Constantinople as described in The National Geographic, December 1914

The Azarians
Photos of Constantinople
Constantinople, Pictures and Comments by John Stoddard

The following pictures and text were taken from The National Geographic, December 1914

Enrolling Recruits in Constantinople

The caption under this photo reads:
"One may know a Turk or a Turkish subject by his fez. This peculiar form of head-dress takes its name from the city of Fez which, until the discovery of synthetic colors, had a monopoly of the manufacture, because it controlled the juice of the berry form which the dye used to color them was made. "

Types of Turkish Recruits: Constantinople

The Harpor of Constantinople

Constantinople is situated on the southern end of the Bosporus, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, on the European sid of the channel.

Reading the latest news at the newspaper offices: Constantinople

In the Harbor of Constantinople

Constantinople is a city of mosques and minerets, and the harbor there without them would be like the harbor of New York without the skyscrapers of Manhattan

The Mosque of Sultan Ahmed in Constantinople

Another view of the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed, with the Hippodrome on the right

In a Turkish Street: Constantinople

Constantinople is a city without street names or house numbers. One's mail is addressed to his quarter of the city, and the postman relies on the neighborhood folk to serve as a city directory for all new names.

Pilgrims on the way to Mecca: Constantinople

A Group of Turks discussing the war news

Discussion is a favotite pastime with the East. There is always time enough to haggle and bargain for hours, to phlosophize over trifles, and to argue the case of almost everything.

A Butcher in Constantinople

Chickens en route to market: Constantinople

The caption under this photo reads:
"Often as many as 150,000 persons, of every race and of every region, clad in every kind of human garment, and representing every graduation of human rank, traverse the Galata bridge in a single day. There are no rules of the road. Carriage, beast, and pedestrian mix up in a hopeless jumble, the latter plunging into a tumultuous living mass, dodging hither and thither, stopping now and rushing on again, and finally, as though by a miracle, emerging unharmed at the other end."

A Porter, or Hamal: Constantinople

The caption under this photo reads:
"Practically all the work of the city is done by outsiders, and each kind of work, as the reader may have already gathered, is done chiefly by men from a certain "country". So it is that the men who sell ice-cream in the streets are Albaniana, Christian and Mohammedan, from the region of Uskub; that the layers of pavement are Mohammedan Albanians of the south; that railroad navies- or those of the Roumelian Railroad- are Christian Albanians from the dame region; that bath men are Turks from Sivas; that street porters are Kurds or Asia Minor Turks, according to the kind of load they carry; that most boatmen are from the Black Sea coast and so on indefinitely. "

Peasants resting in street

Peasants in Constantinople

The caption under this photo reads:
"Constantinople is a city of all manner of races and of tribes, which dwell beside but not among one another. Turk, Albanian, Kurd, Serb, Greek, and Armenian come from the provinces and other cities to form the Turkish capital, but they preserve there the customs, native garbs, characteristics, and language of their kind, never assimilating to the city's type, for the city has no type. Constantinople is a babel of all of the peoples and fragments of peoples that enter into the swarming life of the Near East "
The article itself also says the following about the population of the city:
"Of its million inhabitants- no one has yet undertaken an exact census- scarcely half are Turks, the other half being made up of Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and smaller fractions of Levantine races, together with considerable colonies of the principal European nations. What is most characteristic of Constantinople, however, is that these various ethnic groups continue to speak their own languages, wear their own costumes, follow their own customs, and otherwise remain distinct to a degree which would be inconceivable in western Europe or America."

Giving bread to soldiers in war office square: Constantinople

The wood-choppers' bardge

Every day except Friday this stately looking craft makes a journey to town

The Fountain of Ahmed I

Entrance to Mosque of Sancta Sophia

View of the old bridge and the Azab Kapou

Note: The old bridge is now known as the Ataturk Bridge. The Azab Kapou mosque is on the European side of the Golden Horn. Notice the Galata Tower on the right.

A quite hour among the workmen.


  • This photo is exactly the same as one used by John Stoddard in 1897, labled "A Galata Cafe"
  • Some of the workers must be hamal. Notice the packs on the right.

