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Evliya Celebi was born on the 25th of February in Istanbul. He says he slipped out of every difficulty in his adventurous life with ease because of the goodwill of the seventy friends of his father who had been at their home on the night of his birth. His father, Mehmet Aga Dervis Muhammed Zilli , had taken part in the conquest of Cyprus during the reign of Sultan Selim II, had presented the keys of Famagusta to the Sultan and had risen to the post of a chief jeweler in the palace.
Mehmet Aga was an artist and a man of agreeable temperament. His full name is that of his father, Evliya bin Dervis Mehmet Zilli. This world-famous traveler was called Evliya after Imam-i Sultani Evliya Mehmet Efendi, a famous personage of that age, a close friend of Dervis Mehmet Aga and later a tutor to our traveler. He listened to many an adventurous story from his father, a man of long years and experience who had served many sultans from Suleyman the Magnificent to Ibrahim, and these, coupled with the things he heard from their numerous guests, lit in him the passion for foreign lands.
He made these very picturesque by adding his own thoughts for his imagination was as strong as his passion. Step by step, he saw the whole of Istanbul until there remained nothing he had not seen nor anyone he had not talked with. He found his way to the court of eminent men; he sat and listened in the coffee-shops and wine shops to storytellers and convents. In the year , he traveled to Bursa for the first time. In that year too he made a sea voyage to Izmit. Though the son of a father who had lived in court and had close relations with the Sultan and eminent statesmen and a mother who was related to the pashas of the period, he was never to succumb to the wish for mundane wealth and position.
Instead of an office, which he could easily attain through his influential relatives and friends, he devoted his life to travel to distant lands, to the desire to see the whole world, acquaint himself with everybody and learn everything. This enlightened citizen of Istanbul accepted only assignments that involved travel and not for their importance. He went to Trabzon with Ketenci Omer Pasha when the latter was appointed the governor of that province.
From there he went to Georgia in Russia, Merhilistan and the land of the Abaza. In , he took part in the famous Battle of Azak and thence went to Crimea with the Khan of Crimea. On his voyage back to Istanbul his ship encountered a fierce storm and was wrecked. For eight months he lay ill in the convent of Kelgra. Later he took part in the Battle of Crete. He spent the two years between and as a customs clerk in Erzurum, to which he had traveled in the company of Defterzade Mehmet Pasha.
Also the expensive presents he received from those he served and the sale of the booty he won from the various battles in which he participated provided for himself and his relations in Istanbul.
After settling his family affairs, he went to Damascus as the Chief Muezzin of Murtaza Pasha who had been appointed Governor there. On his way back to Istanbul as a courier, he met the revolutionaries in Uskudar and took part in the fighting.
As he was searching for means of travel from Istanbul he became the Chief Muezzin and Accountant of Melek Ahmet Pasha who was Governor in the western regions of the Ottoman Empire and during the next years, he traveled to Sofia, Silistra and all the cities in mid-Europe with him.
He participated in the Polish Campaign. In his book, he describes at length these cities and the interesting happenings. In after the demise of this Pasha, to whom he was related, he took part in the Austrian campaign of Sultan Mehmet IV. He also participated in the Demirkazik Campaign. He was one of the envoys of Vienna. From Vienna, he embarked on a long journey into Europe. In , he returned to Istanbul which he had not seen for eight years.
He made contact with the members of his family from whom he had long been separated and settled his family affairs. But he could live only one year in Istanbul. He went to Edirne and searched for means of joining the army for the Crete campaign. He went to Anatolia by land, then passed on to Kandiye and finally to Morea.
He was sixty and, wanting to perform his religious duty of pilgrimage, he traversed with several friends from the eastern sections of Anatolia and reached Cairo.
He traveled from early childhood until the time when there was nothing to see and no one to meet; he learned and recorded everything. He derived his real source of knowledge and culture not from education but life. The desire in him to learn burned until his last days. Likewise, during his long stay in Egypt during his old age, he explored the whole country while also attending lectures by the scholars of the period. The last volume of his book is in Egypt and thereafter he did not write about the rest of his life.
As well as devoting his life to travel, he was also a calligrapher, decorator, musician and poet in his way. He was very fond of all works of art and books whether miniaturized or illuminated. For example, he was not greatly excited over the Jewels of Abdal Khan of Bitlis but deeply impressed with the chest containing them. A man with a beautiful voice and a deep knowledge of musical instruments, he could spare no time for marriage in his fifty years of travel and consequently had no offspring.
