Evliya Çelebi

Evliya Çelebi

Mehmed Zilli (1611–1682), known as Evliya Çelebi, was an Ottoman explorer who travelled through the territory of the Ottoman Empire and neighboring lands over a period of forty years, recording his commentary in a travelogue called the Seyahatname ("Book of Travel"). The name Çelebi is an honorific title meaning gentleman (see pre-1934 Turkish naming conventions).

Evliya Çelebi was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1611 to a wealthy family from Kütahya. Both his parents were attached to the Ottoman court, his father, Derviş Mehmed Zilli, as a jeweller, and his mother as an Abkhazian relation of the grand vizier Melek Ahmed Pasha. In his book, Evliya Çelebi traces his paternal genealogy back to Khoja Akhmet Yassawi, an early Sufi mystic. Evliya Çelebi received a court education from the Imperial ulama (scholars). He may have joined the Gulshani Sufi order, as he shows an intimate knowledge of their khanqah in Cairo, and a graffito exists in which he referred to himself as Evliya-yı Gülşenî ("Evliya of the Gülşenî").

A devout Muslim opposed to fanaticism, Evliya could recite the Quran from memory and joked freely about Islam. Though employed as clergy and entertainer to the Ottoman grandees, Evliya refused employment that would keep him from travelling. His journal writing began in Constantinople, taking notes on buildings, markets, customs and culture, and in 1640 it was extended with accounts of his travels beyond the confines of the city. The collected notes of his travels form a ten-volume work called the Seyahatname ("Travelogue").

He fought the House of Habsburg in Principality of Transylvania.

Evliya Çelebi died in 1684, it is unclear whether he was in Constantinople or Cairo at the time.


The Book of Travels
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The Book of Travels

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