Thursday, July 17, 2014

“A piece of the Orient on the Elbe”

guest contribution by Benjamin Anderson, Cornell University

[1] The Yenidze, Dresden (2011). Photo by author.

In recent decades, the efforts of Muslim communities in central Europe to build minarets at their places of worship have frequently met with resistance. In 2009, a Swiss referendum forbidding the construction of new minarets attracted widespread coverage in the foreign press, and the measure eventually passed with 57.5% of the vote. In Germany, opposition to minarets has repeatedly emerged at the local level. Already in the early 1990s, the planned construction of a new minaret by the Muslim community of the town of Bobingen provoked a public controversy. More recently, a new mosque in Cologne led to a protracted battle between the patrons and their architects on one side, and planning boards and community groups on the other. The size and design of the minarets played a central role in this debate.

[2] The complex of Qaytbay, Cairo. 
Émile Prisse d’Avennes, L’art arabe (1869-77).
The first-time visitor to Dresden would be forgiven for thinking that the Saxon capital had overcome its minaret anxiety over a century ago. Along the banks of the Elbe, less than a kilometer from the city center in which Augustus the Strong once built a court that was the envy of Baroque Europe, a prominent four-tiered tower, executed in the alternating bands of red and white (“ablaq”) masonry typical of the medieval architecture of the Islamic Mediterranean, stands proudly beside a stained-glass art nouveau dome [Fig 1]. However, closer inspection will reveal that this is no minaret, but a (now de-commissioned) smoke-stack; and that the inscription at the base of the dome bears the name of a cigarette company.

The “Orientalische Tabak- und Cigarettenfabrik Yenidze” (Yenidze Oriental Tobacco and Cigarette Manufactory), founded in 1886, was named after the city of Yenice-i Vardar, today Giannitsa in northern Greece, where its tobacco was grown. The company’s leading brand, “Salem Aleikum” cigarettes, quickly garnered a large share of the German market, and in 1907 the firm’s owner, Carl Hugo Zietz, purchased a plot in Dresden for a new factory. For his architect, Zietz hired Martin Hammitzsch, who turned to the same publications that had been serving European designers in search of “oriental” themes since the previous century, and Émile Prisse d’Avennes’s L’art arabe (1869-77) was pilfered once more for its views of the Mamluk complexes of Cairo’s Northern Cemetery. The base of Hammitzch’s dome, a beveled cube pierced by three portholes arranged in a triangle and a row of three narrow, arched windows, is a direct quotation from the fifteenth-century complex of Sultan Qaytbay [Fig 2]

[3] “Ein Stück Orient an der Elbe” (“A piece of the Orient on the Elbe”).
 Advertisement, Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig, 1916).

[4] Facade, the Yenidze, Dresden (2011).
Photo by author.
The factory was inaugurated in 1912 and immediately pressed into service as the company’s trademark. Consider a full-page advertisement from the pages of the Leipzig Illustrirte Zeitung of 1916, at the height of the First World War [Fig 3]. The factory, viewed from the prow of a ship cruising up the river, towers over the skyline of the Baroque city, whose spires are sketched in above the arches of the Marienbrücke. The text at lower right explains that this “piece of the Orient... captures the glance of every traveler, and makes him wonder if he has landed on the banks of the Elbe or those of the Bosporus.” The “proud building,” we are told, is built in the “strictly classical Oriental style.... With its richly ornamented facade, its colorful mosaic inlays, and its Moorish window arches, whose character emerges in a different form on each story [Fig 4], the building will enchant even the well-traveled gentleman.” 

[5] The Salonika Front, 1916.
Le Pays de France, 31. August 1916.
Although the mention of the Bosporus might be an oblique reference to the German-Ottoman military alliance in World War I, a different member of the Central Powers is featured in the military scene in the advertisement’s foreground. Underneath the red, white, and black of the German flag that flies from the rigging, we find the tricolor of the Kingdom of Bulgaria. To the right, a German soldier stands on the ship’s deck, his hands jauntily tucked into his pockets and a Salem Aleikum dangling from his lip beneath the signature Feldmütze. The jovial fellow seated beside him wears the red epaulettes of the Bulgarian army. In 1916, the Central Powers were pushing the Salonika front southwards, deep into the newly Greek heartlands of central Macedonia, and the advertisement may be anticipating the incorporation of Yenice-i Vardar into Greater Bulgaria [Fig 5].

