Turkish Jerusalem (1516-1917)
1. JERUSALEM AND TURKS: AN INTRODUCTION
Jerusalem is praised because it is not only a holy city but also because it is also one of the best preserved medieval cities in the Middle East. The city was after the crusades ruled by two Turkish dynasties first by Mamluks from Cairo and later by Ottomans from Istanbul.
Ottoman Turks captured Jerusalem in the year 1516 from Mamluks, and they possessed the Holy City until 9 December 1917 more than 400 years.
Ottoman Sultan Selim captured peacefully the city on 4 Zulhijje 922 (28 December 1516).
Famous Turkish world traveller Evliya Çelebi describes this event as follows1:
All the Ulama and pious men went out to meet Selim Shah. They handed him the keys of the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. He then made presents to all the notable people, exempted them from the onerous taxes and confirmed them Sultan Selim prostrated himself and exclaimed “Elhamdulillah I am the possessor of the first Qiblah”.
This cry of Selim the possessor of the first Qiblah (praying direction) is characteristic of the relation between the Turkish Sultans and Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a holy city for all, and therefore the people were exempted from taxes and received subventions (Surra) from Istanbul every year. The Ottoman Sultan was servant of the holy places of Mecca and Medina and also of the 3rd Haram and the first Qiblah (Jerusalem).
1 Yücel Da÷lı, Seyit Ali Kahraman and Robert Dankoff, Evliya Çelebi Seyahatname 9th. Book, Istanbul 2005, p. 230. English translation according to St. H. Stephan Evliya Tschelebi’s Travels in Palestine in QDAP 4-9, 1935- 1949.