Breathe in del­i­cate per­fumes of Ot­toman era

Turk­ish fra­grance cul­ture will come uner the spot­light at a panel ses­sion ti­tled, ‘Fra­grance Cul­ture in Turkey’ set to be held on Sept. 16 at the Yunus Emre In­sti­tute in Cologne. The event will fo­cus on key de­tails of fra­grance cul­ture dur­ing the Ot­toman

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - DENİZ RENKVEREN - IS­TAN­BUL

PER­FUMES and fra­grances are more than just beau­ti­ful scents; they are com­posed of mem­o­ries and emo­tions far apart from their chem­i­cal com­po­nents. As the power of per­fume was rec­og­nized by na­tions thou­sands of years ago, ev­ery cul­ture gives dif­fer­ent at­tributes to unique per­fumes and fra­grances.

As Ne­jat Yen­türk stated in his ar­ti­cle ti­tled, “Per­fumes in the Ot­toman World” (“Os­manlı Dünyası’nda Par­füm­ler”) for the monthly his­tory magazine “Tarih,” the French artist Pre­tex­tat Le­comte who lived in Is­tan­bul dur­ing the reign of Ot­toman Sul­tan Ab­dül­hamid II once said that beau­ti­ful per­fume is “a lux­ury for the West but a must for the East.”

For east­ern cul­tures, beau­ti­ful scents are the best ways to see the world in the most op­ti­mal man­ner pos­si­ble. Thanks to the ha­diths of Prophet Muham­mad on the im­por­tance of pleas­ant scents, fine fra­grances be­came an es­sen­tial part of daily life in Mus­lim cul­ture.

Beau­ti­ful scents were used across a wide are of civ­i­liza­tions be­fore Is­lam such as the Sume­ri­ans, Baby­lo­ni­ans, Urartu, the an­cient Greeks and the Ro­man Em­pire. Con­sid­er­ing the fact that nearly all these civ­i­liza­tions were ei­ther founded on or had ties with Ana­to­lia, it can be said that Turkey is a cra­dle of the per­fume in­dus­try and plays a very big role in to­day’s per­fume and cos­metic in­dus­try.

Over time, fine scents be­came ir­re­place­able in some re­li­gious cer­e­monies and prac­tices in the East as they awaken pos­i­tive feel­ings and give in­spi­ra­tion. How­ever, the Western con­cept of fra­grance and per­fume was quite dif­fer­ent from that of East­ern cul­ture. Back in the day, bathing wasn’t a daily rou­tine for Western­ers: Fine scents were used to cam­ou­flage bad smells.

Euro­peans started to use fine scents for liv­ing spa­ces af­ter their trav­el­ers ex­pe­ri­enced var­i­ous meth­ods of fra­grance us­age in the Ot­tomans “buhur suyu” (a type of fra­grance wa­ter used by the Ot­tomans), rose wa­ter and a wide ar­ray of fra­grances ex­tracted from flow­ers or fruits or sub­stances like amber and musk. Af­ter the West­ern­iza­tion pe­riod of the 19th cen­tury, most Ot­tomans aban­doned tra­di­tional beauty prod­ucts.

In mod­ern days, most peo­ple have health prob­lems due to syn­thetic in­gre­di­ents used in per­fumes. Hence, an­cient per­fumery tra­di­tions such as the fra­grance cul­ture in Turkey are re­gain­ing the rep­u­ta­tion they have been much de­nied, not only in the East but also in the West.


The Yunus Emre In­sti­tute’s Cologne of­fice is set to hold a panel ses­sion on Turk­ish per­fume and fra­grance cul­ture on Sept. 16 at 06:15 p.m. Dur­ing the panel, which will also mark the 20th an­niver­sary of the Sis­ter City Treat­ment signed be­tween Is­tan­bul and Cologne, the Ot­toman and Turk­ish fra­grance cul­ture and his­tory of the eau de cologne will be brought to light.

The panel ti­tled, “Fra­grance Cul­ture in Turkey and Ger­many” is to open with key­note speaker, so­ci­ol­o­gist and per­fume de­signer Bi­hter Turkan Ergül, who will give an en­light­en­ing pre­sen­ta­tion about per­fume cul­ture in the Ot­toman Em­pire. Ergül, who ap­plied to UNESCO with the re­quest that World Per­fume Day be cel­e­brated ev­ery year on June 25, will talk about the eco­nomic and cul­tural as­pects of fra­grance us­age in Ot­toman era, the di­ver­sity of ar­ti­sans who sold fra­grance, fra­grance us­age meth­ods in ev­ery­day life and in cer­e­monies such as “Hırka-i Şerif Alayı” (“Pro­ces­sion of Prophet Muham­mad’s Cloak”), fra­grance us­age in dif­fer­ent seg­ments of so­ci­ety and in the Ot­toman palace. Ergül will also talk about the in­tro­duc­tion of Euro­pean-style per­fumes that in­cluded al­co­hol dur­ing the mod­ern­iza­tion process of the Ot­toman Em­pire which kicked off with the Tanz­i­mat pe­riod. Dr. Ul­rich Soe­nius will also make a pre­sen­ta­tion about the his­tory of “Eau de Cologne.” He will talk about the ad­ven­ture of “köl­nisch wasser” which be­came fa­mous as eau de cologne af­ter it be­came popular in France. The panel is free of charge and open to the pub­lic.


