Hürrem, also known as Roxelana, was a remarkable woman. Born around 1510 as Alexandra Lisowska as the daughter of a poor priest in Ukrainia, she was sold into slavery and ended up as a servant girl in the harem of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul.
The painting is in Topkapi museum. Photograph from wikipedia, copyright expired.
Through talent, charm, beauty and vile, she drew the sultan’s attention to herself and, finally became his legal wife and the first sultana of the Ottoman Empire. ‘The laughing one’ as Hürrem translates into, was the love of Suleiman’s life and he wrote many poems for her, one of them describing her as ‘the throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight’.
Her rise to power wasn’t accomplished without darker deeds, including murder, but that’s another story.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that her story fascinated me and when I came to Istanbul staying at my favorite boutique hotel in Sultanahmed, I was thrilled to find an antique shop right in the basement of the Muhlisbey Hotel. Not just any old antique shop, but one which specializes in 18th and 19th century clothes, embroideries and artifacts.
The owner is also the owner of the hotel and has another, bigger, shop in the Grand Bazaar, but this small one is where I come to time and again.
Covered in fabulous carpets and furnished with antique chaisr, tables and sofas, any visitor is made extremely welcome. Coffee or tea is served and then you can browse to your heart’s content. Some of the antique kaftans would not be out of place in a museum. The beauty is, that you can try them on and really play at Hürrem. You can also buy them, bank balance allowing, because some of the pieces cost several thousand dollars. These are all true collectors’ items.
I admired a 19th century wedding dress, tiny food stain included and played around with headgear and veils. On top of admiring all the fabulous clothes you get a knowledgeable and valuable history lesson about Turkish embroidery and anything else you want to know, all the time sipping coffee and sitting in style.
Don’t despair. They also offer a vast collection of new kaftans, bed spreads, pillow cases, towels, lamps and other decorative pieces of the finest quality but at much more affordable prices.
The Muhlisbey Hotel and the shop are located in Sultanahmed, Tevkifhane Sok right opposite the Four Seasons Hotel.
Disclaimer: This post is the author’s personal opinion and not in any way sponsored by Muhlisbey Hotel or the shop owner.