Historic Eyüp to become religious tourism center
Istanbul’s historic Eyüp neighborhood, one of the first settlement areas outside the old city walls, is preparing to become a center for religious tourism, according to the local mayor.
“We are pushing for [the development of] tourism as a priority,” Eyüp Mayor İsmail Kavuncu said in a recent interview with the Ekonomist, a Turkish weekly. The district’s potential lies first and foremost in its historical sites and centers with religious significance, he said, adding that these areas were thus the focus of the municipality’s plans.
Thousands of people come to Eyüp each day, with many more arriving on weekends, to visit
the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and its tomb, a sacred site for Muslims. Kavuncu said the municipality is encouraging investments in
hotels and hostels in order to entice visitors to stay longer.
According to the mayor, Eyüp has an accommodation capacity of less than 300 beds, which the municipality aims to expand to 1,000. Mansions in the district’s center have already opened to tourism and many hotels are being constructed in the area, he added.
“We are still negotiating on five or six mansions owned by [private] individuals. I hope positive developments are coming regarding these [buildings],” Kavuncu said, noting that work to restore historical buildings in the area was on the way.
The Halit Paşa Mansion and Esnar Mansion, both located in central Eyüp, have already put into service as hotels. Other mansions are being restored and works are continuing to construct a cultural center with a 5,000-person capacity. According to Kavuncu, the municipality has devoted 2 million Turkish Liras to the restoration of the Eyüp Sultan Tomb, believed to hold the remains of the Prophet Mohammed’s standard-bearer, and the Turkish bath nearby. After it is restored, the bath, designed by well-known Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, will be used as a hydrotherapy center, the mayor added.
The municipality’s projects will mainly focus on attracting more tourists to Eyüp in order to boost the area’s economy, Kavuncu told the Ekonomist.
The mayor said the municipality also wants to diversify the types of visitors who come to Eyüp. “Thus we want to glamorize Pierre Loti, one of Istanbul’s most beautiful view terraces, and the Golden Horn even more.” He also said the municipality has made an agreement with the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies on touristic spots in the area to see the neighborhood become a stop for at least 10 tour buses a day.