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Dead medium: Signals of the Beyazit Tower, Istanbul
From: (Bruce Sterling)

Source(s): article by Deniz Kaya

(((bruces remarks: the historic Beyazit Tower is one of the great landmarks of Istanbul and has had a surprising number of communications uses.)))

"When the firefighters watching out for fires from Beyazit Tower in the old days saw flames, they gave the news in their own cryptic jargon:

"'Congratulations, you're a father!'

"'Is it a girl or a boy?'

"If the fire was on the other side of the Golden Horn, in Galata, Uskudar, or the other districts along the Bosphorus, the answer was 'a girl!', but if it was on the western side of the inlet in Istanbul proper the answer was 'a boy!'

"Two earlier timber fire towers were themselves swallowed up by flames, but the present Beyazit Tower, made of stone, has survived since 1828. Standing in the midst of the busy center of the old quarter of Istanbul, it is still used as a fire tower today as in the past. The tower is 85 meters high and has a total of 256 wooden steps."


"Tower is used to watch out for fires at. night. Information about fires at all times of day is relayed here via radio. Air pollution can seriously reduce visibility, making the job of watching difficult at times.

"In the past, if a fire was spotted in the districts westwards of the Golden Horn us far as Yesilkoy, the signal was two baskets hung on either side of the tower; if the fire was in Beyoglu or along the Bosphorus, one basket was hung on one side and two on the other; and for the districts on the other side of the Bosphorus one basket was hung on either side. This custom continued until 1934.

"Today, the tower is also used to give a weather forecast for the following day. A green light means rain, a red light snow, a yellow light fog, and a blue light sunshine.

"At night, between 04.45 and 06.00 when the Ataturk and Galata bridges are closed to road traffic to let ships in and out of the Golden Horn, the ships are guided by lights on Beyazit Tower. A green light means that ships in the Golden Horn can sail into the Marmara Sea, and a red light that ships in the Marmara Sea can sail into the Golden Horn. Two red lights mean that the bridges are closed to shipping.

"Today, special permission is needed for those not on duty at the tower to enter, due to the dangerous condition of the wooden staircase."

"Last updated: November 16, 1997 "copyright 1997 Turkish Airlines"

Bruce Sterling (