It is understood that he did not live long after his return from Egypt and according to the latest investigations and appraisals is buried in the family burial ground near the Meyyit-zade cemetery. That is to say, he has, on the one hand, avoided using words and expressions not used in spoken language —thus refraining from exhibiting his art and knowledge — and on the other hand, spontaneously made the grammatical mistakes one usually indulges in careless colloquial speech.
He spent his entire life amongst people who could never spare the time for reading and writing and he made the language of these people his style. He showed an undying interest in the characteristics of the countries in which he journeyed and in the people he met.
This unflagging curiosity and the extraordinary ability for observation is obvious in his work. One can read there a long and detailed account of every city, town, mosque, medrese, inn, bath, castle, rampart and other installations he deemed important.
He also gives a vivid account of the wars he experienced and the characteristics of the pashas and viziers he served. He was knowledgeable of humans and objects. His volumes covering all his travels. He always refers to himself as descriptions are vivid and distinct. His work covers the historic events of the 17th century Ottoman Empire with vivid flashes into the life of the period and is an invaluable source of historical and geographic knowledge.
A few pages are enough to accustom one to his unusual and flowing style. On his first trip, he goes to Bursa without informing his family of his departure.
The following may not be the actual advice, but it is of significance in as much as it is the result of his impressions of years of travels and experience!. However, nobody had known which direction I had taken. That night I dreamt that you were at the tomb of Emir Sultan at Bursa, seeking succor from the spiritual influence and begging for world travel with tears flowing from your eyes.
That night many a dervish asked and begged for my consent that you go on your travels. And 1, that night, gave you my consent, with the acquiescence of them all. Come then, son. Henceforth you are destined to travel. Blessed may it be. Son, a man may be poor, do not start eating without mentioning the name of God.
Do not eat if you are polluted. If your clothing gets torn, do not repair it while you are wearing it. Advance, do not let your eye linger behind. Do not lead the procession astray. Do not tread on fields. Do not encroach on the share of a friend.
Do not pick up things you do not own. Do not listen when two people converse. Abide by the right of bread and salt. Do not go to places you are not invited to. If you do, go to honest people, to places of which you are sure. Keep secrets. At every gathering retain in your mind the things you may hear. Do not carry word from house to house. Refrain from backbite, from denunciation, from talking behind the backs of others, from gossip. Be decent. Maintain good relations with everyone. Do not be stubborn and poisonous of the tongue.
Do not go in front of those who are more imminent than you. Perform your religious duties five times a day, be well-known for your tranquillity of conduct and preoccupy yourself with munificent science. Son, My advice in mundane affairs is that you be sweet of tongue.
Do not ask for worldly things from the viziers and nobles you have close ties with so that they do not hate you and accord you a cold reception. Content yourself with a mouthful. And do not dissipate property you may come to own. Live modestly. You may require it in sickness and in health. Do not save the worldly coin for food and clothing and then in need of the despicable.
In the places, you walk and visit tie the belt of endeavor securely around your waist and conserve yourself. Water sleeps but the alien and cruel enemies do not sleep. May God be your excellent defender and helper.
Evliyā Çelebi's Book of Travels
By Lev Myshkin , September 15, A new translation has revived interest in this remarkable man. Along the way he wrote his travelogue, the Seyahatname , which eventually comprised ten books: 1. Istanbul and surrounding areas ; 2.
EVLIYA CELEBI & HIS BOOK OF TRAVELS “SEYAHATNAME”
A devout Muslim opposed to fanaticism, Evliya could recite the Quran from memory and joked freely about Islam. Though employed as clergy and entertainer in the Imperial Court of Sultan Murad IV Evliya refused employment that would keep him from travelling. He was also trained in the theory of music called ilm al-musiqi. His journal writing began in Istanbul, taking notes on buildings, markets, customs and culture, and in it was extended with accounts of his travels beyond the confines of the city. The collected notes of his travels form a ten-volume work called the Seyahatname "Travelogue". Departing from the Ottoman literary convention of the time, he wrote in a mixture of vernacular and high Turkish, with the effect that the Seyahatname has remained a popular and accessible reference work about life in the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century,  including two chapters on musical instruments. He wrote that the name Mostar means "bridge-keeper", in reference to the town's celebrated bridge , 28 meters long and 20 meters high.