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Ottoman Traveller rides the London Underground

By Raheel Mohammed

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A film about a 17th century Ottoman traveller, Evliya Celebi, has been chosen to lift the spirits of Londoners during the bleak month of January as part of a new creative campaign  - www.smileforlondon.com

The film which was part of our exhibition – www.thebookoftravels.org will be shown at major London underground stations from Januray 17 – 28. The film-maker, Suki Chan, manages to transport the viewer back to 17th century Istanbul with its magnificent architecture and domes which house hundreds of years of shared history between Islam and Europe.

The Museum of London will also be hosting the film with 15 others in their foyer and admission is free.

Evliya Celebi was a world traveller, a story-teller, a man of letters, a Muslim, a soldier, a musician, and a global citizen. To commemorate the 400 year anniversary of his birth this year Unesco  is celebrating his life and his ten-volume book, Seyahatname – the Book of Travels.

London has always had a special relationship with the Ottoman Empire socially, culturally and financially  literally shaping the city’s tastes and the future development of the country.

A document of the time lists major imports to England:

"The commodities they bringe from those partes are all sortes of Spices, Rawe Silke, Appoticarie drugs, India blewe, and Cotton Woll, as also yarne and cloaths made thereof, Galles, Currants, Sweet Oyle, Sope, Quiltes, Carpete and divers other commodities."

One contemporary commentator reckoned that between 1590 and 1630 the number of people working in the city and suburbs of London alone who were employed in the "winding and twisting only of forraign raw silk" rose from 300 to "over fourteen thousand souls".