Geography And Culture Of Istanbul Cultural Studies Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Geography and Geology

The city of Istanbul is currently located in the northwestern part of present day Turkey in now what is called the Marmara region. Turkish law has successfully implemented boundaries to the city of Istanbul, organizing certain districts that were created in the city's history. The city currently encompasses about 5,343 square kilometers (Iyer 1). In addition, Istanbul is divided by the strait of Bosporus, making an Asian side and a European side to the city. Because of this division, Istanbul is the only "bi-continental" city in the world. Furthermore the city is also divided by the Golden Horn, a natural made harbor that creates a peninsula. During the late 19th century, a wharf was built at the mouth of the Golden Horn, restoring a beach that was part of a former coastline. In the past the Golden Horn use to be an estuary, but due to flooding near the area, forming a harbor. The Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, and the Golden Horn is the heart of present day Istanbul. Convergence of these three geographical attributes of Istanbul helped fend of attacks in the past (Sturgess 1). The peninsula of Istanbul is built on seven hills. The highest altitude in Istanbul is Camlica Hill with a height of 945 feet. Including in its topography, the city is found to be placed near the Northern Anatolian Fault, the "boundary between the African and Eurasian continental plates" (Iyer 1). The closest city to Istanbul is that of Izmit, located about 75 miles away from Istanbul on the Anatolian (Asian) side. The landforms of Istanbul provided many uses to the ancient Turkish ancestors for transportations as well, but now have transformed to a beautiful site for tourism.

Water Resources

Much of the water that Istanbul meets their needs with comes from the Marmara and Melen basin, located near south of the city. The total water potential from these two basins can reach a volume over 3.4 billion cubic meters. Groundwater is very much limited to the city only producing a potential of .17 billion cubic meters every year (Iyer 1). The groundwater is usually used as drinking water for the inhabitants of the city, while the rest will go to industry. This all depends on quality of the water. Aqueducts, wells, cisterns, damns, and reservoirs have been installed all over the city near the water sources to provide and improve freshwater supply to the ever-growing population. Due to this growing population, it has also become harder for the city to improve on the sanitary levels of their water supply. The "uncontrolled and over-abstraction have diminished groundwater levels and led to saltwater intrusion in coastal areas", reducing the quality of the water. The Istanbul Water Administration (ISI) was created by the government to make sure their water recourses were being managed carefully. In order to help clean and sanitize the water the government and other private agencies help create sanitation infrastructures, wastewater management laws, and embark on river improvement projects. One of the major problems that face the risk of hazard water is that of unplanned urbanization. Rivers in the past became open sewers and have caused degradation to the environment (Sturgess 1). The Golden Horn Environmental Protection Project (GHEPP) helps create wastewater management buildings, pumping centers, and treat facilities to prevent hazardous dumping into the precious water of the city.


The history of Istanbul is usually said to have started around 660 BC, when the Greek and Phoenician inhabitants of Megara, under the command of King Byaz, created the city of Byzantion, which was located on the European side of the strait that is called today, Bosporus. The city soon became an important trading post for the Mediterranean. At the end of the century, an acropolis was built at the city. The city continued to be dominated by the surrounding Persians, but at the turn of the 5th century the Greeks reclaimed the city back in the Greco-Persian War. Later, one of the most important events occurred in the history of Istanbul around 73 AD: the Roman Empire expanded its rule, capturing the city and renaming it as Byzantium of the Holy Roman Empire. During the reign of the Roman Empire, a man by the name of Constantine overpowered the last emperor and decided to rename the city once again and call it Constantinople. This city was now the Eastern Christian Capital of the Roman Empire. After years and years of attacks and sieges upon the city, the Ottoman Turks had plans to make Constantinople their own. In the second most important event in the history of the city, Sultan Mehmed II, nicknamed "the Conqueror", took down the last remaining defenses of the city and reinstated it as the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. This was an important event in the city's history because it brought with it a change of scenery. Islam was now the predominant religion in the area moving away from Orthodox Christianity. Many buildings were created such as the Hagia Sophia to reflect the change. The new Sultan "invited and forcibly resettled many Muslims, Jews, and Christians from other parts of Anatolia into the city, creating a cosmopolitan society that persisted through much of the Ottoman period" (Aksoy 1). The city experienced a boom in population as its city walls were stretched. Renaming the city to Istanbul, the Ottoman Empire was enjoying a great renaissance. Bridges and rail lines were connected through Istanbul to link it to other places through Europe and Asia. Everything was going great until the third most important event occurred: the Young Turk Revolution. A series of rebellions among the citizens and wars that plagued the city, Istanbul was soon the home to many British and French people until the final Sultan was exiled. Mustafa Ataturk, the next leader recognized the empire as the new Republic of Turkey, and soon Istanbul went through a major structural change creating the largest metropolitan city in Europe (Sturgess 1).


