Return to Turkey: Museums in Bursa …

Further down the street, the Turkish Islamic Museum of Arts fills several tiny rooms surrounding an open air courtyard. There is an extensive array of artifacts, each room seems to be themed with either the type of item (coins) or the items’ usage (prayer items). Assuming that a catalog does not wait for me at the end, I start photographing items, which attracts the attention of a security guard. I am writing notes, and in spite of the language barrier, I figure out that he’s asking me not to lean on the glass. 

There are cases full of ceramics in the outdoor courtyard, and I motion to my camera to make sure photography is allowed. “Yes,” he nods. I continue to photograph everything which continues to rouse their curiosity.  I take a last look to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and wave goodbye.  As I am standing just outside the entrance, my nearly useless map in hand, trying to figure out where next to go, the youngest guard runs up to me and presents me with an English language Bursa City Guide.  “A gift,” he beams. I thank him profusely and sit down with it for the next 20 minutes. Small gestures make such a big difference…

Here are a few of my favorites from this museum.

The Cultural Museum, previously a dervish lodge and then a library, now houses a collection of costumes and textiles. I wander around, completely alone, no guards or attendants in sight. Sunlight streams through the windows and reflects off the cases, which makes photography difficult. I also wondered about UV damage, especially to the metallic thread embroideries. Here are more of my favorites.

Prayers are in progress at the Ulu Camii, so I check out the Kozahan (the Silk Bazaar). Built in 1491, it is stocked to the ceiling with every type of silk scarf, apparel and towel you could possibly imagine. A small import shop at the entrance of another han attracts my attention. I should have bought a lamp here but did not, and the filigree belts which the clerk pulls off the wall en masse for me, also sadly stay behind. Other bazaars sell modern goods for the locals and cheap trinkets for everyone else.

Ulu Camii (built in 1399) is the largest mosque in Bursa, and is also the most distinctive mosque I have seen in Turkey thus far, with its 20 domes, the center one being glass and hovering over a 16-sided ablutions fountain. Children run around, and a couple of girls are rolling around on the carpet. Women in headscarves, in spite of the secluded women’s gallery in the corner (there’s no elevated gallery here), pray in groups of twos and threes, along with a scattering of men. It was interesting to watch ‘only men’ entering and exiting the mosques at prescribed prayer times, but the women entered with the tourists. Men and women prayed here separately but simultaneously on the main floor, with no screens or barriers between them.

I tour the 17th Century Ottoman House Museum, believed to be the birthplace of Sultan Mehmed. You will find those photos here.

I find the Uluumay Ottoman Costume and Jewelry Museum just minutes before it was scheduled to close. The curator gives me a personal tour of room after room of costumes, textiles, jewelry and other artifacts that he has been collecting for the past 50 years. It is housed in an old Ottoman school, only large enough to exhibit a quarter of his collection. Completely accessorized mannequins of folk costumes from all over Central Asia and the Balkans, are displayed on turntables in glassed off sections of the room. Photography is not allowed and of course these things have not been cataloged. But the presentation is exquisite and had I had more time I would have asked to sit and sketch things. The Hurriyet published an article about this museum the year after I was there.

I spend the rest of the evening wandering around the residential areas, admiring the architecture. I have figured out the high-speed ferry, a 2 hour trip which will return me to Istanbul tomorrow morning.

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