It’s Tulip Time! 5 Facts about Turkey & Tulips

It’s Tulip Time! Every year in April the Istanbul Municipality hosts the International Tulip (Lale) Festival – all over the city tulips provide brilliant splashes of colour in parks, in the grounds of palaces, in the middle of roundabouts – basically anywhere there is spare grass.  It’s a great way to celebrate spring, and in honour of the Tulip Festival, here are 5 fast facts about tulips and Turkey.

  1. Most people believe that tulips originated in Holland, but in fact they originated from Turkey. Tulips original grew wild on the Asian plains, however it was the Ottomans who began to cultivate them commercially, and it is as a result of this that they made their way to Europe – specifically Holland. They became so popular, that “Tulipmania” broke out… Yes folks, it was a real thing.  
  2. 14, 420, 000 tulips of nearly 200 different varieties of tulip have been planted for the Istanbul Tulip Festival which will run throughout April 2015. Yes, you read that correctly – over 14 million tulips have been planted for this ytulipfestivalear’s tulip festival!  The Istanbul Municipality plants them in parks all over the city and lots of concerts and exhibitions are held in conjunction with it.  Istanbul will host photography competitions, ebru (marbling) exhibitions, calligraphy demonstrations and even a football tournament in conjunction with the Tulip Festival.
  3. In Ottoman times tulips were considered to be divine, or the flower of God – partly because of their perfection and beauty, and also because when the Turkish word for tulip, ‘lale’ is written in Arabic letters it looks very much like the word Allah.
  4. There was a period in Turkey’s history known as the “Tulip Period”. The tulip period spanned from 21 July 1718, the date when the Treaty of Passarowitz, a peace treaty Tulips painted on ceramic dishesbetween the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Republic of Venice was signed, to 28 September 1730 when the Patrona Halil Revolt occurred. This was a mob uprising in 1730 which saw Ottoman Sultan Ahmed III replaced with Mahmud I and heralded the end of the Tulip Period.  Cultivating tulips became a much prized practice among the upper echelons of Ottoman Society and is said to be one of the first examples of modern consumer culture as tulips signified nobility and privilege both in terms of wealth and leisure time.  During this time Turkey started to orient itself towards Europe and focused more on the arts and commerce.  Tulips featured heavily in all of the artwork of this period – tulips were embroidered or embossed into textiles, woven into carpets, painted on tiles and other ceramic products, and painted on miniatures. 
  5. Tulips continue to inspire people in Turkey today and the tulip motif can be found in the most surprising of places. Turkey has an official tourism logo thywhich has a tulip as part of the design.  Turkish Airlines planes sport a tulip over the fuselage. When you visit Turkey, look carefully and you may be surprised at just how many places you will spot a tulip design.



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