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16/50.- Istanbul, Sultan Ahmet III Fountain

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Once again in the street we take the alley that runs along the west side of Hagia Sophia. The structure that you see in this photo is an important element in the Ottoman architecture, the fountain; precisely this is the fountain of Ahmet III, located at the Imperial Gate to Topkapi Palace. Given the importance of water, and water basins (havuz) in Islamic cities and the ritual practice, Istanbul has developed in Ottoman times a culture of fountains, çesme, most of them making the pride and fame of sultans, viziers, and wealthy Muslims; as the fountains were built with money from donations this was considered an act of piety, and they served as public water supply for neighborhoods and the community at large.

The design of the fountains varied according the architectural fashion of the day, influenced in modern times by the West, as in the case of pavilion style photographed here. The function of this fountain was not ritual ablution, but part of a sebil - a kiosk at the entrance gate to the mosque where water and sherbet, fruit juices, were served to the passers-by. Dating from 1728, the fountain of Sultan Ahmet III, is a fine example of Ottoman rococo, decorated with marble, tiles, inscriptions and bronze grilles. The overhanging roof is crowned with little domes. The fountains, çesme and sebil at the four corners are no longer in use. Right in front of the Fountain we find ourselves at the Imperial Gate to Topkapi Palace.

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