Lifestyle of the Ottoman Empire

Life in the Ottoman Empire was a mixture of western and eastern life. One unique characteristic of Ottoman life style was it was very fragmented. The millet concept generated this fragmentation and enabled to coexist in a mosaic of cultures. The Capital of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople also had a unique culture, mainly because it lay on two continents.

Some of the basic social structures with Ottoman flavours can be summarized under items such as Coffeehouse, Hammam etc.


Socialization was a very important function in Turkish culture. Coffee shops were where people gathered and exchanged information. Coffee was an excuse to bring people together from different homes. The first coffeehouse was opened in 1473 in Istanbul, which was 20 years after the Fall of Constantinople.

With the extension of the Ottoman Empire, such as in the Middle East, since the 16th century, the coffeehouse (al-maqhah in Arabic qahveh-khaneh in Persian or kahvehane or kıraathane in Turkish) has served as a social gathering place where men assemble to drink coffee or tea, listen to music, read books, play chess and backgammon, perhaps hear a recitation from the works of Antar or from Shahnameh.


At the end of the 17th century, pashas, grand viziers and other distinguished citizens of Ottoman Istanbul began to build themselves elegant villas - yalis - along the shores of the Bosphorus. These served as summer residences, and the styles employed reflected their owners' prestige. Since then, the yalis that have been built have become larger and more elaborate, adopting Baroque, Art Nouveau and modern styles of architecture. Most of them still conform to a traditional plan, making maximum use of the waterfront and, inside, having a large sitting room surrounded by bedrooms.


Turkish baths were unique. They had played an important role in Ottoman culture, serving as places of social gathering, ritual cleansing and as architectural structures, institutions, and elements with special customs attached to them. After a long journey, cleaning at a bath was a requirement for every Turkish house. There was a separate water fountain for each patron.

Social Spaces

Social center


Government life

Economic Life


Farmers' Market

On special days farmers brought their production and present them to public. This tradition also extends to the Kurban Bayrami (ar:Eid ul-Adha tr:koor-BAHN bahy-rah-muh) where sheep, camels, etc. are sold instead of agricultural products.


See also: The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

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