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The visit to the Sweet Waters of Europe is made in brilliant equipages or on horseback along the shores, or in georgeous boats and barges, which latter, owing to the extended water front of the city, are almost as much a feature of the place as are the gondolas at Venice. The scene is a bright one, for the Turks are given to finery and display, and the uniforms of all the navies of the world enliven the pageant.
Instead of resorting to these places of rest or amusement, the very pious, on Friday, visit mosques and tombs; and another gala feature of the day is the passage of the Sultan to prayer. Nothing in the ordinary routine of daily life in Constantinople interests the people more. Thousand upon thousands of citizens and strangers gather along the route of the imperial pageant. The procession is never postponed-at least one thing in Turkish affairs occurs on time.
The custom had a singular origin. In 1361, Sultan Murad I., having offered to give evidence in a court of justice, the judge refused to hear his testimony, because, according to the Koran, no one could be a witness who had not joined in common prayers in the mosque. The Sultan admitted the justice of the decision, and on the next Friday proceeded to the mosque in great state, to engage in prayers as one of the worshipers. The custom has been observed with religious regularity ever since. It gives the people an opportunity to see their ruler riding in state once a week. Even fatal illness does not deter him from going. In two instances the Sultan has expired immediately on his return from prayers.
There is not the grandeur about it now that there was centuries ago, when the costumes were of velvet and gold. The highway through which he passed was then carpeted with richest Oriental rugs. Silver and gold coins were strewn in his path. The new mosque, in which the present Sultan worships, is but five minutes walk from the palace. He rides to it, however, in an elegant barouche, with all pomp of elaborate ritual and imposing ceremony. From the palace to the mosque, the streets are lined on either side, four ranks deep, with brightly uniformed regiments of gorgeous Oriental soldiers. It is carpeted a half inch deep with fine, clean sand. At the Imam's call, the Sultan "the light of the sun” and the “shadow of the universe," emerges from his seclusion, enters the gilded royal carriage and, preceded by the few veiled ladies of his household and young sons and male relatives, proceeds to the mosque. It is the most gorgeous royal event of frequent occurrence in all the world. The Caliph of the 200,000,000 Mohammedans in the world, and sovereign of the 85,000,000 of the Ottoman empire (1,200,000 in the city alone), appears amid the acclaims of the immense throng of people, attended not only by his own household, but by the brightly costumed ambassadors and consuls of all nations. Official horse-tails, which have led to victory or defeat on thousand battlefields, jewel-hilted swords, sashes, turbans and fezes, worn by the males in line, even to the little boys
on Arabian steeds, lend the charm of novelty to a pageant which for magnificence merely is seldom equalled under the sun. After a half hour at prayers, the return to the palace is made in similar order.
The present Sultan, Abdul Hamid II., though a young man of great intelligence, is delicate, with a pale face and weak figure. I had slimpses of him one Friday noon, when he was going in procession to the mosque to worship. He lives in palaces of dazzling beauty at Seraglio point, by the banks of the Bosphorus. He is the supreme head of the state, with absolute theocratic powers; that is, he is the Caliph or the pope of the Mohammedan world, as well as the unrestricted political power of his own empire. Of late years, however, his power of absolution has been somewhat modified by the interference of the European governments, and by the demand of the expounders of the Koran, that the Sultan should adhere strictly to the teachings of the holy book, which teaches no such doctrine.
Of the royal household, the following may be mentioned: The principal honorary officer of the court is the imperial sword bearer. As his duties are few, he is seldom called into the Sultan's presence. Those in most intimate communication with the Sultan are his private secretaries and chamberlains. As they enjoy the relation of intimate personal friends, their favor is eagerly sought by aspirants for political recognition. Then there are gentlemen of the household, who are trained from early youth for their respective duties. They begin as cup-bearers or gentlemen
of the wardrobe; or they manipulate the slippers, pipe and delicate coffee cups. Their elegance of manner and intelligence is quite striking. From pages, they are promoted to be chamberlains or even ministers of the state.
Mutes are a very unique and indispensable part of the Sultan's household. When private interviews are held with the Minister of State, all others withdraw, but the mutes remain. Even when the Grand Council meets behind closed doors, they are present to wait on the high dignitaries. “Having ears they hear not,” yet sometimes understand more than they pretend, and have been known to communicate important state secrets to their friends. In olden times they were the executioners, perhaps because they could not hear the heart-rending eries of the victims.
Dwarfs are kept as court-jesters. A Sultan wishing to test the ingenuity of his dwarf, called one into the harem and told him he might have his choice of the girls as his wife if he could kiss her first. The little man cast a longing glance into the face of a Circassian beauty as she towered above him, and instantly struck her smartly on the chest. The unexpected assault nearly doubled the young woman. when the dwars, taking advantage of her stooping position, kissed her and won from the Sultan a handsome wife for his tact and audacity.
When calling on the Sultan, one meets at the threshold the gentlemen of the household. Passing these personages, one ascends a flight of stairs and finds himself in a large hall with curtained doorways leading to the various apart