Sun. Mar 29th, 2020

Evliya Çelebi, the type we would like to be in times of coronavirus

He was born four centuries ago, but the life of this traveler from the Ottoman Empire invites to dream from confinement

Every day we spend locked up means there is one less left to leave the den. But it is also a new day in which the imagination goes through the roof, through any gap outside the four walls. For those places that we saw one day without giving it too much importance and that now, through the screens, are impossible to feel. In those, Evliya Çelebi’s birthday seems even more idyllic than ever. Despite being born on this day in 1611, in the Istanbul of the Ottoman Empire, the good man moved through Europe and the Middle East as if Interrail or Ryanair were at their peak.

Coming from a family of jewelers, Çelebi was always a devoted Muslim, although opposed to fanaticism. It was said that he was able to recite the Koran from memory and that he joked about Islam. He studied vocal and instrumental music with a famous dervish, Umar Gulshani, and his musical gifts earned him the favor of the palace. He also served as a clergyman and actor in the court of Sultan Murad IV, but always on one condition: that he not be prevented from traveling..

It is in these displacements where our long teeth are put today. Çelebi, whom Orhan Pamuk quotes in “The White Castle” (Debolsillo)He began by telling what he saw in Istanbul, markets, traditions, streets, buildings … But soon he decided that what he wanted to tell was out of there. He wanted to know what was happening beyond those limits and he ventured to know the world, from Syria to Rotterdam, as he collected in his work “Seyahatname”, ten volumes written in a mixture of vernacular and Turkish lenuas in which he compiled the notes of his travels . A reference to today to understand life in the Empire and where it happened in that seventeenth century: from Istanbul to Crete, Azerbaijan, Crete, Syria, Palestine, Armenia, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Hungary, Austria, Crimea, Mecca, Egypt …


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