Throughout the history, tulips have been a symbol of Istanbul. These flowers have a major role in Turkish arts and culture. Originally grew wild on the Asian steppes, unlike the common beliefs, the cultivation of tulips began in the Ottoman Empire. Called “lale” in Turkish, tulips even gave its name to a period in Ottoman Era. Lale Devri, The Tulip Era, was the wealthiest period of Ottoman Empire.
The word tulip in English comes from French word “tulipe”. This word comes to French from Ottoman Turkish tülbend which means muslin or “gauze. It’s said that the Austria Ambassador Busbecq, confused the flower with the turban and introduced this unknown flower to Europe as tulipe.
Tulips that associated with Holland today, were brought to the country from Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. In the Ottoman Empire, there were more than 1,800 tulip species and each had its special name in Ottoman Turkish.
As a tribute to the past, a festival is held during April in Istanbul called the annual International Istanbul Tulip Festival (Istanbul Lale Festivali). Every April since 2006, the city government in Istanbul has planted millions of colorful tulips in Istanbul’s parks, avenues, squares, traffic roundabouts and basically, everywhere.
The 8th International Istanbul Tulip Festival took place on April 1-30, 2013. This year over 14.4 million tulips of 270 different varieties have been planted throughout Istanbul, especially at Gülhane and Göztepe Parks, Emirgan, Yıldız, Beykoz, Çamlıca, Fethipaşa and Hidiv & Çubuklu Groves.
The festival is not only about planting tulips. Emirgan Groves, Göztepe Park and Sultanahmet Square hosts various activities such as live music, painting, marbling and glass blowing performances, painting, sculpture and photo exhibitions. During the festival various tulip species and tulip-themed products are for sale for those who can’t get enough of these colorful beauties.