[6] Fagus Werk, Alfeld, Germany.
Photo by Carsten Janssen, 2007 (Creative Commons).
In the end, of course, the Central Powers lost the war, and the town of Yenice stayed Greek. Hammitzch’s building was on the losing side of architectural history as well. His Qaytbay knockoff quickly came to seem a retardataire essay in historicism—25 years before, the complex had already inspired the “mosque” of the “Rue du Caire” constructed for the Universal Exposition in Paris. Industrial architecture was now expected to follow the functional, modernist lead of Walter Gropius’s Fagus Werk, completed in 1913 [Fig 6]. In 1929, a critic writing in the journal Der Industriebau singled out Yenidze as an exemplary failure: “this building, which can only be considered a piece of advertisement, does not have the slightest relationship to the operations that it houses.”   

[7] Section, the Yenidze, Dresden (1996).
After Richter, Industriearchitektur.
Hammitzsch became a convinced nationalist. In 1936, he married Hitler’s half-sister, and nine years later, as the Allies pounded Dresden with bombs, he committed suicide. While much of the city’s historical core was leveled, Yenidze suffered only minor damage, and the factory continued to crank out cigarettes during the first decades of the Communist German Democratic Republic. Fritz Löffler, a local art historian who led the drive to rebuild the city center, simultaneously campaigned to have the Yenidze torn down. This nearly happened in 1960, but the era of militant modernism was ending. By the beginning of 1980s, Yenidze was registered as a protected historical monument, and in 1996, six years after German reunification, a healthy sum was spent on its documentation and renovation [Fig 7]. Today, the Yenidze serves as an office building. The space under the dome, however, is rented by 1001 Märchen GmbH (The Thousand and One Fairy Tales, LLC), which uses it as a stage for such entertainments as Aladdin und die Wunderlampe (“Aladdin and the magic lamp”) and Neue, überraschende Abenteuer von Sindbad, dem Seefahrer (“The new and surprising adventures of Sindbad, the Sailor”).

[8] DITIB-Zentralmoschee, Cologne.
Photo by Pappnaas666, 2013 (Creative Commons).
At the height of the controversy over the Cologne Mosque, the architects and their clients appeased the local authorities by agreeing to build “more abstract and less traditional minarets” than originally planned. The resulting towers bear a certain resemblance to smoke-stacks [Fig 8]. In the meantime, the “strictly classical” minaret of Yenidze has become a vestigial beacon for a site of commerce and entertainment, as unabashedly Orientalist as ever. The modernists would be appalled, but the postmodern tourist will find plenty to ponder in this tale of form fighting against function.

LUPFER, Gilbert, Bernhard Sterra and Martin Wörner, eds., Architekturführer Dresden. Berlin: Reimer, 1997 (For Yenidze, see: 92-93).
RICHTER, Tilo. Industriearchitektur in Dresden. Leipzig: Kiepenheuer, 1997 (For Yenidze, see: 64-65).

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Lights of Ahmad

guest contributor Michael Talbot introduces the Al-Anwar Mosque in Acre

[1] Entrance portal to the al-Anwar Mosque, Acre. All photos by Michael Talbot. 

Acre is a picturesque port city on the northern tip of the Bay of Haifa, now in Israel, but once a prominent part of Ottoman Palestine. Indeed, the settlement served as the seat of a significant sub-province (sancak) in the Galilee region. To this day, Acre retains a number of significant architectural features that mark out various stages of its history, which, as with many of the urban centres of northern Palestine, saw struggles for authority between foreign invaders, local elites, and the Sublime State. 

[2] Hammam al-Basha, Steam Room
At Acre’s heart is the Old City, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its superbly preserved Crusader and Ottoman buildings and fortifications. The city has a complex history, particularly in the Ottoman period, but if Acre tourist board’s narrative  is anything to go by, the founding father of modern Acre was Ahmad Pasha (1720-1804), a Bosnian slave who rose to political prominence in Egypt and then Palestine. Perhaps better known by his nickname ‘al-Jazzar’, or ‘the butcher’, Ahmad Pasha is responsible for one of the most-frequented stops on the tourist trail in Acre’s old city: the Hammam al-Basha (originally the Hammam al-Jadid). Probably first built in the 1790s, the hammam continued to function right up until the 1950s, when it was turned into a museum. A large building, it contains several rooms, including the cloakroom and treatment rooms, that are very well-preserved. But the star of the show is the atmospheric sıcaklık (hot room), a hexagonal chamber lined with very nice examples of floral tilework on the walls, beautiful marble floors, and a  fountain at the centre of a marble slab used for massages and relaxation, all under an elegant dome dotted with pieces of glass that bathe the interior in sunlight. [Fig.2]

