Taking into consideration the fact that culture tourism of Istanbul has been confined to the Sultanahmet area and the Bosphorus coastline, our Cultural Awareness Foundation developed in 2005 the Edirnekapı-Ayvansaray Project project involving the conservation, restoration, refunctionalisation, and signalisation works in connection with the historical properties located between Edirnekapı and Ayvansaray neighbourhoods, as well as offering venues for interactive public activities, manufacturing of touristic materials and archaeological excavations in this area.  

Objectives of the Project

- Create a new cultural tourism route as an alternative to Sultanahmet and the Bosphorus; 

- Diversify the routes of faith tourism in Istanbul by creating a new alternative route revealing cultural diversity and the unique historical and cultural heritage of the area, whereby the local and foreign travellers can spend four to five hours visiting Jewish, Christian and Islamic monuments including the Tekfur Palace, Anemas Dungeon, the Emir Buhari Dervish Lodge (Emir Buhari Tekkesi), mosques and tombs;   

- Establish a permanent thematic exhibition in the Tekfur Palace and the Anemas Dungeon for the display of numerous historical artifacts stored at the museums of Istanbul, but cannot be displayed due to lack of space and for putting thereby into practice the museum city concept although at a limited local scale;  

- Start preparatory work for a second similar project along the Ayvansaray-Balat-Fener axis; 

- Carry out the required conservation, restoration and signalisation works in connection with the cultural heritage properties located in the area and undertake the ensuing archaeological excavations necessary for this purpose; and create venues for street parties, meetings and artistic events for the participation of the local people;  

- Transform the area by means of setting up ceramic tile and glassware ateliers, authentic touristic items manufacturing workshops, boutique guesthouses, restaurants and teahouses, and thereby generate a sustainable environment which will contribute to the economic and social improvement of the neighbourhoods in question;  

- Reveal the European spirit of the area and ensure its visibility in a creative manner; and  

- Raise awareness among the local population about the history and cultural heritage of both their own environment and that of Istanbul, and encourage them to develop a sense of ownership of regional identity and historical legacy.   

Arguments of the Project

- Steps should be taken to put an end to the local and foreign tour operators’ treatment of Istanbul as a place to stay for two nights for touring around for one and a half days, and visiting Sultanahmet only.  

- There is an urgent need to create a new alternative route for the rapidly increasing number of travellers to Istanbul where they can gain a deeper insight into the cultural diversity and the European spirit of the city by means of a 4 to 5 hours’ tour in order to develop a sustainable cultural tourism approach.   

- The proposed Edirnekapı-Aksaray route, considering its present conditions, is currently the only suitable one to be revitalised at the lowest possible cost in today’s Istanbul.  

- Tekfur Palace (Palace of Porphyrogenitus) is the most magnificent example of the Byzantine civil architecture whose well-preserved remains managed to survive to this day. During the Ottoman reign a ceramic tile atelier and a bottle manufacturing shop operated there, as well as a social housing complex for Jewish subjects of the Empire. In view of its multifaceted historical significance Tekfur Palace should be subjected to a conservation scheme together with its environs as soon as possible and opened to tourism.

- Renowned for its unique character as the Byzantine prison for aristocrats with a complex underground structure and a matchless cultural property on an international scale, Anemas Dungeon should also be restored and made a touristic attraction center without delay.

- As Tekfur Palace and Anemas Dungeon are situated at the place where once the famous Blachernae Palace was located, archaeological excavations to be made in this area will uncover an immeasurable historical wealth which will add great value to the Edirnekapı-Aksaray route.  

- The Theodosius Walls bear a special significance along this axis. The Land Walls here are marked with the Manuel Komnenos Wall, Eğrikapı, Isaac II Angelos tower and its surrounding walls, and Leontian Walls. Restoration and preservation of these structures will shed light on the ancient defense architecture and render the route a special meaning.   

- The area was inhabitated by the Jews as well. Not far from the Tekfur Palace the Kasturia Sinagogue, whose only remaining part is its gate and marble pieces of its most sacred section, as well as the still standing wooden İştip Sinagogue will also be included in the project.  

- Close to the Chora Museum, two churches, both renowned for their ayazmas, i.e. holy spring of Orthodox Greeks, the Panagia Vlacherniotissa and Panagia Suda; and the historical Vlaherna Ayazma will also add great value to the project. 

- In addition to Orthodox Christians and Jews there was a considerable Muslim population living along the Edirnekapı-Ayvansaray axis as well. The two Sahabah cemeteries, one in Eğrikapı and the other next to the Leonite Walls, Hz. Cabir Tomb, İvaz Efendi Mosque and the Meydan Fountain in front of the mosque will take the visitors to a spiritual journey of exaltation.    

- The Emir Buhari Dervish Lodge opposite to the Anemas Dungeon, below the Byzantine cisterns, and above it the remains of the Central Asian dervishs’ lodges offer a unique combination of historical riches. Emir Buhari Dervish Lodge alone constitutes an element of matchless diversity of the area.