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Story of the Boat

Traces of Hayreddin Paşa on the Ahırkapı coast....

In the late 80’s, a group of friends from the tourism industry came across a piece of land with burnt out, broken down wooden row houses on the historic Ahırkapı coast. After some research, they were brokenhearted to discover that the historic wooden houses, in such a state of disrepair, had been built for Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa’s sailors. They decidedto up their sleeves restore the houses, thereby preserving one of Istanbul’s priceless examples of global cultural heritage. They found all of the documents pertaining to the historical condition of the houses and their exteriors. They came up with a project to restore and re-purpose the houses as an urban hotel. In memory of Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa and his fleet, the hotel was named Armada Otel.

Whether they were designing the hotel’s interior or exterior, be it for the residents of Istanbul or for international travellers, their work was always guided by the same fundamental question: If Istanbul’s historical integrity had been properly preserved, what would it look like today? The result is a space that offers visitors and travelers a chance to experience the true essence of Istanbul, over and over again.

Istanbul: The maritime culture in acity joined by the water…

By the 19th century, Istanbul, which grew from settlements integrated across, around, and with the Bosphorus Straits, had gained global importance and distinction from London, Paris, Vienna and other European cities. During that period, Istanbul was still recognized as the world capital of maritime civilization.

Istanbul residents during that time were not inclined to summer in the countryside or elsewhere. They spent their days on the city shores of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, and in locations such as Göksu and Küçüksu, creating and enjoying an increasingly refined and sophisticated waterfront culture. What started as travel in various types of caicques evolved into slightly larger touring boats, and ultimately moved into even larger excursion boats in the early 20th century. In fact, the older generations of Istanbul still have fond memories of the large scale cruise ships run by Şirket-i Hayriye, with their lively food and entertainment programs.

Coastal Ahırkapı and its pier

Known as Red Beard due to the fear he instilled in 16th century sea captains, “Barbaros” Hayreddin Paşa chose to build row houses for his sailors on the coast of Ahırkapı in particular because he wanted them to have a place to relax on shore that was close to the sea, in case they needed to redeploy on short notice. The fleet would replenish its supplies from the Ahırkapı pier, and from there sailors would return to ship. 400 years later, as was the case with many of Istanbul’s coastal neighborhoods, it was clear that Ahırkapı had lost its connection/relationship to the sea. Starting in 1994, the Armada team spearheaded serious collaborative efforts with neighboring areas to restore Ahırkapı’s glory by reopening the Ahırkapı pier in 2010.

A dream of a boat befiting the beauty of Istanbul’s Waters...

Kasım Zoto bought his first small boat in 2011 and began touring Istanbul’s waters. During this time, he came face to face with one of the city’s longstanding eyesores: noisy, tacky, so-called “touring boats.” Apparently it was time to take ownership of the waters that make Istanbul Istanbul. The time had come for the Armada Touring Boat to protect and preserve the value of Istanbul’s waterfronts.

As with the design of the hotel, the boats were designed with the same fundamental questions in mind: “What was it about Istanbul’s excursion boats of old that made them special? What made them so charming that people still miss them today? If they had been properly preserved, what kind of excursion boat would we see today?”

The team immersed itself in the process of carefully considering everything from design, to materials, to every aspect of the interior decor, from pots and pans to forks, knives, and even ice buckets in order to create a proper touring and fine dining experience. The time finally came for SBO Yacthing’s shipyard in Tuzla to build the boat.

This is the story the Armada Excursion Boat…
The result is a vessel that conveys the essence of Istanbul and an experience offered to all that easily befits the beauty of the waters in which it sails.

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