of trusted friends.  Sultan Eyüp, while serving as a commander of the Arab forces during the siege of 688 to 659 was killed and buried on the outskirts of Istanbul. One of the conditions of peace, after the Arab siege, was that the tomb of Eyüp be preserved. A little village of tombs blossomed on the site by those seeking Sultan Eyüp’s intervention in the hereafter, and it is still considered a privilege to be buried in the nearby cemeteries. Today it costs more than $50,000 to be buried here. To most people in Turkey that is equivalent to buying a home.

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The tombstones reveal a lot about the people buried beneath them. The older grave markers, those before 1829, are long narrow markers with tops shaped like a turban for the men. The turban represents a pasha; a high ranking person of the Ottoman Empire or a prominent military man, or the turban of a Dervish order. The green painted turbans represent the burial of an Imam. After 1929, the fez shaped hat replaced the pasha turban on the grave markers. The tombstones shaped like a sword represent a soldier.

The Turbans, Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Turbans, Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

Imam, The Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Soldier Marker, Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The Soldier, Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

The older tombstone markings were written in Arabic. After WWI, when the Ottoman Empire was divided into several new states, and following the Turkish War of Independence, (1919-1922) Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, established the Republic of Turkey, with himself as its first president. The Arabic language was out and the Turkish language was designated the official language. This caused a great deal of confusion in Turkey because for several generations the older people spoke Arabic while the children learned Turkish in schools.

For women, the top of the grave marker can be a tiara, noting a princess, or a head-dress represented by flowers, most often the rose. The number of roses depicts how many children the woman had and the opened rose means the child was still living at the time of her death and if the rose is closed, a child has preceded her in death.

A Woman's Marker, Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

A Woman’s Marker, Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

At one spot in the cemetery are two markers for two women separated my an empty hole between them. The guide tells the story of two wives of one man. Muslims are allowed four wives. Well in this situation there was the older wife and the much younger wife and all the headaches that could possibly be created between the two women. One day the women decided to end the bickering and their unhappiness by killing the husband. The two women were hung for their crime, and buried in the cemetery plots that their husband had provided for them. However, since it is shameful in Muslim culture to be killed by a woman, the husband was not allowed to be buried there, hence the hole.

Two Women, No Man, Eyüp Cemetery, Isatnbul, Turkey

Two Women, No Man, Eyüp Cemetery, Isatnbul, Turkey

 Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

Eyüp Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey

Also, it is popular to have written messages from the deceased placed on the tombstone. Here are some that have been translated.

Stopping his ears with his fingers Judge Mehmut died off from the beautiful world, leaving his wife’s cackling and his mother in law’s gabbing.

O passers by spare me your prayers, but please don’t steal my tombstone.

I could have died as well without a doctor than with that quack that my friends set upon me.

Enjoy!  We are now approaching the boat! Stay tuned for more!

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