This coast has been a retreat from the city through Byzantine and Ottoman times, and right up until the 1970s was a rural area peppered with summer homes for wealthy Istanbul residents. Being on the suburban railway line Maltepe was a favourite spot for day-trippers or weekenders to come to the beach and to build summer houses. Still today there are many of those houses but Maltepe is no longer a leisure retreat. The Marmara sea is not clean enough for swimming anymore, although it is still a pleasant sea-front to sit, drink tea and enjoy the views of the Princes Islands off the shore.
The population grew rapidly from the 70's onwards when, following the building of the Bosphorus Bridge, it became possible to commute from here to the city. Buses along the E5 highway to the bridge, and minibuses to the ferry docks at Kadiköy now carry lower-middle class commuters (the wealthier preferring to live in smarter areas nearer the city, in Kadiköy itself). These people live either in quiet tree-lined streets of four- to six-storey apartment building with gardens around them, or in modern housing complexes with tennis-courts, childrens playgrounds and security guards on the gate.
Being generally cheaper than Kadiköy, Maltepe is popular with young-families and newly weds. During the earthquake of 1999 Maltepe suffered badly and many tall apartment blocks needed structural repair, some still bear the cracks of structural damage, something which reduced the price of property in Maltepe considerably. Over the past two years however, prices have risen again despite warnings that Maltepe is always under threat from earthquakes in the future.
The E5 highway cuts through Maltepe and north of the highway is the poorer area of Basibüyük, a tree-covered hill with a hospital on it (formerly Istanbul's tuberculosis isolation hospital) and also a large cemetery. But it does have a great view of the coastline and the islands. A large proportion of the residents are from the Black Sea coast and there are some excellent bakeries and Akçaabat kofte restaurants (traditional to that area of Turkey).
Maltepe is also home to one of the largest Mosques in Istanbul. Recently built and the cause of much criticism (due to the cost) by the Islamist leaning municipality. Below the Mosque there is a bookshop and supermarket.
The Mosque has been built according to the traditional standard shape of a Turkish Mosque (rounded shape with 4 minarets) but internally it is particually impressive with a tall high dome, a large gallery and balcony where women may pray (which many do 5 times a day, it is now becoming more and more common to find women attending the Mosque to pray particually on Fridays but more and more for all of the five daily prayers especially amongst the young) The galleries have carved wood frames and there are several large tiled mosacs around the Mosque of various sights of importance to Islam and Muslims (for example the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The Mosque has become something of a central point for Maltepe as it both can be seen from a considerable distance and is a central stop for buses and minibuses taking commuters from Kadikoy to the outskirts of the city.
Maltepe was in the past also famous for its coastline and it does command an excellent view of the Princes' Islands. Nearer to the sea can be found almost a 'village' within the city where there are many small winding streets and quaint old houses generally referred to as 'old Maltepe.' Here there are also several bars and restaurants.
Maltepe is not unpleasant to live in, just a little far from the city. There is a busy shopping district and some big supermarkets with Burger Kings, branches of ToysRUs and all the other modern amenities. Maltepe has cinemas, fast-food places, and some good kebab houses. And there is the sea shore, where there are nice cafes and some bars and cafes with live music similar (but on a much smaller scale) to those found in Kadiköy or in Taksim (on the European side of the city). The public transport is mainly for commuters and doesn't run into the night for party-goers though mini buses or 'dolmuses do run late into the night, often until at least 3am depending on your destination. Recently a large new mosque has been constructed in the centre of Maltepe, the main distinctive landmark.
Politically the area has always been a stronghold of the center right ANAP party but following the chaotic and corrupt performance of both left and right in Turkey in the 90's people have switched their vote to the Islamic-leaning AK party swept to power here (many MP's for AK party are former ANAP politicians). (see Mesut Yilmaz), DSP Bülent Ecevit MHP Devlet Bahceli Fazilet Party for the history of the decline of ANAP and also the success of the AKP from 1999 onwards). Arguments often happen with the Ilkay Political Party and her revolutionaries.