“If the Earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital”. Napoleon Bonaparte said that many years ago. In the 18th century, the lively city also inspired the poet Alphonse de Lamartine to say, “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”. From then to the present day, the world has changed a lot. Empires have risen and fallen; however, those statements could still be true till this day.
For over 1500 years Istanbul has been ranked among the most important cities in the world. In the past, it reached worldwide fame thanks to its privileged location and to its political and economic relevance. It has been the capital of three major empires, and an important stop on the commercial route between Europe and Asia.
Now, the city keeps attracting visitors from all over the world because of its outstanding history, its deep multicultural roots, and several world heritage sites that nowadays are accompanied by a youthful and modern vibe. Also, not to mention the rich gastronomy and a sparkling artistic and cultural life.
The history of Istanbul blends in with the very history of humanity itself. All religions, nations, and empires have passed throughout Istanbul. This history is told all over the city, from the museums that safeguard treasures of the past to the sights on the streets. Some examples include the Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, and the oldest and biggest street market in the world. All of them are remnants of the Romans/Byzantines, Latins and Ottomans, the three big civilizations that chose Istanbul as their center.
The first thing that probably springs to mind when someone asks you what you think the world’s capital is would probably be a large densely populated cosmopolitan city with a western focused perspective. Two big names that everyone probably has heard of are New York and London, which could easily be identified as world’s capitals, while metropoles such as Istanbul, São Paulo, and Mumbai remain overlooked. However, in an increasingly multipolar, globalized world, the idea of political and cultural centers must include more diversity and a wider geographical range of options.
For example, the Bosphorus Bridge connecting two worlds is the perfect metaphor for the present needs of humanity; that is to say, less walls and barriers, more bridges and intersections. Being the only city in the world that resides in two different continents, it is the exact center of a geographic, political, and cultural crossroad. It is influenced by its plurality and by the coexistence of multiple ethnicities, beliefs, and customs. That is why Istanbul is able to embrace the world.
by NATÁLIA BECATTINI