“Three things should not be re­fused: Pil­lows, fra­grances (“itr-oil”) and milk.” This is one of the ha­diths that refers to the im­por­tance of fine scents and fra­grance. Prophet Muham­mad used fra­grances that smell beau­ti­fully, such as musk and amber. Muham­mad praised those who use fine scents in their daily lives and en­cour­aged peo­ple to use fra­grance be­fore Fri­day prayers. In the house of Prophet Muham­mad, pleas­ant fra­grances in­clud­ing musk, amber, oud and cam­phor were al­ways used. Hence, it is no sur­prise that fine per­fumes and fra­grances have an im­por­tant place in ev­ery­day life in the Mus- lim world. They were used not only for the body but also for cer­e­monies such as wed­dings, Eid, funer­als and re­li­gious rit­u­als as well as med­i­cal treat­ments. Rose wa­ter and “buhur suyu” were of­fered to guests. Ot­toman sul­tans used dif­fer­ent per­fumes for cer­e­monies or re­li­gious rit­u­als. There were also prod­ucts like jas­mine wa­ter and amber wa­ter and “galiyes” or “ka­lyes” which were in paste form and in­cluded in liq­uid forms of musk and amber. In the Ot­toman palace, per­fumes were man­u­fac­tured in “hal­va­hane” where desserts and soaps were also pro­duced.


At the be­gin­ning of the 19th cen­tury in Ot­toman so­ci­ety, new cos­metic prod­ucts be­gan to take the place of tra­di­tional beauty prod­ucts. Dur­ing the reign of Sul­tan Ab­dülaziz, rose oil was quite fash­ion­able, how­ever, by the end of the cen­tury, the Ot­toman fam­i­lies who vis­ited Europe brought Western-style per­fumes to the Ot­toman lands. Ay­bala Yen­türk wrote in her ar­ti­cle ti­tled, “First Lo­cal Per­fumer Which Pro­duced Euro­pean Style” (“Avrupa Tarzi Üre­tim Ya­pan İlk Yerli Par­fümer”) for Tarih’s De­cem­ber 2015 is­sue that Eau de Lubin, Vivitz, Flo­ramye, Safra­nor and Pom­peia were the per­fume brands that were first in­tro­duced to the Ot­toman so­ci­ety by no­ble Ot­toman fam­i­lies.


Ah­met Faruki, a mem­ber of a Mus­lim, Egyp­tian fam­ily, opened the first Ot­toman cos­metic shop in Sul­tan Ha­mamı, Eminönü, be­com­ing the founder of the cos­metic in­dus­try of the Ot­toman Em­pire. With the sup­port of Sul­tan Ab­dül­hamid II, Faruki had the power to com­pete with for­eign shops in Galata, Pera and Frenk Street in İzmir. “Echt Köl­nisch Wasser” pro- duced in Ger­many’s Cologne in­tro­duced into Ot­toman ter­ri­to­ries as “Köln Suyu” (“Wa­ter of Cologne”), and then its French trans­la­tion “Eau de Cologne” pre­ferred with the im­port of French colognes, Turk­ish peo­ple pre­ferred to use kolonya (cologne) for this prod­uct. Sul­tan Ab­dül­hamid II showed great in­ter­est in the eau de cologne and en­cour­aged Faruki to make new cologne types that were unique to Turk­ish cul­ture. In his ar­ti­cle “Ot­toman Per­fumes” fea­tured in the book ti­tled, “Sa­cred In­cense to Fragrant Elixir: Per­fume” Ne­jat Yen­türk says: “Fol­low­ing the free trade agree­ments signed with the Euro­pean pow­ers from 1838-1841, im­port du­ties were re­duced from 12 per­cent to 3 per­cent,” aim­ing to in­tro­duce Euro­pean per­fumes to lo­cal per­fume de­sign­ers and to en­cour­age lo­cal pro­duc­tion.


Ah­met Faruki de­vel­oped new kinds of eau de cologne with rose, laven­der and jas­mine and these new colognes be­came highly popular in the Ot­toman Em­pire as well as in Europe. These new types out­pointed eau de cologne with lemon com­ing from Europe. As Faruki ex­ported Turk­ish colognes to Europe, there was a mas­sive de­mand for Faruki’s prod­ucts from In­dia, Iran, the Bata­vian Repub­lic and Ja­pan, and shop­ping at his store was a very im­por­tant part of wed­ding prepa­ra­tions. Faruki was writ­ing for news­pa­pers to en­cour­age lo­cal busi­ness­man and to pro­mote the con­sump­tion of lo­cal prod­ucts. Ac­cord­ing to Yen­türk, with the cheap im­ports “a new type of con­sumer was cre­ated and Ot­toman women aban­doned tra­di­tion ideas of beauty.” How­ever, Faruki opened a new av­enue for pro­mot­ing new Turk­ish per­fume and cos­metic brands, gain­ing pres­tige and mak­ing a tremen­dous im­pact on the Ot­toman Em­pire, Turkey and the en­tire world.

Fra­grence ex­pert Bi­hter Türkan Ergül’s re­pro­duc­tion of the 17th cen­tury Ot­toman per­fume “Asr-ı Saadet.”

Div­ina, one of the first Euro­pean per­fumes in­tro­duced in the Ot­toman Em­pire.

An ad­ver­tise­ment poster for Ah­met Faruki’s per­fume and fra­grance shop.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey

© PressReader. All rights reserved.