Photo taken on April 12, 2018 shows the tulip carpet at Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul, Turkey. Some 30 million tulips are giving Istanbul a big facelift, promising a seasonal feast for the eyes in streets, parks and gardens. (Xinhua/He Canling)
Some 30 million tulips are giving Istanbul a big facelift, promising a seasonal feast for the eyes in streets, parks and gardens.
With tulips planted across the metropolis, the botanists have made impressive designs using 125 different species in a rich variety of colors to mark the annual Tulip Festival.
The Emirgan Park, one of the biggest groves in the city located on a hill along the Bosphorus Strait in the European side, has become a focal point with more than 3.5 million tulips on display.
Several elegant "swans" are floating on a river of blue tulips adorned with red, yellow and white tulips, while a plethora of red and white tulips are presenting a giant map of Turkey down the hill.
"I don't believe in my eyes, it is as if I were in an art gallery surrounded by colorful paintings," said Fadime Kaya, a woman aged 65 who came from the Bursa province nearby.
Inside the park, visitors were racing against each other to take best possible selfie shots among the dazzling tulips, while security guards were trying hard to protect the flowers from tramples.
"Our patrols cover the entire park 24 hours for seven days," a security guard said, noting extra security teams have been deployed to the park during the festival.
The most difficult part of the job is to chase away cats and dogs at nights, otherwise they would destroy the tulips, he added.
"I'm very much impressed by the works of the artists," said Sevgi Yorukler, as she was trying to find the best angle to take a photo of her friends next to a giant "heart" created with thousands of red tulips.
In her view, the production of new tulip species is making the festival more extravagant this year.
At the historic Sultanahmet Square, 565,000 tulips are making the largest tulip carpet in the world in an area of 1,734 square meters.
The designers are copying a traditional Turkish carpet design dating back to 100 years ago, which is known as "the eye of the heart."
The pattern is formed over a dark-pink tulip floor with the use of white, light pink, yellow and red tulips in different sizes.
"I have never seen such a tulip carpet in my life," said a young Irish tourist who arrived in Istanbul on Wednesday night.
"When I woke up this morning, I saw these beautiful flowers," she said. "They are gorgeous, very nice, amazing."
In the eyes of Celal Kaya, an employee with a carpet company in Turkey, the pattern of the tulip carpet is "exactly the same" as one on a real carpet.
"I'm stunned, they are so beautiful," marveled Ayse Guzel, a Turkish citizen.
In the 18th century, there were over 1,500 tulip species in the Ottoman Empire and they were seen as a symbol of the prosperity of the empire.
It was also a period of enlightenment for the Ottomans, during which extensive cultural and artistic interactions were made with the rest of the world, especially the Europeans.
The entire period was known as the "Tulip Age" and lasted until an economic crisis befell in the last decades of the empire. The tulip production gradually decreased over time, so did the wealth of the Ottomans.
"It is the right of our nation to claim that the motherland of tulip is Istanbul," said Vasip Sahin, governor of Istanbul, as he addressed the opening ceremony of the tulip carpet on Thursday.
"It is the spiritual symbol of our city," the governor added.
In 2005, the Istanbul municipality started an initiative to revive the tradition and boosted the production of different tulip species and introduced an all-new Tulip Festival, which lasts nearly a month in April.
"Each year, the festival has been growing while drawing more and more visitors, locals and tourists alike," said Istanbul Mayor Mevlut Uysal.
According to the mayor, the botanists in Istanbul have been working hard to increase the production of new tulip species so as to catch up with the Ottoman period.
To add fun to the 13th Tulip Festival, painting, sculpture and calligraphy exhibitions focusing on tulips are taking place in several venues, along with a beach football tournament and a women's tennis cup scheduled for the occasion.