The Dolmabahçe Palace is located at Besiktas in Istanbul. At first a shallow bay where the Ottoman navy used to anchor, the coast was filled in during the rule of Ahmed I (1603-1617) and Selim II (1566-1574) built a pool and kiosk here. Palatial buildings added by Murad IV (1648-1687) were rebuilt during the rule of Ahmed III (1703-1730). His successor, Mahmud I (1730-1754) is known to have resided at this complex known as the Besiktas Coastal Palace, and he made the Bayildim Kiosk along its hillside.(1)

In 1846, following the order of Abdülmecid I (1839-1861), older palatial buildings were torn down to construct a new palace in their place designed b y Imperial Architect Garabet Balyan. Construction ended in 1855 and the opening ceremony was held after the Crimean War in 1856. Following the death of Abdülmecid I, the palace became a secondary residence for Abdülaziz I (1861-1876) who constructed two new palaces along the Bosphorus at Beylerbeyi and Ciragan. His successor, Abdülhamid II (1876-1909), chose to expand the Yildiz Palatial Complex on the Besiktas hills. The imperial family moved back into the Dolmabahçe Palace during the rule of Mehmed V (1909-1918) and it was from here that the last Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI was exiled to Paris after the Turkish National Assembly abolished the Sultanate in 1921. Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi remained at the palace until the Caliphate was abolished in 1924; some of his own paintings still decorate the palace walls today. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of the Turkish Republic, stayed and received foreign guests at the Dolmabahçe Palace on his trips to Istanbul away from the new capital in Ankara, and he died in the palace in 1938. The palace has hosted many significant conferences of the Republican Period and is open to visitors as a public museum since 1952.

Occupying an area close to 250,000 square meters, the palatial complex consists of a walled inner palace along the waterfront and clusters of service buildings in the forest outside of the landwalls. In the long strip between the tall land wall and the waterfront are, from west to east; the Treasury Gate and Imperial Treasury (Hazine-i Hassa), Furniture Registry (Mefrusat Dairesi), the state gardens (Mabeyn Bahçesi), the main palace composed of the administrative (Mabeyn-i Hümayun or Resmi Daire), ceremonial (Muayede Salonu) and harem (Harem-i Hümayun) quarters, the palace of the Crown Prince (Veliaht Dairesi), the quarters of the gentlemen-in-waiting (Musahiban Dairesi) with dormitories behind it that house the servants (Agavat Dairesi, Bendegan Dairesi) and the guards (Baltacilar Dairesi), and the imperial kitchens (Matbah-i Amire).

The ceremonial and harem quarters of the main palace have separate back gardens protected by tall walls; the former garden has a glass kiosk (Camli Kösk) and bird houses (Kusluk) built by Mehmed IV along the landwall while the latter contains the inner treasury (Iç Hazine Dairesi), a plant nursery (Fidelik), small kitchens and the separate apartments of the women in the harem who were highly prized, called the higher favorites (Gedikli Cariyeler Dairesi). The Palace of the Crown Prince has a large back garden that has two wooden houses known as the departure kiosks (Hareket Köskleri), the quarters of the Chief Eunuch (Kizlaragasi Dairesi), a Hereke carpet workshop (Hereke dökümhanesi) and a sunhouse (sera). Two monumental gates, the Treasury Gate (Hazine Kapi) and the Imperial Gate (Saltanat Kapi) lead into the gardens of the administrative quarters to the west while seven small portals along the landwalls open into the back gardens of the different sections. The iron fence along the shore has five large gates for arrivals from the water.

Outside the Treasury Gate to the west are the clock-tower built by Abdülhamid II and the Dolmabahçe Mosque (or the Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan Mosque), built at the same time as the palace. The offices of the Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman Army (Serasker Dairesi) located between the mosque and the clock-tower and the imperial boathouse (Hamlacilar Dairesi) found immediately to the west of the mosque have not survived. To their north, the palace theater (Tiyatro) was destroyed for road expansion in 1937 while the royal stables (Istabl-i Amire) beyond it were taken down for the construction of the Inönü football stadium in 1947. Outside the landwall to the east and northeast were auxiliary buildings that housed a publishing press, pharmacy, barracks, laundry, cellars, mills, specialized kitchens and stables; the remaining among these structures are used by the Turkish Military. The construction of Swiss Hotel buildings in the palace forest immediately on the hill behind the main palace has further damaged the historical context of the palace.

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