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Imaret in the Süleymaniye complex, Istanbul

Published June 11, 2019

One of the five pillars of the Muslim faith is zakat, or charity. This pubic soup kitchen, or imaret, was a way in which a patron could practice and display charity. The patron of this imaret was the Haseki Hürram Sultan, favorite consort and later wife of Süleyman I. She was one of only a few female patrons of Sinan. Though the imaret was used for charity, it also resulted in political gain for the Sultan and the Haseki Hürram Sultan; it was a visual display of power, emphasizing a connection between the imperial household and the people.  Each day meals were cooked and served to the poor, free of charge; the kitchen could produce some 500 meals, twice a day.  It features  two ovens, and multiple chimneys located on top of the domes, for ventilation of smoke..

Socio-economic class dictated who could eat, what food they received, and the order in which they ate. In this particular imaret, there were regulations on the removal of food from the complex–.only certain people can take food home. Soup and bread were served daily, and special meals were provided during the holidays.

By Janet Diaz, Kara McQueeney, and Rachel Smith