Istanbul is becoming more diverse in terms with its social and cultural activities. Culture is implied through everyday life. They citizens invest their culture and art with companies taking advantage of the richness the city has to offer. A new era of globalization has occurred in the city, moving Istanbul into a different direction from the past. The culture is a mix among the Western values and the Middle Eastern values. Because of the cities deep roots in its history and culture, much of its architecture and daily activities resemble that of the past. Fashionable boutiques and bazaars cover the busy streets of Istanbul (Sturgess 1). It is a home to many shopping malls and parks to fit the needs of a new era of commerce in the city. Historic restaurants serving a diverse array of food also help make a mark on the city. Due to its location near the boundaries of the Western World and the Eastern World, a wide variety of foods can be seen. This diversity is explained by the increase of the population in the last twenty-five years. Because there is a lot of unemployment in southern and western parts of Turkey, many people migrated to Istanbul within the city and in the outskirts as well. The migrants from especially the Anatolian (Asian) side usually arrive expecting better living conditions and a chance of getting a job. In the city there is a great distinction between the rich and the poor (Aksoy 1). Although there aren't many conflicts that occur among the two social groups, the government does aid the poor through many of their service policies for health and education and has a created a tax system in which the poor may benefit from the rich. Another explanation to the diversity of the city is brought upon by different communities the city inhabits. The predominant religion in Istanbul is Islam, but there are many minorities as well including Greek Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Armenian Christians, and Sephardic Jews. Because of the diversity the city is plagued with mosques, synagogues, and churches. Although there were some conflicts among the different groups that represented Istanbul, the new era of globalization had brought with it change leading the city to prosper.

Real Estate and Economy

Throughout the years, Istanbul has been the economic center of Turkey, being the junction of many international land and sea trade routes. It is the largest industrial center in all of Turkey. Istanbul is a primarily a metropolitan government. The mayor serves as the prefect of the city. He is in charge much for the law enforcement in the city and the development of many policies. The governor of the Istanbul province also resides as a chief administrator. He is in charge of making laws and policies, and sees over direct changes to the cities and the areas around in the Istanbul province jurisdiction (Aksoy 1). Due to the new era of globalization, new changes have occurred to the public open spaces and urban culture of the city. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is also in charge with the dealing of public open spaces and land usage. Public spaces that surround the city emerge under the sight of many corporations causing business to have an incentive to privatize the land. Because of a real estate market driven economy, Istanbul officials in the Municipality don't hesitate in the selling of land. Because the privatization of business through land use is a political dilemma, much of the government's responses are in support for the development of the land so that the economy can prosper). Policymakers in the government are anxiously drawing up plans and blueprints for infrastructures to invest in and construction companies that can undergo the large scale renovation projects of neighborhoods and surrounding spaces.

Design of the City

One important person to the design of the city dates back to the ancient times of the city when it was first created. Constantine I laid out the boundaries of the city that exists today. He built walls to guard the city against foreign attacks and created buildings and statues reflection Greco-Roman culture. Justinian was the second most important person to the design of the city. He implement much of the Islamic art and cultures in the buildings he creates and borrowed ideas and innovation techniques from the Middle Eastern neighbors. Justinian is the proud creator of the most famous building in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia. It was regarded as a masterpiece in the era of the Byzantine Empire. Serving as a cathedral, the Hagia Sophia represents the melting pot of today's society in Istanbul, including Christian, Jewish, and Islamic culture into the building. Sultan Ahmet I was the third most important designer of Istanbul. Not only was he famous for implement Islamic architecture through building many mosques, such as his famous "Blue Mosque", but was also famous for creating hotel districts throughout the city (Iyer 1). Certain places in the city are home to the biggest crowds in the world, where everyone is trying to sell another some item. Although there are many big companies and business that have privatized lands in Istanbul, none of the groups did stand out. Many of the groups that started designing the city where from the past history of Istanbul. There three most important groups were the Greeks, the Romans, and the Ottomans. The acropolis that still exists today is the remnants of Greek influences. The churches and cathedrals reflect that of the Roman authority that occurred in the history of the city. Finally, the Ottomans had the greatest influence of the three groups to the design of the city with palaces located at the north end of the city representing the government power and mosques around to resemble the influence of Islamic religion.