To the east of the Selimiye area of Üsküdar is the very peaceful Karacaahmet Mezarlığı. This cemetery is the oldest and largest Ottoman burial ground in Istanbul, founded in the mid-1300s. Over a million people have been buried there.
Scattered among the modern graves are historical Ottoman tombs. They’re marked with Ottoman Turkish script using Arabic characters.
Each Ottoman tombstone tells an important story about the person buried in the tomb. Firstly, tombstones indicated gender. Those of women were decorated with flowers, with a rose for each child the woman had given birth to. The tombstones of men indicated their rank and social status, which was known by the shape and size of the turban. Over time, the style of the tombstones changed. In the later Ottoman period, the name and title of the person, their father’s name, social status, and date of death were written directly on the tombstone.
At the north entrance of the cemetery is the Şakirin Camii, a very modern mosque built in 2009. It’s worth popping into for the innovative interior. I visited this mosque during prayers and sat against the back wall. After prayers, I was welcomed with a smile and a box of lokum and candy from the caretaker and was thanked for visiting. It was a heartwarming experience, especially when compared to mosques in Morocco where I was angrily turned away.
Just outside the cemetery is the tomb of Karaca Ahmet, an Ottoman warrior who died during the Ottoman conquest of Chalcedon (modern day Kadıköy) and Chrysopolis/Skoutarion (modern day Üsküdar) in the 14th century. He’s regarded as a saint in the Alevi sect of Islam. A small mosque bearing his name sits across the street from the tomb.
The 3TL admission fee to enter the tomb allows visitors to see Karaca Ahmet’s sarcophagus draped in green along with his cloak sitting inside a glass case.
Near the tomb is a small wooden mosque that I found interesting – although it probably has no historical significance whatsoever – the Ahcıbaşı Camii.