Life in Turkey

The Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul, Mysterious and Enigmatic

I’ll tell you how I discovered the story of the Kız Kulesi or Maiden’s Tower, a mysterious and enigmatic place located at the entrance to the Bosporus, in the Üsküdar district, in Istanbul.

Discover the Maiden’s Tower (kiz kulesi)

“Dad, there is an island in the middle of the Bosporus, can you see it? Dad there is also a tower, look … it looks like a lighthouse! Like the one in Alexandria! Or maybe it’s a tower… dad what’s the name of that place? That place so close to Üsküdar but forever isolated, is called Kız Kulesi. Many know it as the Maiden’s Tower.

Today you can go there to eat in a restaurant or to sip a drink in the cafe. But what a mysterious place it appears to be when our eyes fall upon it in Üsküdar, an authentic district of Istanbul on the east bank.

I was both amazed and intrigued by the beauty of the structure. Why was there a tower on this islet off the district? Who had built it? And why? A thousand-year-old city, I knew right away that there would be stories and legends around the Leandro tower that I have always known as Kız Kulesi. My father did not know anything about the legends of the tower, so he replied with a wink, saying, “As soon as you find out, tell me!”

My ever-curious nature, first as a child, then a teenager and even as an adult, has always pushed me to discover and seek answers. As a lover of history, I couldn’t help but know more. I was a teenager, so who could I ask? My choice was almost always my maternal uncle, an engineer and well-educated man, but unfortunately, he was always busy.

So I decided to disturb him anyway. Without too many scruples, I was the French granddaughter he saw only a few times a year and therefore, he could not refuse my request. I have to think that he had no choice anyway.

He was an avid fan of Queen, a group which I also liked. I used this advantage to bring him closer. In those days, listening to “foreign” rock music was rarer than today; instead, everyone listened to Muslim Gurses, Muazzez Abaci, Sezen Aksu, Zulfu Livaneli. Then, there were other pop singers like Mustafa Sandal, Levent Yuksel and many others, who also liked me a lot, but on that day, only Queen mattered.

I was at my grandmother’s house, in his room, which was usually an off-limit zone for everyone. I listened to Bohemian Rhapsody loud enough for him to hear as he walked up the stairs after a day’s work.

I heard him open the front door, but he took off his shoes at a faster pace than usual as he entered the room. Looking at me with wide eyes, he seemed surprised and perhaps a little angry, as if to say “what are you doing in my kingdom, get out now ”, but he said nothing, looking at me differently.

I was sitting on his couch with the Queen CD case in my hand and I said “Hi Uncle! Did you know that I love Queen? This song is my favourite. He was amused by my arrogance and he asked me “Why, do you know others?”, As if to test me and get me out. I got up and proudly told him “Sure”! The show must go one! I want to break free … “, he remained a few seconds to observe me, perhaps I had displaced him a little.

Walking around his tiny room that he was so protective of, I added “Did you know that in reality his name is not Freddy but Faruk, and he was born in Zanzibar to a Persian family?” It was the coup de grace, I don’t know if he actually knew it, but in the meantime, I got into Freddy Mercury’s songs, thanks to him.

He started showing me his Police cd and maybe something from Genesis. I took the opportunity to tell him that a few days earlier, from afar, I had noticed Leandro’s tower.  I absently said it would be right to take a better look around the city and discover it properly.

“You were born and raised in France, but if you really want to make your way in life, you’ll need to know from where you come from.  Of course, Istanbul is not your hometown but discovering it and getting to know it will help you understand the history of your country of origin”. (If you want to know more click on this link

As for my uncle if only you can tell me something more about this tower … so much effort I had to make to get an answer to a simple question!

“Maybe it’s a place that was used to lock up curious young girls! Perhaps frightened parents locked up their daughters who had too much desire for freedom! He laughed and added “Legend says that every night, the young Leandro swam to his beloved Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite who prayed to her goddess on the tiny island”.

Hero, at night, helped her lover by placing herself on the top floor of the tower with a torch in her hand to help him reach her. One night, things did not go as they should. The girl’s torch, due to the strong winds, was extinguished. The young man, swimming without the light of his beloved, got lost at sea and drowned. The next morning, Hero saw the body of her beloved her on the beach and in desperation, she leapt from the tower and died.