Since 2006, every April Istanbul hosts International Tulip Festival. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality plants millions of tulips in the city’s public grounds, concerts & art exhibitions are organized and a photography competition for “Best Tulip” is held.

Some might say, “Wait a minute! Holland is the country of tulips. What has tulip got to do with Istanbul or Turkey?”. Well, let’s take a glimpse of history.

Dare to be different

Tulip (or Tulipa) can be found in Europe, Africa and Asia, but its native land is unknown. Some sources say it has come from Central Asia. It was the Seljuk Turks who introduced tulips to Anatolia in 11th Century. Commercial cultivation of this beautiful flower began in the Ottoman Empire. Tulip was introduced to Europe in 16th century and it got very popular there. In fact, it got so popular, that in 1630’s so called Tulip Mania erupted in The Netherlands. Rare tulip bulbs exchanged hands for unbelievable amounts of money and sometimes with clothes or even food. Tulip’s association with Holland comes from that time.

An Ottoman era miniature painting. Credit:

Roughly a century later, between 1718 and 1730, Ottoman Empire had a time called Tulip Period or Tulip Era. It was a peaceful and wealthy era which triggered the Ottoman Renaissance. Tulip became the inspiration and topic of many Ottoman paintings, calligraphies, songs and poems in that era. It was that time the tulip became one of the traditional symbols of Istanbul. It should also be noted, that tulip borrows its name from Turban, from its resemblance to this headdress.


Today tulip is still inspires Turkish musicians and artists and appreciated by Turks for its beauty. Lale (Tulip) is also a favourite female name in Turkey. Tulip motif can be seen in various items concerning Turkey. Perhaps the best examples are the tulip motifs on the fuselage of the Turkish Airlines planes & on the logo of the official Turkey tourism portal GoTurkey.

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About the author

Sinan Yuzakli was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. He lived in London for a brief period and has also traveled to Western Europe, Republic of Korea and Indonesia. Now he lives with his family in Canada. Sinan has worked for Consumer Electronics focused magazines as Editor & Editor in Chief. He studied German, Latin and Russian during his education. He enjoys photography, rock music, classic cars, epic movies, comedy TV shows and Franco/Belgian comics.