Author Lawrence Durrell once lived in house in the grounds and wrote:
It was in Rhodes where I spent such happy post-war years, locked into the sacred garden of Murat Reis. I was indeed living in a Turkish cemetery of such beauty and silence that I often longed to die and be sealed into one of those beautiful forms (from Lawrence Durrell and the Greek World)
With a description like that we had to go and look at it.
The mosque was built in 1524 just after the Ottoman conquest of Rhodes and is named after Murat Reis (or Murad there’s no definitive spelling) who was an Ottoman naval commander. Born in Rhodes to Albanian parents he is buried in the cemetery. His tomb is still there and for many years Ottoman sailors would visit for good luck on their voyages.
a meek-mannered man dressed in elastic-sided boots, who smokes his cigarette in an ebony cigarette holder (from Lawrence Durrell Reflections on a Marine Venus)
Going through an old wooden door you enter an outdoor corridor with buildings either side and then go into a courtyard.
a forgotten graveyard full of sedate tombs… in a sad state of disrepair. Many of the tombs have fallen to pieces, and in places the loose drift of leaves has half obscured others. The majority of those who lie buried here are Turkish civil servants. A few are political exiles. (from Lawrence Durrell Reflections on a Marine Venus)
An interesting historical note. The Mufti of the mosque during Durrell’s time was Suleyman Kasiloglou. There was a large Jewish community on Rhodes who came from Spain and brought many artefacts of the Jewish church with them. The 45.5 meter Torah scroll was one of their most precious religious texts. When the Nazi’s took Rhodes and were transporting the Jewish population to Auschwitz they entrusted the Torah to Suleyman.
It lay hidden under the pulpit in the mosque until after the occupation, when he returned it to the Jewish survivors. Thanks to the trusting relationship between Muslims and Jews at the time the Torah is now in the national library of Israel.
If you’ve got half an hour to spare and are looking for somewhere away from the tourists, take a wander around under the eucalyptus and escape the heat.
This post was first written in 2015, updated in 2018 and I’ll be going back to take some new photographs soon.
Olive, Feta & Ouzo
A travel & lifestyle blog with a focus on expat life. Written and photographed by Amanda Settle.
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