Mezarlar, Eyüp 3 July 2013

I had a conversation with a man the other day who insisted that the türbe is still one of the least-understood items in Ottoman history. "Why," he asked me, "do people build them? What do they mean?"
"Respect," I offered, "they're a way for people to honor those who've come before."
"No." he said flatly. "That theory doesn't hold up to scrutiny."
For him, the crux of the issue was the vakıf –– anyone with land which they had deeded to some foundation or another would be guaranteed some monument or another to them after they departed this mortal coil.

We didn't talk much about tombstones, but they're something I've spent a long time thinking about in Eyüp –– on the one hand, these stones are often held up as examples of the craftsmanship of the Ottomans, silent witnesses to the greatness of that civilization. They are, of course, but there is something I've been struggling with –– the relationship that these stones are meant to establish between this world and the next, the way that these stones mark some kind of relationship between this transitory world and what is often referred to in the inscriptions as the dar al-baka. There's some tension between that claim to permanence –– which stone so often is –– and the very real texture and wear upon these stones.


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