Dolmabahçe Palace Museum

Dolmabahçe Palace was built by Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861), the thirty-first Ottoman Sultan. The construction was started on June 13, 1843 and the palace was opened on June 7, 1856 upon the completion of the surrounding walls. The main structure of the palace consists of three sections that bear the following names: Mâbeyn-i Hümâyûn (Selâmlık – Section for Men), Muâyede Hall (Ceremonial Hall) and Harem-i Hümâyûn (Imperial Harem). Mâbeyn-i Hümâyûn was for administrative affairs of the state; Harem-i Hümâyûn for the private life of the sultan and his family and between these two parts, the Muayede Salonu (Ceremonial Hall) was reserved for the sultan to meet the ministers and state officials on religious holidays and for other important state ceremonies.

Main building runs parallel to the sea and consists of three floors including the basement. The section extending in the direction of the land are Harem apartments which have four floors including the attic floor. Western influences are evident in form, details and ornamentation and reflect the changing aesthetic values in the final stages of the Empire. On the other hand, in terms of space organization, room and hall dimensions, it still represents the traditional Turkish house plan applied on a very large scale. The exterior walls are made of stone, the inner walls are brick and the tiling is of wood. Electricity and a central heating system were added to the palace along with technological advancements between 1910 and 1912. The palace has a 45,000 square meter floor area, 285 rooms, 44 halls and six bathrooms.

Mabeyn or the Chamberlain’s section, where the sultan attended state affairs was the most prominent area of Dolmabahçe Palace for both its functionality and splendor. The Entrance Hall, the Crystal Staircase, which provides the connection with the upper floor and has a protocol feature, the Ambassador’s Hall where ambassadors were hosted, and the Red Room where the ambassadors met with the Sultan, are all decorated and furnished to reflect the historical magnificence of the Empire. Zülvecheyn Hall on the upper floor is a type of passage to the Sultan’s own private apartment in the Chamberlain’s Quarters. In this special apartment there is a magnificent bath, made of Egyptian marble, study rooms and dining and rest rooms in which the sultan carried on with his daily life. The library, which houses the books of Caliph Abdülmecid, is one of the most fabulous places.

The Muâyede Hall, located between the Harem and Chamberlain sections is the highest and most magnificent hall of Dolmabahçe Palace. With an area of more than 2,000 square meters, 56 columns, a dome reaching 36 meters high, and a British made chandelier of nearly 4.5 tons, this hall clearly distinguishes itself from the rest of the palace. The chandelier of the hall was commissioned by Sultan Abdülmecid from England.

Although the Dolmabahçe Palace was modeled after the European palaces with a lot of Western influence, in terms of its functional structure and its interior design, care was taken to set up a “Harem” – as a separate section – albeit not with such clear lines as in the past. However, unlike the Topkapı Palace, the Harem is no longer a separate structure or a cluster of buildings isolated from the Palace; it is a private living unit under the same roof, located within the integrity of the overall building.

The Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six sultans as well as the last Ottoman Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi from 1856 to 1924, the year when the caliphate was abolished. Between 1927 and 1949 the Palace was used as the Presidential office. Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of our Republic, used the Dolmabahçe Palace during the times he worked in Istanbul between 1927-1938 and he passed away there.