The 11th annual Istanbul Tulip Festival has opened with an official ceremony in the Emirgan Forest on the city’s European side.
“The tulip was our flower but foreign travelers brought Turkish tulip bulbs to their countries and tulips started to blossom elsewhere,” Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Kadir Topbaş told reporters and guests on April 9.
“Afterwards, the tulip started to be forgotten in our country and people started to perceive the tulip as an exotic flower. We put an end to that perception and united the tulip with its homeland,” Topbaş added, praising the 2005 campaign for the first festival “Istanbul meets its tulip,” which was criticized at the time for being extravagant.
The world’s largest “tulip carpet,” made up of 563,000 tulips covering 1,728 square meters in Istanbul’s touristic Sultanahmet
Square, was also opened to visitors on April 10, a day after the festival opening.
The deputy speaker of the Istanbul municipality, Ahmet Bilal Kıymaz, praised the elegance of tulips and underlined its contribution to the growth of a local tulip industry.
“As well as the beauty of tulips, a whole tulip industry was started in Turkey. Our country became an exporter of tulips,” Kıymaz said at the unveiling ceremony of the carpet, which will welcome visitors until April 30.
Topbaş touched on the role played by tulips in Ottoman history, saying “Turkey’s ancestors” grew 1,500 types of tulip while the current figure is only 200.
“We started with around 600,000 tulip bulbs in 2005. Today, around 20 million tulip bulbs adorn Istanbul, all are local and provide material support to our producers,” he said.
The main exhibitions of the festival are set to take place across the city at Taksim Square, the Emirgan Forest, the Hidiv Forest, the Büyük Çamlıca Forest, the Göztepe Rose Garden, Gülhane Park and Sultanahmet
According to official figures released by the municipality, the richest varieties of tulips can be seen at the Emirgan Forest, the Bulbous Plants Park, which remains open after the festival closes, and the Göztepe Rose Garden. These sites have 190, 167 and 110 different varieties of tulips respectively.
Activities planned for the duration of the festival include painting and photo exhibitions and concerts, as well as the selling of specially made tulip-themed products.