But before all this, upon entering the hamam, visitors are ushered into the large vaulted and domed room that once served as the bath’s entrance lobby, and are seated on rather precarious wooden stools to watch a film. Entitled Ha-Balan ha-Akharon / Al-Khadim al-Hammam al-Akhir (The Last Bath Attendant), the short film tells the story of Acre through the gossip of five generations of bath attendants, most notably (the fictional) al-Hajj Bashir who regales his clients with tales of the city as he lathers and slaps them. Above all, al-Hajj Bashir favours stories about Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar. In the film’s narrative, it is al-Jazzar who turned Acre into a great city, developed its infrastructure, and, most significantly, defeated the invading forces of Napoleon Bonaparte during the siege of the city in 1799. In the film, his reign also represented a period of peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Acre, and the heavy emphasis that the modern municipality places on the eighteenth century as a period of harmony is clearly rooted in their aspirations for the city today. This narrative is helped along by the fact that al-Jazzar’s chief advisor was a Jew called Khayim Farkhi. However, Farkhi’s story also emphasises a concurrent narrative surrounding Ahmad Pasha’s gruesome nickname. The story goes that one day, displeased with the advice Farkhi had given him, Ahmad Pasha ordered one of his eyes to be plucked out, and his ears and nose mutilated. This is not, then, the story of a just and progressive ruler, but of a violent despot. Whether or not al-Jazzar deserves any of his reputations is another matter, but his military prowess, colourful biography, and extensive patronage of monumental buildings makes him, if nothing else, a tourist board’s dream.

[3] Al-Anwar Mosque and complex
One legacy of Ahmad Pasha that continues to dominate the old city of Acre  is a large mosque, now known as the Al-Jazzar Mosque, but properly called Al-Anwar, built in or around 1781-82. [Fig. 3] The mosque’s distinctive green dome is visible across the city, but is by no means the mosque’s most notable feature. It also claims to possess a hair of the Prophet Muhammad’s beard, and purports to be the first mosque to have the women’s prayer area situated on a balcony above the main prayer hall, allegedly modelled on the layout of synagogues and evidence of the influence of Khayim Farkhi on the mosque’s design. What the building certainly does possess are some real gems of eighteenth century design.

[4] The Sebil
The first feature, the sebil (a water dispensary), greets you as you prepare to ascend the steps into the mosque complex. [Fig. 4] It was built, according to its inscription, in the hijri year 1208 (1793/1794), and constructed in the wonderful baroque sort of style found in architecture throughout the Ottoman Empire during this period. With slender columns topped with ornamented capitals, the sebil served as an elegant and functional welcome to the mosque and a sign of Ahmad Pasha’s wealth, generosity, and sophistication. As well as displaying words of piety, the inscription also reminds the reader of the ruler’s infrastructural innovations, notably the construction of water canals to bring water to Acre from the many springs near the village of Al-Kabri, some 8 miles (13 km) away.

The entrance gate to the mosque complex proper has an inscription, which sets the tone for other inscriptions and styles within. Describing the pious intentions of a certain vizier to build a mosque, it concludes by asking who was it that actually set construction in motion? The inscription replies to itself, ‘I say, “Vizier Ahmad al-Jazzar! By him I mean the most noble and exalted of men, the pouncing lion, the mighty lion in the heat of battle’ (قلت الوزير الاحمد الجزار أعني به النشهم المجلل في الورى ليث هزبر في الوغا كراز). This, at the peak of his political power in the nominally Ottoman realms of northern Palestine, was a clear statement of intent and legacy. We see Ahmad Pasha demonstrating his credentials as a ruler: caring for the welfare of his subjects as shown through the sebil, and certainly not afraid to use force. 

