Name of Object:

Süleymaniye waterway map


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

Hegira second half of the 12th century / AD 18th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Paper, ink, coloured paints.


Length 2572 cm, width 30 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The Süleymaniye waterway map is handmade on unfinished paper. The waterway was designed to supply water to the entire complex of the mosque, including its imaret (soup-kitchen), maristan (hospital), maktab (school) and public fountains. Fed by the Aypah (Kirazlı) and çınar springs, the highest-capacity branches of the Halkalı water supply system, this waterway supplied the Süleymaniye Complex as well as 80 other points in Istanbul. The map shows the waterway in detail from its source all the way to its end, including the places where it is joined by other waterways, the points where it enters the city through the walls, and especially the water-distribution centres and aqueducts.

The map was prepared without a scale and has a schematic style. Therefore, many structures and neighbourhoods cannot be precisely placed. At the far end of the map there is the drawing of the Süleymaniye Complex.

Such waterway maps tell the story of water from springs being conveyed via pipes, crossing valleys in aqueducts, its pressure adjusted at certain points, being sent off in various directions at distribution centres and reaching public fountains. These maps also provide information about the urban structure; how people lived, and the infrastructure and buildings in a given quarter. For example, the Roman Aqueduct of Valens (AD 375), known as Bozdoğan Aqueduct in Turkish is introduced as 'the big aqueduct in the Horse Market'. The names of the people and the structures receiving water from this aqueduct are also given. The water of the Halkalı network could be distributed to private estates only on the written permission of the sultan. For instance, we find the house of Süleyman the Magnificent's dentist, Moshe Hamon, (AH 899–962 / AD 1490–1554) listed as 'House of Hamudoğlu'.

From the Süleymaniye Complex waterway map, we learn not only how the water was brought to the city but also about the quarters where the courtiers and dignitaries resided. Therefore, the waterway maps are important for describing the social topography of the city.

View Short Description

Istanbul has always suffered from water shortage due to a lack of sufficient springs nearby and its demand was met by conveying water via aqueducts from afar. Waterway maps provide information about the routes from the springs to the city, monuments on the way and the social structure of the city.

How date and origin were established:

Although the map does not have a date it is clear from the names of people and structures therein that this is an 18th-century document. For example, it is known that water was supplied to Taygun Palace in 1161 / 1748, a building shown on this map; therefore, this map must have been prepared after 1161 / 1748.

How Object was obtained:

The map was transferred to the museum in 1923 from the Directorate of Supplies for Pious Foundations.

How provenance was established:

The map does not bear any date. However, that our copy is an 18th copy is clear from the names of people and structures given therein. For example, it is known that water was supplied to Taygun Palace in 1161 / 1748, a building shown on our map; therefore, this map must have been prepared after 1161 / 1748. Public services such as the water supply were under the supervision of the state and due to this fact the waterway would have been designed and constructed by the official architects of the Topkapı Palace.

Selected bibliography:

Aksoy, Ş., “İstanbul'un Suyolları (Waterways of Istanbul)”, P Dergisi (P Magazine), 22 (Summer 2001), pp.17–29.

çeçen, K., Süleymaniye Suyolları (Süleymaniye Waterways), Istanbul, 1986.

çeçen, K., Halkalı Suları (Halkalı Water Supply System), Istanbul, 1991.

Yerasimos, S., Soliman le Magnifique, Paris, 1999, cat. no. 323.

Citation of this web page:

Şule Aksoy "Süleymaniye waterway map" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tr;Mus01;46;en

Prepared by: Şule AksoyŞule Aksoy

Şule Aksoy is Vice Director of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. She was born in Istanbul in 1947. She graduated from the Department of History and Art History of the Faculty of Letters, Istanbul University in 1970. She has been working at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul since 1967, first as an expert, then as the Head of the Manuscripts Department until 2003, when she became Vice Director. She has participated in numerous projects and exhibitions organised by the museum and is the author of various publications.

Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
, İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu

İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.

Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TR 75


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

MWNF Galleries

Prints and drawings


As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)