During my trip to Istanbul in March, I had the pleasure of visiting IRCICA, the Research Center For Islamic History, Art and Culture. Among the many activities that IRCICA sponsors is a prestigious calligraphy competition held every other year.

IRCICA is located in the Beşiktaş neighborhood, which is easy to get to by ferry from Eminönü or Uskidar. From the ferry port, you walk up Barbaros Boulevard until you see a large park on your right; you can veer to the right through the park (but still going up the hill) until you hit Yıldız Caddesi. Turn right, and the Yıldız Sarayı (where IRCICA is located) will be at the top of the hill. Bring your passport or some sort of ID, because it is required to sign in.

The staff at IRCICA is very friendly, although very little English is spoken. They served us tea and brought out their assortment of calligraphy books upon request.

IRCICA sells a wide variety of calligraphy books, most of which cannot be found anywhere else. These include catalogues of winners plates from their calligraphy competitions, the meshk curriculum books for Thuluth & Naskh and Divani & Riq’a, and classics like The Art of Calligraphy in Islamic Heritage, 1990-1996, which is full of amazing work and sells for over $100 US.

One of the things Aishah and I discovered on our visit is that IRCICA has a new research library. The facility is beautiful and would serve as a wonderful base for visiting scholars. The calligraphy section is fantastic.

The library includes a full archive of all the original calligraphy competition entries, which are such fun to look through. I definitely recommend visiting IRCICA if you’re interested in calligraphy and happen to be in Istanbul.