[5] The Sundial
Moving through the gate into the carefully maintained courtyard, one gets a true sense of the beauty of the Al-Anwar complex. It contains a number of interesting features, including the tomb of Ahmad Pasha and his son Süleyman, and a number of other türbes, including a very late Ottoman example, dated 1318 (1900/1901). It also houses rooms that hosted the courthouse, medreses (including one that is still used for that purpose), and libraries. Various other monuments dot the space. Looking up rather than down, I almost stumbled over a small marble disc inscribed with the tuğra of Abdülhamid II and the hijri date 1318, almost certainly placed there in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of that sultan in 1900. The fact that the disc is also situated underneath a tree may indicate that the tree was also planted to celebrate that event. There is also an exquisite sundial, with the inscription dedicated to Ahmad Pasha and dated 1201 (1786/1787). [Fig. 5] The inscription declares that ‘this is the sundial for the communal mosque of the lights of Ahmad’ (هذا مزولة لجامع الانوار الاحمدية) and tells us that the sundial was made by one Ibrahim al-Faradi al-Kurdi.

[6] The Şadırvan
But the real star of the courtyard is the şadırvan, the fountain used for ablutions. [Fig. 6] The octagonal structure is in many ways typical of late eighteenth-century Ottoman architecture, notable for its thin, graceful marble columns headed with carved capitals, and a distinctive cupola. The aesthetic borrowings from eighteenth-century Istanbul are clear,  with design comparable to buildings such as the Zeynep Sultan or Laleli mosques,  which adds an extra architectural element to the political challenge Ahmad Pasha posed to the Ottoman authorities during his period of rule in Palestine. Yet it is also, in itself, an impressive piece of design and engineering.

[7] Façade of the Al-Anwar Mosque
The façade of the mosque itself is quite striking. [Fig. 7] Six columns of granite and coloured marble columns frame the front of the building, behind which there is a dazzling array of marble facings of different colours and grains. Given the quality and type of stone, it is almost certain that they have been taken from nearby ruined Roman towns, with Caesarea the most likely location.  Among the wondrous cacophony of coloured marble is an inscription above the main entrance, a poem in Arabic celebrating the dedication of the mosque in the hijri year 1196 (1781/1782). [Fig. 1] As well as expounding the virtues of visiting the mosque for prayer, it contains reference to Ahmad Pasha’s fearsome reputation, requesting that worshipers pray to God for the mosque’s benefactor, ‘that is, the noble vizier Ahmad who butchers the necks of the enemies as is proper’ (ذاك الوزير الشهم احمد من غدي جزارعناق العداة كما يجب). Once again, Ahmad Pasha does not mince his words when linking his religious patronage with his political authority. Yet here we see that his violence was not arbitrary: being violent, on occasion, was part of his duty as a ruler as a means of ensuring good governance.  

[8] Interior Arcade
The mosque’s interior is lined with more marble, as well as tile-work and Qur’anic verses, both of which the mosque’s custodian believed had been added after Ahmad Pasha’s time. However, as the verses seem to be primarily taken from Sura 48 (Al-Fath), they seem rather appropriate for a conquering hero like al-Jazzar. [Fig. 8] Regardless, the interior is opulent, with a beautifully carved minbar and ornate mihrab set against a backdrop of ancient marble. [Fig. 9] The space of the mosque is light and impressive, and doubtless made a great impression on worshipers when it was completed.

[9] Interior view of the mihrab and minbar. Adapted from a photo by MartinVMtl, Creative Commons License

The city of Acre today certainly seems to have bought into Ahmad al-Jazzar’s propaganda, portraying him as a colourful character prone to outbursts of extreme and arbitrary violence. In terms of his violent reputation, he evidently took great efforts to promote it himself, but always as reasonable violence for the good of societal order and harmony; violence ‘as is proper’, as his own inscription proclaimed.  It is difficult to separate the beautiful Al-Anwar mosque from the man whose name it now bears, or rather, from the reputation that has been built around him.   That said, because it is still a functioning mosque, it has largely escaped the touristification that has befallen Acre's Crusader and Ottoman sites. The mosque, more than the other buildings, perhaps gives us a more nuanced picture of a man whose escapades have become almost cartoonish through the telling and re-telling of his already hazy story. Although he is most celebrated for beating back the French, and to a lesser extent for building on the work of Zahir al-‘Umar in fortifying the urban centres of northern Palestine, this particular example of Ahmad Pasha’s monumental architecture gives us more of an insight into other features of his rule. Many of his buildings, as with those of al-‘Umar, focus on social and economic prosperity and enrichment. The sebil is not only notable because it is beautiful, but alsobecause it represents the end point of a major engineering project aimed at bringing water to the city. The courtyard houses the marble-fronted mosque boasting of the Pasha’s greatness, but it also contains the key social building-blocks of education and welfare provision. The mere achievement of the construction of the great mosque itself, built in part from the ancient ruins of the surrounding region, represented economic and political stability. Ahmad Pasha may have been a butcher, but through Al-Anwar he ultimately served up a nice roast dinner to the people of Acre.

