The Golden Horn (Halic) is Istanbul's natural harbour and one reason for its historical wealth and greatness.
Today the Golden Horn is densely settled on all sides and there are parks along each shore. The Istanbul Chamber of Commerce is located here. The Galata Bridge connects the districts of Galata and Eminonu. Surrounded by Byzantine city walls from the 5th century the Fener and Balat districts are also located near the Golden Horn. These were for centuries centres of Istanbul Greeks, Armenians and Jews. The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch has his residence here as well.
Today these districts are mostly inhabited by recent immigrants from Anatolia. Many houses are in urgent need of repair. From 2003 to 2007 the Rehabilitation of Fener and Balat Districts Programme, a joint programme of the European Union and Fatih Municipality was in force. A total of 7 Million Euros was provided by the European Union and a total of 87 houses and 33 shops in the historic market were renovated. Furthermore, 2 social centres were built and a range of social activities carried out. Likewise, a better waste collection system was established.
Due to the rapid population growth and industrialization following the 1950s the Golden Horn suffered from sewage problems and industrial waste. Some of the districts near the Golden Horn, including Kasimpasa, home to many migrants from the Black Sea area (including the family of the current prime minister of Turkey, Recep T. Erdogan), developed a rough reputation.
The Golden Horn. Photo: flickr/kozzmen
In the 1980s a much needed urban clean-up began. Polluting factories were closed. Former industrial sites are converted to new uses: one of the best examples is the new campus of Bilgi University, Santral. Other universities are located nearby, new parks and museums have been opened. It looks as if, after a glorious past and a difficult century, the Golden Horn can look forward to a bright future as one of the richest cultural landscapes of Istanbul.