x0x Ottoman Sultan's imperial boat awaits tourists
* A tourism company is building a replica of Abdulaziz's gilded
imperial caique, a long, wooden boat that looks like a giant
gondola, to offer tourists the chance to cruise the Bosporus like
Powered by oarsmen, the imperial boat of Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz is
returning to the blue waters of the Bosporus after nearly 140 years,
this time for the pleasure of tourists.
A tourism company is building a replica of Abdulaziz's gilded imperial
caique, a long, wooden boat that looks like a giant gondola, to offer
tourists the chance to cruise the Bosporus like a sultan.
Experts studied the royal barge in Istanbul's Naval Museum for nearly
two months to come up with plans for the boat, which is being built at
a dockyard in this town on the Black Sea coast, 350 kilometers (220
miles) northeast of Istanbul. It took another three months to finish
"We're proud to bring history back to life," said craftsman Kenan
Cakir, standing against the white vessel in his shipyard in Cide.
But there were some changes made to the new boat.
To give tourists extra space, the narrow boat will have only 12
oarsmen. Sultan Abdulaziz's caique was propelled by 26 oarsmen.
To make the boat more maneuverable on the Bosporus, which is
crisscrossed every day by hundreds of ferry boats, yachts, fishing
boats and tankers, a small engine will be included, hidden under the
The 30.7 meter-long (101-foot) caique is made of oak and covered with
pine planks. Its hook-shaped bow displays an open-winged eagle covered
with gold. In the rear of the boat is a throne, covered in 14-karat
gold, with a wooden roof over it.
During Ottoman times, the sultan would sit on the throne as the
oarsmen rowed him across the Bosporus, the waterway between Istanbul's
European and Asian sides. Now, Turkish musicians will occupy the rear,
and the tourists will sit between the oarsmen on red cushions
embroidered with gold thread.
The boat will also cruise the Golden Horn, a fabled waterway once
filled with the imperial boats of the Ottoman sultans. The Golden
Horn, a 7.2 kilometer (4 1/2 mile) arm of the Bosporus once described
by Ottoman poets as "Sadabad" or "place of bliss," recently recovered
from decades of pollution.
Today, the shores of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus are dotted with
the domes and minarets of mosques and the ornate facades of Ottoman
The imperial boat of Sultan Abdulaziz, dating back to 1865, was likely
one of the fastest caiques of its time. Sir Henry Woods Pasha, an
Englishman employed in the Ottoman navy, recalls how the oars worked
in unison, dipping and rising as one single pair.
"There was no splashing but as the oars came out of the water the
drops fell from the blades glistening like diamonds in the bright
sunshine," Woods Pasha wrote in his 19th century memoirs.
As the sultan passed by, his subjects would bow in respect on the
Gulsun Bozkurt, owner of the Sultan's Caiques tourism company, said
the firm planned to build 150 imperial Ottoman boats by 2010.
Istanbul, once the heart of Greek Byzantine civilization and the seat
of the Ottoman Empire, draws some 1.7 million tourists a year.
The company has spent some dlrs 60,000 to build the first caique, said
Nilgun Kilinc, an official at the tourism firm.
The boat is expected to sail from Cide to Istanbul next week, making
about 8 nautical miles (9.2 statute miles or 14.7 kilometers) per
Instead of being launched with a bottle of champagne in Western style,
the boat will be sent forth as ships were during the days of the
Islamic Ottoman Empire.
A sheep will be sacrificed and some of its blood wiped on a small part
of the boat's outer surface.
In overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey, this practice is believed to protect
people or property against bad luck.
"God willing, this caique will once again show the magnificence of the
Ottomans," said Cakir, the boat builder. "May God protect it."
[TurkC-L editor's note: This article was published about a year ago.]