Istanbul is home to more than just such Turkish delights as köfte and manti. Visitors to Istanbul have the opportunity to visit a museum housing relics that allegedly belonged to key figures revered in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, including Moses, Abraham, and David.
Once the seat of government for the Ottoman Empire and the official residence of its sultan, Topkapı Palace is now a popular museum. The privy chambers of the palace are made up of four separate chambers, one of which — the Destimal Chamber — holds several relics which claim connection to figures important in all three Abrahamic religions.
The pot of Abraham himself, the staff of Moses, and the sword of David are all on display in the room, along with scrolls that were possibly John the Baptist’s and a turban said to have belonged to Joseph, son of Jacob. All of these figures are important figures in Islam as well as in Judaism and Christianity — though relics of Muhammad, whose footprints are also allegedly on display in this chamber, are naturally afforded particular devotion in the palace that once hosted the Ottoman Caliphate.
The legitimacy of these items is not as unlikely as one might think. At the height of its power, the Ottoman Empire had great wealth and resources, and other cities and institutions were known to give items of great value to the sultans.
The other three chambers house relics that are of exclusive importance to Islam, such as a piece of Mohammad’s tooth, a hair from his beard, his seal, a letter with his signature, and his standard, swords, and bow along with the swords of his companions and the keys to the Kaaba in Mecca.
These items are considered so sacred that historically even the Ottoman sultan and his family were permitted to visit the relics only once a year, on the 15th day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Today, all visitors can see these items, displayed under low lights for protection. It’s just one of the many reasons to visit Istanbul, to make no mention of its fantastic street food.