A Turkish Cemetery

The "Castles of Europe" on the European side at the narrowest point on the Bosporus

The "Castles of Asia" on the opposite (Asian) shore of the bosporus.

A Turkish Fort in the Dardanelles

Tidpits from the article

Abdul Hamid II (Sultan from 1876 to 1909)

"So long as he remained on the throne there was not an electric light in the town, for instance, or a telephone or a trolley car. They were expressly forbidden by the Sultan, who firmly believed that a dynamo had something to do with dynamite- that arch enemy of thrones. For an equally good reason he prohibited the use of rubber tires for street cabs. The official inquiry into an attempt upon his life revealed- whether correctly or not- the pregnant fact that the bomb had been thrown from a carriage so fitted out, and he made up his mind that there must be an immediate and necessary relation between bombs and rubber tires


Carts so exist, drawn generally by water buffalo- slow, black, hairy creatures, with great outcurving horns- that can pull twice as heavy a load as oxen


You will receive a new light on the complicated subject of porters if during your sojourn in Constantinople you have occasion to move. No experience in other countries will be of the slightest service to you here. Do not imagine that you can get any one to do it for you, packing your furniture into padded vans and setting it up in your new house ready for use. Still less imagine that you can do it yourself, even though you have carts and porters of your own.

If your own men start to take your own furniture out of your own door to your own cart whey will be stopped- by the firemen of the quarter, if you please. These are a race of beings well-nigh as formidable as the custom-house hamals and the lightermen. They do not happen to be of any one race. Some of them are Turks, some of them are Greeks, some of them are even Armenians or Jews. It depends on the district they come from. I suppose they have gained a common character form the fact that they are young and not too fastidious members of society, whose true element is tumult and disaster.

Just what firemen have to do with moving may seem highly problematical to the householder anxious to transfer his lares and penates. He will find to his cost, however, that they have a good deal to do with it. They move furniture when there is a fire. Since, therefore, there are unhappily not fires enough to give them constant employment, they claim the right to move furniture when ever furniture is to be moved; and they obtain the right.

But mark that each quarter does it only in his own quarter. If you move into a district ruled by a second set of firemen they insist on unloading you furniture and carrying it into your new house- while, perhaps, your own men stand by with folded hands. If they use their hands it all becomes a question of fists; and the police have no redress to offer you. The matter, you see, is one into which custom enters- that adet which is all powerful in Turkey

Calender and Time

…there would still remain any number of other points that make life characteristic and colored in a city that religiously follows four calendars, that prefers to regard 12 o'clock as falling at sunset, and that has so far happily succeeded in remaining superior to the proverbial relations between time and money.


People usually imagine Constantinople to possess that vague advantage known as a Mediterranean climate.

They forget that it has the Black Sea at its back, and behind that the steppes of Russia. Winter in Constantinople is long and disagreeable, not because of its darkness and penetrating dampness. There may be a late Indian summer and there may be spring days in February; but you cannot count on sun between October and April. Those six months are really a rainy season, only less rainy than in tropical countries.

And summer is correspondingly dry, when showers are rarities and hillsides scorch brown. The summers are not hot, however, in our American sense; the Black Sea looks to that.


Elevators and electric light are rarities beyond the reach of any modest purse. Steam heat is only less rare. Baths are new enough for house-owners to make a point of them, while hot water is not to be obtained for the asking. If you prefer the pleasant seaside suburbs to the heart of town, you may be happy if any water at all is laid on to the house. The good old way, by no means extinct, was to hire a saka to bring you water from the nearest street fountain.

As for the kitchen arrangements, they would fill the western housewife' heart with despair, were it not that a Constantinople cook is lost before a proper cooking range. What he prefers is a sort of raised fireplace under a hood. In this high stone platform are a number of hollows surmounted by gridirons on legs. In the hollows he builds little bon-fires of charcoal and cooks each dish separately on its gridiron.


Almost all butchers are Greeks from Epirus or the Ionian Islands. Many market gardeners are also Greeks, though many others are southern Albanians, and not a few are Bulgars from Macedonia, while much of the street peddling characteristic of Constantinople is done by Turks. They are not Constantinople Turks, however.