An Ottoman palace
by Leon Jakimič
Dolmabahçe Palace, Visnezade Mahallesi, Dolmabahce Cd, Istanbul
The palace is set between the ports of Besiktas and Kabatas and overlooks the Bosphorus, in which the old Ottoman fleets used to anchor. You can arrive here either on foot, through the little cobbled streets, or by boat, on the glittering waters. Either way, it’s an impressive building – a testament to the opulent life of the Ottoman sultans and the power of their empire. Outside, it’s embellished with intricate white carvings. Inside, every centimeter is decorated with marble, gold and crystal. Built in the 19th century, it’s full of history. Because of my interest in crystal, I was particularly impressed by the world’s largest Bohemian chandelier, in the Ceremonial Hall, which was sent to Istanbul by Queen Victoria of England. It’s an extraordinary example of what can be made by master craftsmen. Of course it’s not the only beautiful thing: each room is different, whether it’s the harem – which was the Sultan’s private area – the study room, the alabaster baths or the throne room. The building is filled with references to other great nations: it was the intention of the Ottoman emperors to build a palace that would match the success of European emperors, culture and architecture. If you’re visiting, it’s also worth going to the neo-baroque Dolmabahçe Clock Tower, the Dolmabahçe Mosque and the Palace Collections Museum. But allow a few days: there’s so much culture and history, you could spend a lifetime here.
A tea shop in Chengdu
by Asa Eriksson-Ahuja
Yao Li Cha Shi, Tiexiangsi Road, Chengdu
This little tea house, located in the more commercial south side of Chengdu, is surrounded by modern structures that accentuate its more traditional architecture and materials. Even the entrance – a wooden porch with a thatched roof – makes you feel like you’re entering an ancient garden house. Step inside and you find an airy, Zen-like room, lit by rice-paper windows. The interiors are all tastefully decorated with potted trees, teapots, hanging calligraphy and fans. The owner wanted to create a space that honored the rich traditions of China’s tea-drinking culture, and he sells only premium-quality Chinese tea, as well as refined teaware and tea-serving garments from Japan. One of the best products sold here is a green tea called Meng-Ding Yan cha, found only in Sichuan province on the slopes of the Meng Mountain. My favorite place to drink it is the Japanese-style space on the third floor, sitting on a tatami mat. Before this shop opened in February 2017, there were only traditional Chinese-style tea houses in Chengdu. The combination of Chinese and Japanese elements in this new one makes it very special.
A compendium of global
treasures in New York
by Pippa Small
De Vera, 1 Crosby Street, New York
This store is in a part of Soho that’s forever changing – you might walk one block and it feels quite grimy, and the next it’s impossibly glamorous. It’s an area that’s always in a state of flux. From the outside, it’s pretty difficult to guess what it sells: it’s dark and unreadable, like a treasure box. Inside, it looks part cathedral, part museum and part eccentric collector’s home. It’s lined with 19th-century museum displays stocked with pieces from around the world. There’s Catholic iconography and kitsch Japanese ceramics, found objects, architectural details, little boxes, curiosity cabinets, jewelry made from old stones, seals, ancient beads, pearls, diamonds, antique pieces remade into modern wonders. It’s an appreciation of the natural world. Everything is curated with a strong point of view and vision, and the line between display, decor and product seems blurred in a deliciously “unshoplike” way. You just wander, brushing past some things and peering intently at others as you discover them. I’ve found all sorts of things I love in there: ancient baroque pearls strung into a bracelet, a huge mirror-like old Moghul diamond ring, and strings of colored gems that looked like a child’s string of plastic beads, but actually turned out to be a collection of rubies, corals and emeralds. I often come here just to look. I don’t have to buy anything to feel happy and enriched.
Pippa Small is an ethical jeweler who works with marginalized people, from Afghan lapis craftsmen to Kalahari Bushmen. She has a New York boutique at ABC Carpet & Home (pippasmall.com)
Your address: The St. Regis New York
A traditional souq in Doha
by Jeremy Morris
Souq Waqif, Doha
There has been a souq in the vibrant Al Souq area of Doha for more than a century. It was originally a place where Bedouins and locals came together to trade, near the water’s edge, but in 2006 it was renovated in traditional Qatari architectural style, with cobbled lanes and whitewashed buildings, mud-rendered walls and exposed timber beams. Inside, it’s a brilliant assault on the senses: a maze of alleyways with market stall-holders selling brightly colored fabrics, spices and exotic birds, Arabic coffee-sellers and uniformed porters carrying shopping. There’s an amazing choice of restaurants and wonderful coffee shops, with the smell of shisha wafting above it all. You can get pretty much anything from the region here: traditional spices and herbs, preserved lemons and Yemeni honey, Iranian bread and dates from Qatar, as well as incense and perfumes, handcrafted goods in leather, gold, clay or wood. The bird souq is particularly lovely: there are exotic birds chirping away next to magnificent hooded falcons. And I love the vivid colors of the textiles – the deep reds, vibrant greens and ocher yellows always give me inspiration when I’m designing with our precious gemstones. Business colleagues introduced the souq to me, and we had a wonderful traditional meal with soccer on the TV screens behind us – memorable and great fun.