[10] Exterior of the Mosque. Photo from the collection of the American Colony (Jerusalem), ca 1898-1914.
Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

MICHAEL TALBOT is currently a teaching fellow at the University of St. Andrews. 

**For more information, see:
--The entry for "Jami' al-Jazzar," at ARCHnet
--The official tourism website for Old Akko
--UNESCO World Heritage Description of the Old Ctiy of Acre

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Another Side to Soma

Emir Hıdır Bey Mosque, 1791-92, Soma. Photograph of the interior from SALT Research.

As the rescue operations in Soma extend into a fourth day (with the most recent, and supposedly final, death count of 301 men lost in the mine), tensions continue to rise in this small town and across the country. Peoples' grief and shock have quickly transformed into frustration over the government's baffling response to these events. In the past few days, several iconic images have already emerged to define the Soma disaster: the stark contrast between the bright yellow hardhats covering soot-black faces, exhausted families and friends waiting for more news, a government aide kicking a protester prostrate on the ground, and the now ubiquitous black solidarity ribbon. 

Yet, while new outlets and social media continue to be flooded with these images and more, this week my mind cannot help but keep drifting back to my visit to Soma about a year ago. Having rented a car in Istanbul and crossed the Marmara with the ferry, we made a point of taking the longer route to Manisa just to make a stop in Soma. My goal was to see the Emir Hıdır Bey Mosque, constructed in 1791-2 by a Süleyman Bey, one of the most beautiful and well-preserved buildings decorated in what could be called a lively "vernacular Baroque" style, which was prevalent throughout the Ottoman provinces in the 18th century. The day my friend and I visited Soma, it kept raining off and on, and the air was cool and crisp. When we arrived in the late morning, we discovered that the building was closed outside of prayer time, so we were invited to wait for the imam in a coffee house across the street. Plied with warm drinks and lively conversation about politics and the latest television shows, an hour seemed to fly by as we watched local workers and retirees flow in and out of the mosque. After the mid-day prayer, the smartly-dressed imam finally materialized, paid for our Nescafes, and ushered us back across the street with great ceremony. The building rightly filled him with great pride, and he told us that there were very few mosques in the world like it. I would certainly have to agree. 

I came away from Soma with the impression that this was a town that not only laid claim to beautiful buildings, but also very warm people. As this tragedy continues to unfold, our thoughts are with the men and women there who have been affected.

EMILY NEUMEIER is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania

ARIK, Rüçhan. Batılılaşma dönemi Türk mimarisi örneklerinden Anadolu'da üç ahşap cami. Ankara: Ankara Universitesi Baımevi, 1973. 

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Echoes of the Ottoman Past: The Quiz

Stambouline has teamed up with the Ottoman History Podcast for the first episode of season 4. In this installment, we have have ventured out into the streets of Istanbul in search of sounds that can help us recover (or re-imagine) the urban experience of the Ottoman capital. And while the posts here on Stambouline primarily focus on the visual aspects of buildings and objects from the Ottoman world, thinking about the sounds and smells of a city offers a lively perspective on daily life. Taking our cue from scholars such as Nina Ergin or Jale Erzen, we delve into the soundscape of Ottoman Istanbul. 

In conjunction with the podcast, we have created a short quiz where you can test your own knowledge of the sounds of Istanbul. Listen to a clip, and then click on the button below to reveal where these sounds were recorded in the city. See if you can guess all six locations correctly!

1. Nostalgic Journey 

2. Helal Olsun!

3. Thirsty Ottomans

4. In Search of Silence

5. Hitching a Ride

6. Performing the Past

And also be sure to check out our Google Map showing where we have been recording in the city.

EMILY NEUMEIER is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania researching art and architecture in the Ottoman world. 

CHRIS GRATIEN is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University researching the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East.