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[Masters of Our Culture]

EVLIYA CELEBI (1611-1682)      

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The famous traveler, Evliya Celebi was born in Istanbul Unkapanı. It is assumed that he died in 1682 on his return from Egypt or in Istanbul. His father, Dervis Mehmet Zilli was the chief jewelry designer at the palace. The family of Evliya Celebi came from Kutahya and settled in the Unkapanı region of Istanbul. After he obtained his primary education privately, he went to madrasa for a while. He learned illumination and gilding, calligraphy and embroidery from his father. He dealt with musiki (music). He became a “hafız” by memorizing the Quran. He attended the enderun (Ottoman royal academy), with the help of his uncle, Melek Ahmet Pasha, he was taken into the service of Sultan IV. Murat.

The interest in traveling of Evliya Celebi springs from the stories, legends and fairy tales that he listened from his father, relatives when he was a kid. In the prologue of his work named “Seyahatname” (book of travel), he tells his love for travel in these words: he saw Hazreti Peygamber in his dream one night and when he would intercede for health by “Sefaat ya Resulallah", instead of it he interceded for travel by "Seyahat ya Resulallah" due to his excitement. He writes that he was granted by Hazreti Peygamber his wish of seeing distant countries and traveling them as he wishes. Upon this dream, he first started to travel around Istanbul in 1635 and write down what he saw and listened to. He traveled Bursa, İzmit and Trabzon regions in about 1640. In 1645, he went to Crimea to Bahadır Giray. He went to the distant countries with some top state officials whom he was close to, took part in wars and undertook duties like receiving and carrying letters as a messenger. In the war that concluded with the conquest of Yanya in 1645; he was an official for Yusuf Pasha. He became the accountant of the Erzurum Beylerbeyi Defterdarzade (tax department director) Mehmet Pasha in 1646 and with this duty; he traveled the Eastern cities, some regions of Azerbaijan and Georgia. In 1648 he returned to Istanbul and went to Damascus with Mustafa Pasha. After 1651, he started to travel Rumelia and stayed in Sophia for a while. Between the years of 1667-1670, he journeyed to Austria, Albania, Teselia, Kandiye, Komotini and Salonika regions. According to the sources, the travel period of Evliya Celebi is comprised of 50 years.

Evliya Celebi as a writer adopted a language that can be read and written easily, a language close to the daily spoken language. This language is voluble, absorbing, sometimes entertaining and mocking. Evliya Celebi not only wrote what he saw and listened to in the places that he traveled, but also he added his own comments and thoughts to them and brought a new content to the travel writings.

In Seyahatname, while the impressions of the writer about the places that he traveled and saw are being displayed, information and documents that can be an independent research subject are also being presented. Among these, the followings attain importance; stories, folk songs, public poetry, legends, fairy tales, manis, accent differences, public dances, the clothes, festivities, entertainment, beliefs, mutual human relationships, neighborhood connections, social behaviours, works of art and workmanship.

Besides the information about people, Evliya Celebi talks about the different structures like the local houses, mosque, fountain, inn, palace, mansion, bathhouse, church, monastery, tower, castle, walls, road and synagogue. He tells the construction date, repairs of the structure, the person who built it, the person who got it built and the one who repaired it. He mentions the vicinity of the structure, the weather and other characteristics of the vicinity. In this way, he brings vivacity to the subject and attaches unity with the surroundings.

One characteristics of Seyahatname is that it includes the details about the lifestyles of the people from different regions, behaviours, agricultural works, jewelry and musical instruments. In some parts of the work, the administration of the place he traveled, old families, notable famous people, poets, players and officials in various duties are mentioned in a detailed way.