Among all cities, Istanbul is quite unique. For Arabs, it is "Konstantiniyeh;" for Balkan peoples, it is "Chargyrat;" for Ottomans, it was the capital city. Being the only city that is divided by a strait, the history of Istanbul dates back to 6,000 B.C., according to the latest archaeological findings recently discovered during the building of the metro in Pendik. It is an ancient city that has been home to multiple civilizations stretching back into prehistory
When the Roman Empire was divided in two, Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. In 19th century Europe, Constantinople was pictured as one of the most valuable, aesthetic places on earth. Numerous travelers from Italy, France and Britian introduced orientalist studies that showed the wisdom, subtleties, aesthetics, morals, architecture, culture and exoticism of this legendary city to Europeans.
Constantinople was also the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Embracing and reshaping different cultures, Constantinople developed its own urban culture. Indeed, the greatest poets, architects – most notably Mimar Sinan – muralists, dancers, travelers and artisans of the 16th century came from this cosmopolitan culture.
The cultural wealth of Istanbul can also be seen in its cuisine. Different recipes from Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and Europe converged in the Ottoman palace. Such a cosmopolitan cuisine extended even to commoners.
A similar body of knowledge developed in the field of music. When Turkey, Greece and Ukraine successively won the Eurovision Song Contest, a Spanish musician argued that it was the Ottoman tradition of cosmopolitan music that was truly winning the competition.
In a similar vein, the greatest artists in the world desire to participate in projects related to Istanbul. Istanbul's new mayor, Mevlüt Uysal, is in charge of administering this internationally crucial city, which continues to be a center.
Alongside the natural, historical and culture wealth of Istanbul, the industrial revolution and the accompanying massive migrations from the country have turned the city into a megacity with serious problems.
Today, Istanbul has become one of the most populated cities on earth. Although overpopulation and irregular urbanization have become the city's main troubles, Istanbul continues to be beautiful due to its hilly topography. Indeed, Istanbul is a city on seven hills. Thus, the following issues are challenges for the administrative leaders of the city:
- While Istanbul is pressured by overpopulation, no serious measure seems to be taken by the administration of the city.
- Today, Istanbul seems to be a site of construction. While new buildings continue to be built, green zones in the city are shrinking.
- As the country's sole center of trade and business, Istanbul attracts domestic and foreign capital for investment, which exacerbates pressure on the city.
- Still, the technical capacities of Istanbul are beyond our imagination. Istanbul has some serious infrastructure in terms of water and sewage, natural gas, transportation and planning. Such an immense capacity makes the problems of the city less visible and perceivable in some parts.
- Before Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became mayor of Istanbul in 1994, academics were discussing the future of Istanbul as an unmanageable megacity like Mumbai, India. Since 1994, Istanbul has been a manageable city. Yet, if an administration as impotent as that of former Istanbul Mayor Nurettin Sözen aims to manage Istanbul, our megacity will easily become unmanageable in three years. Thus, the new administration of the city should concentrate on the population density problem by increasing living standards in Istanbul.