An architectural legacy: Esma Sultan in Istanbul


The shell of a historic structure on the European coast of the Bosporus is lauded as one of Istanbul’s most exceptional venues and the distinguished guest or performers’ list includes Deep Purple, Alan Parsons, Boy George, Chris de Burgh, Elia Kazan, George Benson, actor Kevin Spacey … to name a few. But what is the mystery behind this astonishing building and its eponym?

Esma Sultan by the shores of the Borporus.

Esma Sultan by the shores of the Borporus.

Esma Sultan, daughter of Sultan Abdülaziz, the 32nd Ottoman ruler, was born at Dolmabahçe Palace in 1873. After her father’s dethronement three years later, Esma was given into the care of his Harem. At 16, she was married off to an influential political figure and spoiled with a benevolent wedding gift: the stunning mansion bearing her name.

After Esma’s death in 1899, the exquisite edifice was handed down to a number of family members before it was eventually claimed from the Ottoman Empire in 1915. During the less glorious years to follow, it accommodated a Greek school and a tobacco depot. The building changed ownership in the 1950s and served as a storage facility and a carpenter’s workshop until 1975, when it was devoured by a dramatic fire – save for its impressive façade.

Turkish delights at Esma Sultan

Turkish delights galore!

Turkish delights galore!

After acquiring the mansion in the early 90’s, the new proprietor, Marmara Collection (of hotels), saw to a wholesome – and wholehearted – renovation. The structure may have assumed a new identity, yet: Preservation of its original character and floor plan had first priority; a robust iron and glass interior was added later-on, thus allowing the venue to remain in operation throughout the year. Inquiries:

The site is accessible via water or road and its oriental charisma provides a splendid backdrop for memorable functions. A party could commence with an atmospheric cruise on a private boat with passengers sipping at an invigorating cocktail while sailing along comely Bosporus shores… with a cooling sea breeze plus a sensational city scape representing well-received complimentary add-ons. For MICE and custom-made programmes:

Interior of Esma Sultan

All images courtesy and copyright of Marmara Hotels.