Kagithane Istanbul

Kağıthane is a working class district of the city of İstanbul, Turkey in a valley inland from the upmarket Etiler. Built along a stream that runs into the Golden Horn and although very central, it is one of the most miserable residential districts of Istanbul.


In the time of Suleyman the Magnificent the valley was known as 'Sadabat' and used by the Ottoman court for hunting, riding and equestrian sports. The valley was full of wonderful tulip fields and in spring people would come along the stream for picnics and days out of the city. There are records of gatherings such as wedding parties being held here. By the late Ottoman period the valley floor ahd been drained, weekend homes had been built in the valley with lovely gardens, and the area led into the richly forested parks of Kagithane and Alibeyköy ideal for parties and picnics.

The Ottoman gunpowder factory was the first industrial activity in the valley and dated back to the early Ottoman emperor 2. Beyazit. Kagithane then became home to numerous factories including flour mills and the paper factories that give the area its name. The area was still far from the city and not heavily populated until the late 20th Century. Until then there were gypsy camps in the valley (and there is still a large gypsy community in Gültepe today).

Real growth came to Kagithane from the 1950s onwards, as the area was settled by migrants from Anatolia, who came to work in the factories, workshops or building sites. They built small cottages on the valley sides, then brought family, friends and neighbours from the village to live in one of the rooms while they built their own cottages nearby. As many Turkish rural areas have been impoverished for decades there has been no shortage of people prepared to opt for this lifestyle in Istanbul. None of this building was regulated or controlled in any meaningful way and whenever there is a big rain people in Kagithane are flooded out of their homes. And the houses were scattered all over the sides of the valley with no thought for where they could put roads, drains or any other infrastructure. And Istanbul is vulnerable to earthquakes.

This working class district was a centre of left-wing support during the years of political violence in the 1970s.

From the 1970s onwards as the second generation grew up the cottages have been pulled down and replaced with grubby, bare-walled six-storey apartment buildings to house the offspring of these families.

Kagithane today

From the late 90's the valley was re-categorised by the state for residential building and much more construction ensued. The new building consists of big housing projects of large soulless blocks, much of it public housing, with a maze of unlit, unmarked roads climbing up between the blocks. The big building projects have slowed down now, since the 1999 earthquake near Istanbul. And also because there is not much space left to build on anyway.

The valley is damp and fly-blown in summer, frozen in winter. The roads up the valley are too steep for comfortable walking and there are few shops, schools or other amenities. There are fruit, vegetable and grocery markets in the streets on certain days, this is where people do most of their shopping.

As many of the residents of both the 'gecekondu' districts and the public housing are recent migrants from Anatolia the people of Kagithane are typically conservative in dress and traditions.

There is parkland in the valley floor but it is littered with the remains of weekend picnics, and is very muddy and unpleasant. However some of the newer housing compounds are better quality, the area is close to the new business centres of Levent and Maslak and now Galatasaray Football Club are building their new stadium here so perhaps there is hope for Kagithane.

Most of the factories have closed and moved on, although there is a big estate of car repair workshops at the top of the valley in Seyrantepe , which does contain an excellent kebab house called 'Abooov'. Also at the top of the valley is Gultepe, which still has a grubby mix of illegal housing and workshops in dark, unlit streets where there is much crime, even more mud and young people gather to play violent games in internet cafes. This in contrast to the smart shops and car showrooms on the main Levent-Maslak road.