July 7 Friday was a beautiful day in Istanbul and the Dolmabahce Palace was readied to welcome over 1000 guests for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of its opening in 1856. The event, sponsored by Ericson and Sabah newspaper, was hosted by the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly Bulent Arinc and the program was organized by Cemal Oztas, the head of the National Palaces Administration which is responsible for all the palaces in Turkey, including the Topkapi, Yildiz and Beylerbeyi Palaces.
The reception started around 8:00 PM where both soft drinks and liquor was served. Many dignitaries from the business community and the press were there, including Metin Sozen, the former head of the National Palaces, who has done more than anyone to create and preserve cultural sites in Turkey, from Safranbolu to Agirnas, the birthplace of Architect Sinan. There were also many deputies and representatives of many countries, including the Vice Council of the Republic of China, Mr. Gong Chunsen.
At 9:00 PM the guests were led to the tables placed in front of the main entrance to the palace in Hasbahce, and the traveller picked a table near the front and close to the protocol table and ordered white wine, like the others, including two Circassians, who, after introducing themselves, added that they were of course Turks and were eager to sing the ‘’Tenth Anniversary March’’, which was scheduled as the closing piece.
Bulent Arinc made the keynote speech, describing the history of the Palace which was ordered by Sultan Abdulmecir and took 13 years to complete. The Ottoman Armenian architects, Garabet and Nikogan Balyan (responsible for the famous Ortakoy Mosque and many other buildings in Istanbul) were in charge of the construction under the guidance of Chief Architect Abdulhalim Bey. After serving the Sultans and the last Khalif, Abdulmecit Efendi, the palace was put under the administration of the Grand National Assembly to serve the Turkish people, which also hosted the first congress of the Turkish Historical Society in 1937.
The Master of Ceremonies, Handan Serez, welcomed the guests and started a magnificent program, arranged by Ali Kocatepe and Izzet Oz, which had to be delayed for a few minutes as the ‘’call for prayer’’ was heard. Beautiful songs, beginning with Dede Efendi’s masterpiece to the modern times, were sung by famous artists, including Ahmet Ozhan, Emel Sayin, Zulfu Zivaneli, Erol Buyukburc, Zara, Isin Karaca, and Ilhan Gencer. The first piece of the concert ‘’Ezan, Can, Hazan’’, an arrangement by Ali Kocatepe, a poem by Baki I. Bahar, was sung by the Youth Choir of TRT, following the ‘’call for prayer’’ was beautiful.
Towards the end of the program, beautiful girls and handsome boys distributed small Turkish flags to everyone to wave while Kenan Dogrulu, who had just flown to Istanbul from London for the occasion, would sing the ‘’Tenth Anniversary March.’’ The traveller picked seven flags so he could give them to the six grandchildren of the three brothers during next week’s ‘’Family Reunion’’ in New Jersey. Then the entire performers came on to the stage, many received awards, but Kenan Dogulu was nowhere to be seen and the March was never sung. How sad and what a disappointment. The prime Minister said goodbye to the guests at his table and, walking around the magnificent pool, left the palace. The traveller, with great sadness, followed, reciting the March all by himself…
Onuncu Yil Marsi
Ciktik acik alinla on yilda her savastan
On yilda onbes milyon genc yarattik her yastan
Basta butun dunyanin saydigi Baskumandan;
Demir aglarla orduk ana yurdu dort bastan.
Turk’uz Cumhuriyet’in gogsumuz tunc siperi,
Turk’e durmak yarasmaz, Turk onde Turk ileri
Ornektir milletlere actigimiz yeni iz;
Imtiyazsiz, sinifsiz kaynasmis bir kutleyiz;
Uyduk gorusde bilgiye, gidiste ulkeye biz;
Tersine donse dunya yolumuzdan donmeyiz.
Turk’uz Cunhuriyet’in gogsumuz tunc siperi,
Turk’e durmak yarasmaz, Turk onde Turk ileri.
The traveller also managed to pick two commemorative bags which contained a book on Dolmabahce and several CD’s, including ‘’ Ezan, Can, Hazan’’. He noticed that the writing on the bags did not make any reference to Ataturk, who not only used two rooms as his office in the Palace for many years but was also his resting place when he died there on November 10, 1938. Talking to himself, a habit picked up lately, the traveller said, ‘’I don’t understand what is happening in Turkey.’’
As part of the 150th-anniversary celebrations, another first was achieved at the Palace and ‘’Depot Museum’’ was established where 11,944 pieces will be exhibited, thanks to Ugur Dundar who first showed the sad state of the depot in his famous ‘’Arena’’ program in 1990.
It was certainly a wonderful evening at Dolmabahce Palace, with a few hitches, and all those who made this event possible should be proud of themselves. Thank you.
Yuksel Oktay, PE
8 July 2006