Turkish luxury property booming on the Bosphorus
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There are only a few hundred left from the period between the 17th and early 20th centuries when they were owned by Ottoman princes, sultans and aristocrats.
They line both sides of the 30 kilometre Bosphorus strait that divides Asia and Europe.
They are crafted in opulent styles such as Ottoman, Art Nouveau, Neo Baroque or Neoclassical, according to the period in which they were built.
Around 200 are considered historical landmarks, and according to the local heritage regulations the owners must keep their original design and interior decorations.
That means a continuous and expensive maintenance for these fragile luxuries.
A retired media owner, Mustafa �zkan, bought his 19th-century "yali" in 1979 and renovated it.
He says that he missed the seaside, as he was born in the coastal city of Mersin.
The �zkans are some of the few owners who live permanently in their "yali", which is decorated with original furniture and an impressive art collection, one of the family passions for the last four decades.
"I am very happy to live here," says �zkan. "The seaside, Istanbul and life in the Bosphorus are wonderful".
His wife, Cevahir �zkan, says: "There is not a better place in the world than the Bosphorus".
The architect of this project, Cafer Bozkurt, is an established "yali" renovator.
He is a member of the Historical Heritage Committee in Istanbul and specialises in restoring historical buildings.
Bozkurt is especially proud of the �zkan Yali renovation, which took more than two years in the early 1980s and was based on old measured drawings, ruins and photographs.
A specially built quay protects the mansion from vibrations caused by traffic along the river.
He says that although originally these mansions were summer residences, today many are adapted for the winter.
Since the mid-1970s, there has been a ban on building houses along the Bosphorus, so the rarity of these mansions has increased their market value.
The architect considers "yali" as a part of the cultural value of the Bosphorus, so, he says, they shouldn't be object of speculative or commercial interests.
Jessica Tamt�rk, a Belgian-born, California-raised writer, is the owner of one of these "yali" through her marriage to a Turkish businessman who inherited the property.
The Fazil Bey, as it is called, is a pink 19th-century 'yali' on the Asian side of the river. It is rented to foreign tenants.
Tamt�rk says that, according to regulations, for a "yali" to be considered a landmark it must have a direct connection to history, be situated on the Bosphorus seafront, built in wood and have boat access.
She says that owning a "yali" is a status symbol across the Middle East; not only because of their value, but also because of the millions of dollars of maintenance involved.
"Now more and more Arabs are coming in and renting 'yalis' for the summer, as our forefathers used to do 70 years ago, because these houses were used as summer residences", says Tamt�rk.
According to real estate sources, the two most powerful families in Turkey, the Sabanci and the Ko�, are competing to buy "yalis".
Until 2009, Sabanci family members have bought at least 17 yalis and the Ko� family has five.
The Embassy of Qatar is bidding to buy one of the biggest "yali" on the European side - the Sehzade Burhanettin Yali - for more than 100 million US dollars, the deal is expected to be completed soon.