Bebek is one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Istanbul. It is located on the European shores of the Bosphorus and is surrounded by other wealthy districts such as Arnavutkoy, Etiler and Rumeli Hisari. It falls within the boundaries of Besiktas district of Istanbul. The direct translation of the word "Bebek" into Turkish is "Baby".
According to certain sources, Bebek's name in ancient times was Khallae. It is said that this name, meaning landing stages, comes from Skallai. According to other sources Khallae was today's Kilyos, while Bebek was known as Philemporon. The name Bebek (Baby) comes from the appointment, following the conquest of Istanbul, of Mustafa Çelebi as company commander for the area (according to legend, an exceptionally handsome young man).
In ancient times there was a temple dedicated to Artemis, Goddess of Fishermen and Hunters, in Bebek. In the 11 th century, in the time of the Byzantine Empire, the Pechenegs revolted in Damatrys and crossed the Bosphorus on horseback from the Asian to the European shore. Their crossing point was from Anadolu Hisari of Bebek.
The Hümayunabad Summer Palace, built in the 18th century by Grand Vizier Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasa for Ahmet III, was demolished by Abdülmecid. Among those who lived in Bebek were statesmen and goverment employees involved in education or religion, such as Ismail Efendi, Dürrizade Abdullah, Dividigüzel Hayrullah Aga, Yesarizade Mustafa Izzet Efendi and Tavukçu Reis Mustafa Efendi.
Bebek was once famous for its gardens of roses and acacias, its weeping willows, lacy nettle trees and the constant sound of nightingales singing. Its most important monument was the Khedive Palace, once the Ali Pasa Köskü, and later the property of Emine Hanim (known as Valide Pasa).
Following the death of Emine Hanim, mother of Khedive Abbas Hilmi Pasa, the Khedive Palas was given to the state of Egypt. Today, it continues to function as the Consulate General of Egypt. Ornate lamps crown the posts of the mansion's sea-railings.
The decoration of the Bebek Mosque, designed by architect Kemaleddin Bey, was carried out by expert calligraphers Ismail Hakki Bey and Macit Bey.
Other historic buildings in Bebek include the Aghios Kharalambos Church and the French Catholic Monastery and Orphanage.
One of the most interesting Bosphorus mansions is the Reisültüttab Mustafa Efendi Yalisi (18th century), known as the Mansion of Snakes (Yilanli Yali).
Mahmut II informed Muhasib Said Efendi that he liked Mustafa Efendi's Bebek mansion. In order to protect Mustafa Efendi, Said Efendi told the Sultan that it was full of snakes. Mahmut II changed his mind about appropriating the building but from then on it has been known as the Mansion of Snakes.
After Reisülküttab Mustafa Efendi, this waterside residence belonged in succession to Nazir Mustafa Efendi, Rasid Efendi and Yahya Efendi Dergahi Postnisini (Sheikh of the Yahya Efendi Dervish Lodge) Mehmet Nuri Semseddin Efendi. It was later divided into sections between varios inheritors.
The Mansion was damaged by fire in 1964 and later partially restored. With its Harem of forty chambers, stone hall harbouring a majestic pool and an ornate fountain, Sakal-i Serif (Hair of the Prophet's Beard) Room, illuminated manuscripts and walls decorated with rare works of calligraphy, the Mansion of Snakes was once the most impressive residence situated on the rocky shore of Bebek.
One of Bebek's noteworthy buildings, the Ahmet Cevdet Pasa Mansion, later the property of Mabeynci Faik Bey, was eventually owned by Abdülhamit II's daughter Ayse Sultan. After the building was demolished, the Ayse Sultan Mansion was built on these wooded slopes.
The Mücevhercibasi (Imperial Jeweller) Jak Bey Deleon Yalisi once stood beside the Ahmet Cevdet Pasa Residence. The original owners of this mansion, one of the largest in the district, were Bitlis Governor Ethem Pasa and his wife Nafia Hanim. Abdülhamit II's Imperial Jeweller, Jak Bey Deleon, upon whom the Sultan had bestowed the title of "Bala" (the Exalted) for services rendered to the Throne, bought the mansion from Ethem Pasa. It was thenceforth referred to as the Jak Bey Deleon Mansion. Renowed for its fountains with ornate marble basins intended for nightingales to drink from, the Jak Bey Deleon Mansion burned down at the beginning of the 20th century (together with the Durrizade and the Mümtaz Pasa Mansions). Following the fire, Jak Bey Deleon and his family moved to Nice and never returned. The Assistant Director of the American College for Girls, Mebruke Hanim, lived in the mansion that was later built on the same spot.
The hillside above the Bebek-Rumeli Hisari road is today occupied by Bogaziçi University. Formerly Robert College, it was founded in 1863 on ground purchased from Ahmet Vefik Pasa upon the orders of Abdülaziz.
Its buildings were constructed using stone from the quarries on the same land; these quarries were also
the source of the stone used by Mehmet the Conqueror in the construction of Rumeli Hisari.
The Bebek Lighthouse, perched on a pyramidshaped column, has terraces around its base, where boats may be moored. It is a rare example of nautical architecture.
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