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Şişli is a crowded central district of İstanbul, Turkey. It is a business, shopping and residential area north of Taksim, the entertainment heart of the city.
Until 1800 Şişli was open countryside, used for hunting, agriculture and as the city's burial ground, and there are still a number of cemeteries here. It was developed as a middle class residential district during the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the early years of the Republic (the late 19th-early 20th centuries). French culture had a great influence in this period and the big avenues of Şişli had a European look; big stone buildings with high ceilings and art nouveau wrought-iron balconies, little elevators on wires in the middle of the stairway and so on. This trading middle-class was composed of Jews, Greeks and Armenians as well as Turks, many built homes in Şişli after a large fire in the district of Beyoğlu in 1870. Still today many of Istanbul's Armenians live in the Kurtuluş area of Şişli. The area was alslo popular with the Levantine trading families of this period and as the Ottoman empire contracted Şişli attracted migrants from the former lands in Greece and the Balkans. In the late 19th century Şişli was one of the first areas to be supplied with tramlines, electricity and a gas supply. The orphanage of Darülaceze and the large Şişli Etfal hospital were built here in this period, also the prominent French schools of St. Michel and Notre Dame de Sion.
Following the founding of the Turkish Republic in the 1920s, larger and larger buildings were put up along wide avenues such as Halaskargazi Caddesi, the main road that runs through the middle of Şişli, with its little arcades of shops below tall buildings of apartments and offices. In the republic the area was still the residence of the middle-class, as well as traders there were now writers and poets and Şişli acquired theatres, cafes and other cultural amenities. The Hilton Hotel was built here in the 1950s and many others followed.
From the 1950s onwards people from Anatolia began to migrate to Istanbul in search of work. In most cases they illegally built themselves squatters on unclaimed or government-owned land (see gecekondu). Some of these people settled in parts of Şişli in the 1950s and 1960s, especially at the northern sections of the district, around Mecidiyeköy.
Now that the wealthy elite of central Şişli have moved further out of the city, the large buildings on the grand avenues are occupied by offices, banks, and big shops. Since the 1970s most older buildings have been pulled down and replaced with newer, and perhaps less remarkable, multistory structures. The back streets are still residential, and many working-class families and students have settled here. As in most parts of Istanbul, the number of people living and working in these blocks challenges the existing infrastructure; for example, competition for parking spaces is intense, and traffic during peak hours can come to a standstill. But for the residents of Şişli, there are plenty of shops, cafés, pubs, and other amenities and these make life in Şişli still manageable. Additionally, Şişli's central location to other important areas of Istanbul adds to its desirability.
In the 'gecekondu' (shanty town) districts life is harder, while some neighbourhoods remain very attractive indeed - (see section on individual neighbourhoods below).
Being a central area well-served with public-transport and other infrastructure Şişli is a center of trade and shopping. The main road through Şişli up to the skyscrapers of Mecidiyeköy, Gayrettepe, Levent and beyond is now lined with office blocks. Europe's largest and the world's second largest (urban-area) shopping mall, Cevahir İstanbul, is situated here. Due to Şişli's middle-class past and the enduring quality of some neighbourhoods the area is home to many upmarket shops mainly in the stylish and charming Nişantaşı area. Parking is an enduring problem, especially in the narrow side-streets.
People also come to Şişli for schooling; this city-centre area has some well-known high schools and a great number of dersane (preparatory courses for the annual university entrance exams), evening and weekend schools where people come to cram for university or high school entrance examinations, or to learn English.
There are many well-established cafes and restaurants, including fast-food for the students and shoppers.
The mayor of Şişli is the active and charismatic Mustafa Sarıgül, an established presence on the Turkish centre-left, now with the CHP Republican People's Party. Under the slogan 'Smiling Happy Şişli' he is working to get the once glamorous area smartened up again, and certainly Nişantaşı is very smart indeed, although he is struggling to ensure car parking here and everywhere else in Şişli. He is on the board of Galatasaray football club, whose Ali Sami Yem stadium is in the Şişli neighbourhood of Mecidiyeköy. During New Year celebrations, he parades in an open-topped bus dressed as Santa Claus.
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