This is the oldest and most historical section of Istanbul. The Golden Horn marks the north of the Surici, the Bosphorus in the east and Marmara Sea in the South. Its only land connection is the west. Since it is covered by the walls constructed during the Byzantine period, it is called Surici.
The Surici holds the original Istanbul which was constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine, and conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Fatih means Conqueror). It became capital of the Ottoman Empire after the conquest and remained as the capital until the beginning of the 20th century. The Bab-i Ali buildings at Topkapi Palace, among others, have remained intact from that period.
The legend says that the Ottoman sultans were successful while they lived in Surici. The Topkapi Palace was not a classical palace, but a kind of Imperial tent of which served as headquarters to an ever-readyy army.
The Topkapi palace has witnessed many things. First of all, it was the center for the imperial entertainment. I saw one day an extraavaganza like circumsision ceremony of the child prince of Sultans. The other day the rebel Janissaries asked the Sultans that some pachas be beheaded before the palace for their hatred.
Bab-i Ali, where the imperial bureaucracy resided, is also in Surici. In addition, some attacks, chaos and important political events occured in this area. It has been the center of press since 19th century. Many Ottoman ccholars educated there. There were many famous and lively discussions that took place at the Meserret pastry house at Bab-i Ali.
Ottoman Sultans moved their palaces from Surici to the Bosphorus, but Bab-i Ali remained in Surici and countinued as a political center.
Only Iran, a muslim country, opened an embassy in Surici during that time. The western Christian people were not allowed to live in Surici. Only Muslim and Imperial Christian people resides here along with the Jews of Balat.
The populutaon of Surici dropped to 50.000 and it lost importance during the siege, but the Ottomans revived this and its population reached over 500.000 in the 16th century. Sultans, imperial people, and goverment officials decorated Surici with architectural monuments. And this area earned its very famous mosque-dominated silhouette. Many mosques, hotels, baths and charity and educational institutions were built. The oldest and most famous educational institution is Sahn-i Seman Medrese, which located at the Fatih Mosque Complex. Also Mesihat, which is located at the Suleymaniye Complex, completes the religious center character of Surici.
At the places where ordinary people live, the streets are narrow, but quiet and beautiful. The wooden houses with balconies and bow-windows line both sides of the streets. These are typical neighborhoods. But there is a potential danger for these neighborhods. Fire is the biggest disaster that Surici frequently faces. First spread fast and easily, sweeping the large neighborhoods with flames. Fires were generally started at the Cibali where many flammable materials were unloaded in its harbor, and advance towards the Unkapani, Fatih or Aksaray, or towards the Grand Bazaar and Sultanahmet depending on the direction of the wind. The only measure against fire was the Tulumbacilar (old, man-powered fire brigade) for a long time. The Tulumbacilar created an intresting folklore in Surici by carrying their water tanks and pumps on their shoulders and running to the fire. The songs sung by the fire fighters and stories of the girls who fell in love with then were part of this folklore.
Another folklore feature of Surici was its swashbucklers. The came out especially when there was no order in the city during the declinig years of the Ottoman Empire. Their task was to protect the honor of neighborhood. It is told that, sometimes they were advised and directed by the scholars.
Surici is an interactive business center today. Business being done in big buildings which houses many offices and bazaars. The most famous bazaar is Grand Bazaar. This shopping complex which is located between Beyazit and Nuruosmaniye mosques, was the greatest business center during the declining years of the Ottoman Empire. Rich muslim merchants who had business in the Grand Bazaar were called as "Bazargan". This was not an easy title to earn. The merchant had to do overseas trade, pay his debt on time, become reliable, and give some of his money to charities to earn such an honorable title. Surici was quintessentially Ottomans whith its monuments, palaces ,Bab-i Ali, neighborhoods with narrow streets, and Grand Bazaar, but lost importance with the decline. It is a historical tourist site today.