If you stand on the terrace of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum and gaze across the Bosphorus, you’ll see a tall tower attached to Khedive Abbas Hilmi Pasha’s pavilion. This tower, the “Hidiv Kasrı” is one of several palatial buildings along the Bosphorus constructed by the late Khedive. The building, with their rose and tulip gardens, are all open to the public.
You might wonder, who is “Hidiv”? Hidiv, or Khedive in English, was a title given to the Ottoman governor of Egypt. The term was first used by Muhammad Ali Pasha, founder of the Khedival dynasty, an Albanian commander of an expeditionary force sent to Egypt by the Ottomans. The purpose of the expedition was to dislodge the French who had occupied Egypt under Napoleon. They succeeded, but defeat of the French led to a power vacuum in Egypt under Ottomans. Muhammed Ali Pasha increased his power and declared himself the Khedive of the Ottoman Sultan. Due to his many reforms, he is known as the ‘Father of Modern Egypt.’
The title ‘Khedive’ was officially recognized by Ottomans in 1867, and used subsequently by Ismail Pasha, and his dynastic successors until 1914. In this year the last Khedive, Abbas Hilmi Pasha, was dethroned by the British. He spent the rest of his life in different cities, Constantinople being one of them.
To begin his great construction projects, Abbas Hilmi Pasha bought two wooden waterside pavilion in the Çubuklu area in Beykoz, on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus. After a while he also bought the upper level of garden behind the villas. This area, situated on a hilltop within large grove looking over the Bosphorus, became his personal property, garnishing the Bosphorus with a beautiful pavilion. Italian architect Delfo Seminati, who is also known for designing the Büyükada Asaduyan House, was hired for the project in 1907. In accordance with the architectural fashion of that era, he built beautiful example of an art-nouveau style pavilion and a tower overlooking the Bosphorus.
The three level pavilion is located in a large 1000 m2 park. The Eastern facade is square, while the south and northwest sides are crescent-shaped. A beautiful fountain is located in the main entrance. Several rooms and halls are connected to each other on a circle plan, and there is a large hall on the ground floor with a fireplace. The upper floors contain two large bedrooms. One of the world’s very first elevators is a classic symbol of the villa, similar to the elevator in the Pera Palas Hotel. The pavilion’s interior is decorated with neo-classical, neo-Islamic and neo-Ottoman features. The capitals of the marble pillars, walls and ceilings are for example filled with these features. They are decorated with flowers, fruit and hunting animals, reflecting off of the European architecture. The outer gate of the building is covered in gilded flower figures. The most popular part of the complex is the tower, with its view over the Bosphorus and access to the terrace at the top by elevator or stairs. The tower was initially designed to be taller, but then-Sultan Abdülhamid didn’t give his permission fort his design, saying that the towers could not be taller than minarets of the many mosques in Istanbul. However, it’s said that the rose garden of thus residence is the largest in Istanbul.
As mentioned before, Abbas Hilmi Pasha desired to retake Egypt and Sudan. His last move was moving to Adolf Hitler’s Germany, with the hope of re-capturing Egypt and Sudan. When the war finally ended badly for Germany in 1945, Abbas Hilmi Pasha was left hopeless. He suffered from a heart attack in Geneva and passed away. While in Istanbul, Abbas Hilmi Pasha and his family used the pavilion as their residence .It was property of the pasha’s family until it was abandoned in 1937, when the Pavilion was purchased by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality for a symbolic price. Then, after having been abandoned for a long time, it was used by several movie makers as decor, before eventually Çelik Gülerson, an expert in restoration, took his caring hands to the Hidiv Pavilion in 1984. It was renovated and then opened as hotel, restaurant, and cafeteria. During 1990 the pavilion was restored once again, passing into Beltur’s hands in the process. Since 1996, the municipal educational, tourism and health investment company Beltur has been operating the Khedive’s Pavilion. It is now used as a restaurant and for recreation. Among the main attractions are the extremely low prices! Besides that, walking or running on the forest surrounded path is a great joy! A two-km long road, surrounded by a forest of trees, winds from the mansion to the shoreline, so you can walk or drive to the pavilion quite easily from Kanlıca, Çubuklu or from Kavacık, on the Asian side of the city.
If you are coming from European side, you’ll see a signboard – “Hidiv Kasrı” – at the turn to Kavacık, after you cross Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. You’ll see more of these signs and if you follow them you’ll reach the Khedive Pavilion. If you are coming from Asian side, take the road between Üsküdar – Beykoz, which may shows you a different side of Istanbul. You can stop at Kanlıca, eat special Kanlıca Yogurt (expensive at a cafe, a few steps further down there’s a small place sells it very cheaply). You can then follow the small path near the sea, which seems dangerous but really isn’t, and after three Turkish minutes, you’ll see stairs on the opposite side, up the small hill and finally you’ll reach “Hidiv Kasrı”.