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Ottoman and foreign travellers who travelled through Anatolian territory throughout the centuries provided important information about the cities they visited. The port city of Sinop was one of the most important ones frequently visited by explorers.

Ibn Battuta, a most famous explorer who came to Sinop in the 14th century, gives some important information about the city. After describing it as a very big and crowded city, in which he stayed for 40 days, he emphasises that it is both beautiful and comfortable to live in. According to Battuta, the city is completely surrounded by sea except for its eastern side. The only gate of Sinop was in the east and it was only possible to enter the city when the ruler allowed this. Sinop was surrounded by eleven Greek small towns, all of which were under Muslim rule. Many different vegetables and fruits were grown thanks to the fertile soil. Providing interesting details about the social life, Battuta tells that use of hashish is also very common in Sinop just like all around Anatolia. As all of the Muslims living in the city adhered to the Hanafi school of Islam, they used to approach Muslims from other sects with suspicion. Ibn Battuta also provides some interesting information about funeral customs in Sinop. Apparently, locals used to wear their dresses inside out and also wrap a piece of cloth made of black wool around their head as they walked after a funeral. Besides, a feast used to be given every day for forty days of mourning.[1]

The famous explorer Evliya Çelebi is the principal traveller who provides the amplest detail on Sinop. After shortly describing its history, he mentions that the city came under Ottoman rule in 1393. Sinop Castle was built by "Sinobe", son of a Roman Caesar, on a high ridge. The castle had 6,100 bastions and eight entrance gates. The city consisted of a total of 24 neighbourhoods inside and outside the castle. Christians with an approximate population of 1,100 lived in neighbourhoods at the seacoast. About 1,000 of them paid the kharaj tax while the other 100 were exempted as they took charge in castle repair. According to Evliya Çelebi, the oldest and the most famous shrine of Sinop is Alaaddin Mosque. There were five other mosques in the city. Education was provided in one madrasa and 60 primary schools. Also expanding on the natural life, the explorer reports that animals such as foxes, jackals and bears lived in areas close to the city. According to him, the city dwellers wore local dresses named hilat and farajeh. The city is described to be at a distance of 500 miles to Istanbul and four stops to Samsun.[2]

Katip Çelebi, a famous geographer of the 17th century, provides some important information about Sinop and its neighbourhoods in his work titled Cihannüma. Thus, Sinop is located west to Samsun at a 5 day's walking distance. According to Katip Çelebi, the peninsula of Sinop with its square-like structure is a beautiful city connected to the mainland at a point. The city castle could be reached after passing through a few gates. Unlike other explorers, he mentions that the castle has four gates. The keep area, which is very steep and high, was accessed through a suspended bridge. And like all other explorers, Katip Çelebi also portrays Alaaddin Mosque with admiration.[3]

Based on the information obtained from the travel books written by Paul of Aleppo in the 1650s, Christians lived at the outer parts of the city. Comparing the geographical position of the city to that of Istanbul, the traveller describes the characteristics of the castle and its bastions. Explaining that the northern and southern bastions of the castle were raised against the sea, he tells there are big ditches at certain points on the land. He emphasises that this fortified structure of the castle is the same as that of Antakya Castle. Another important information that Paul provides about Sinop is about the non-Muslims living in the city. Christians lived outside the bastions of Sinop castle. It was easy and safe for Christians to live in Sinop. Paying a certain amount of tax to Turks, Christians had seven churches for worshiping. Very few Armenians lived in Sinop and they were poor as they almost had no source of income.[4]

According to the information provided by the traveller Charles Texier, who visited Sinop in the 1850s, the city was a frequent destination for the steamships that sailed in the Black Sea. As in past periods, it was covered by forests and its soil was sufficiently fertile. Alhtough it possessed all the characteristics desirable by merchants, the city did not have a large population anymore. According to Texier, bonito fishing, that was well known and abundant in Sinop, was not anymore as fruitful as it had been before.[5]


[1] Ebû Abdullah Muhammed İbn Battûta Tancî, İbn Battutâ Seyahatnamesi I, Çeviren: A. Sait Aykut, İstanbul 2000, pp.442-444.

[2] Evliya Çelebi bin Derviş Mehemmed Zılli, Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnamesi, Hazırlayanlar: Zekeriya Kurşun vd., İstanbul 1999, pp.43-44.

[3] Kâtip Çelebi, Kitâb-ı Cihannûma, İstanbul 2008, pp.645-652.

[4] Süreyya Eroğlu, A. Alev Direr Akhan, Seyahatnamelerde Sinop, Atatürk Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi, Sayı:17-1, Erzurum 2013, pp.263-264.

[5] Charles Texier, Küçük Asya Coğrafyası, Tarihi ve Arkeolojisi, Çeviren Ali Suat, Cilt:3, Ankara 2002, p.210.