In the 17th Century an Ottoman traveller – Evliya Celebi – was inspired by a dream to embark on a journey across the Ottoman Empire.  He travelled far and wide across Europe and North Africa and wrote extensively about his adventures in Seyahatname – “Book of Travels”.

Explore this exhibition and discover these travels – of both people and ideas across time and space – through the eyes of Evliya, Lady Mary Montagu, Jean de Thevenot and other adventurers. 

These are stories of constant conversations and exchanges between the Ottoman Empire and Europe, through trade in coffee, music, medicine, architecture, and stories of far off but not so distant lands.

Thou shalt travel through the whole world and be a marvel among men.”

This is the story of Evliya Celebi and what he represents today and during his lifetime in the 17th century.  He saw himself as a world traveler, a story-teller, a man of letters, a Muslim, a soldier, a musician, and a global citizen.

His story is one of travel and curiousity – embarking on a physical, intellectual and spiritual journey to other worlds and perspectives.  To be brave enough to seek out new encounters and the discoveries they may lead to, equipped with a thirst for adventure, a mischievous imagination, and an eye for inspiration.

The theme for this exhibition is travel, and we follow in the footsteps of Evliya and other adventurers such as Lady Mary Montagu, Jean de Thevenot, Thomas Dallam and Thomas Coryate in exploring the constant mix of conversations that have occurred between different people, cultures and societies.

In the 17th century travelling such vast distances would have been no easy feat, yet in many ways these travellers embodied what was happening on a much larger scale worldwide. As we travel through Istanbul, London, Vienna and Cairo, we find that these stories and cities do not exist in isolation, rather they are intertwined and are influenced by each other.

For example, did you know:

  • Lady Mary Montagu first brought the idea for inoculating against small pox to London from Ottoman Istanbul
  • Coffeehouses were frowned upon as disreputable centres of licentious behaviour and subversive debate – yet the intellectual conversations that took place within their walls still led to their rising popularity, with well known visitors such as Alexander Pope and Samuel Pepys even dressing in Ottoman costumes to enjoy their cup of coffee
  • Christopher Wren was influenced by the design of the domes of churches and mosques in Istanbul when designing  St. Paul’s cathedral
  • Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were both invited to design bridges to cross the Golden Horn in Istanbul

The unstoppable desire to travel, learn and be curious has meant that communities from across the globe have from very early on been in constant conversation with Europe and its cities.  The exchanges between the Ottomans and Europe have existed throughout the layers of history.

On horseback, by sea, on foot, through your computer monitor, feed your own curiousity and join Evliya and others on their journeys through these worlds.

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In the 17th Century an Ottoman traveller – Evliya Celebi – was inspired by a dream to embark on a journey across the Ottoman Empire.