Istanbul and the Ottoman Olfactory Heritage

Episode 363

hosted by Susanna Ferguson

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

What did Istanbul's Spice Bazaar smell like in Ottoman times? In this episode, we explore the historical smellscape of this iconic market space from its early history up to the present day. Through a story about Ottoman smells and their transformations in the twentieth century, we touch on the trade routes of exotic spices, Ottoman marketing practices, and the greener, more fragrant Istanbul that still lives in the memories of twentieth-century shopowners who spent their lives in and around the Bazaar. Finally, we consider how telling history through smell could change the way we think about the past and struggle to preserve it.

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios

Lauren Davis recently completed her PhD on sensory history and intangible heritage at Koç University in Istanbul. She is the curator of the travelling exhibition "Scent and the City," which explores Turkish history through smell and has been hosted by Koç University's ANAMED in Istanbul and the Erimtan Museum in Ankara.
Susanna Ferguson is a Ph.D. Candidate in Middle Eastern History at Columbia University. She is currently working on a dissertation entitled "Tracing Tarbiya: Women, Gender and Childrearing in Egypt and Lebanon, 1865-1939."


Episode No. 363
Release Date: 22 June 2018
Recording Location: Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, Istanbul
Audio editing by Susanna Ferguson
Music: Istanbuldan Ayva Gelir Nar Gelir - Azize Tozem and Sari Recep
Images and bibliography courtesy of Lauren Davis


Close-up of perfumed smoke.  Photograph copyright Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations.
Inside the Spice Market. Photograph by Anthony Haughey, part of the Smellscapes of Eminönü archive project.
Interactive Olfactory Map of Istanbul. Photo courtesy Michael Manross.

Select Bibliography

Davis, Lauren, and Lucienne Thys-Şenocak. "Heritage and Scent: Research and Exhibition of Istanbul's Changing Smellscapes." International Journal of Heritage Studies 23, no. 8: 723–41.

Bembibre, Cecilia, and Matija Strlič. "Smell of Heritage: A Framework for the Identification, Analysis and Archival of Historic Odours." Heritage Science 5 (April 7, 2017): 2.

Classen, Constance, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott. Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell. London: Routledge, 1994.

Ergin, Nina. "The Fragrance of the Divine: Ottoman Incense Burners and Their Context." The Art Bulletin 96, no. 1 (March 2014): 70–97.

Fahmy, Khaled. "An Olfactory Tale of Two Cities: Cairo in the Nineteenth Century." In Historians in Cairo: Essays in Honor of George Scanlon, edited by Jill Edwards, 155–187. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2002.

Henshaw, Victoria. Urban Smellscapes: Understanding and Designing City Smell Environments. Routledge, 2013.

Jenner, Mark S. R. "Follow Your Nose? Smell, Smelling, and Their Histories." The American Historical Review 116, no. 2 (January 2011): 335–51.

Kiechle, Melanie. "Navigating by Nose: Fresh Air, Stench Nuisance, and the Urban Environment, 1840–1880." Journal of Urban History 42, no. 4 (2016): 753–71.

 Reinarz, Jonathan. Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell. University of Illinois Press, 2014.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.